Trail Notes: 11 apps to download on your smartphone for outdoor adventures

Trail Team 11

Did you have a new smartphone on the Christmas list this year?

Our cellphones have come such a long way and can be massively helpful in the great outdoors! Here’s a list of apps that I like to use for navigation, fun and checking the weather when outside.

(The contents of this list are solely my opinion and are just a few of the nearly three-dozen outdoorsy apps I have on my iPhone.

Planning and Navigation

AllTrails is one of three navigation apps I have on my phone solely for hiking. The app (and website) allows you to search trails in your area, create lists of trails and even record your hike stats. You can also download the map to the app for use in areas without cell service. While you can use most of the features for free, a $30/year subscription gives you Lifeline, which can be used to track your hike, notify others about where you are and call for help. However, Lifeline does require you have cell service to use. (Free to download; subscription options.)

PeakFinder is a hybrid navigation and fun app. Surrounded by peaks or views of mountain ridges for miles on end? Using your camera, this app overlays the mountain views with the names and elevations of peaks you see. (It also does this with peaks you can’t see. I opened it up in the News Channel 11 newsroom and it pulled up Buffalo Mountain’s peak.)
Great app and easy to use. ($4.99 in the App and Google Play stores.)

Some of my favorite places to hike in the Tri-Cities are the state parks. Tennessee State Parks has an exemplary app for your smartphone. The app allows you to pick the park you’re interested in, then pulls up information about upcoming events, alerts, location and maps! (Free to download.)

Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner is not solely for hikers. In fact, it’s actually geared toward those driving the parkway. However, if you enjoy exploring trails off the BRP, this app is a must have. Not only does it provide a guide of overlooks on the parkway, you can also lookup services, emergency numbers and nearby dining locations. (Free to download.)

Fun Stuff

Ever been hiking and come across a critter or wildflower you don’t recognize? iNaturalist can identify what it is! This app uses a photo, taken by you, to make its suggestions. You can then click if this is correct or not. iNaturalist is also neat because it helps scientists track the spread of species worldwide. The app, a collaboration between California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, literally puts nature at your fingertips. (Free to download.)

The Geocaching app is pretty much the official app of the geocaching hobby. It’s basically using GPS coordinates to find “treasures” or other similar things. I call it high tech treasure hunting. (You can find a better explanation here.) This helps you find caches in your area and navigate to them. While the app is free to use, there’s a subscription available that gives users more features – including better pinpointing of the geocache location. (Free to download.)

Star Walk 2 is similar to PeakFinder, but with the night sky. Point your phone at the sky, and it tells you which stars, planets, constellations, etc. you’re seeing. This is a fun app for night hikers and campers alike. (Free to download.)

Yes, Instagram is making this list. I love the Insta for three reasons: 1. I get to see everyone else’s cool outdoor adventures; 2. I get inspiration for outdoor adventures; 3. I help inspire people to have more outdoor adventures with my pics. Some fun hashtags to follow are #optoutside, #findyourpark, #hikershike. You can also find many state and national park rangers on there, sharing the beauty of where they work. (Free to download.)

Other apps

The Red Cross First Aid app is another one not just for the trails. This provides information about what to do for everything from poisoning to strokes to stings and broken bones. It also is an education tool with quizzes so you know what to do without having to open the app. (Free to download.)

You need to keep updated about the weather, as it can make or break your time outside. Storm Team 11 keeps you covered with updated forecasts and weather alerts no matter the time of day or where you are! (Free to download.)

And, finally, don’t forget to take Trail Team 11 with you! We’re right on the front page of the WJHL News app for easy access to information about local hiking. (Free to download.)

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