Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. How we test gear.

The Best Hiking Apps for Trail Runners

We asked seasoned trail runners which apps they turn to when they want to clock miles through the woods.

hiking apps for trail runners
Thomas BarwickGetty Images

One of the best things about running is that you don’t really need many tools or gadgets to get out there and do it. Trail running, in particular, often comes with the beauty of disconnecting from the world and enjoying nature’s views around you. So it might seem a little ironic that smart phone apps are often key tools for planning and executing an epic trail run. But they certainly come in handy when it’s time to map out your route.

Apps meant for planning out hiking treks and mountain biking adventures can help you find the best trails to find your stride. And they’ll tell you everything from elevation gain to current trail conditions. Some even let you download maps to use for navigation offline when you’re in a cell service dead zone.

To help you figure out the best apps to download for trail running, we asked seasoned trail runners to tell us what they use to plan their trips. Here, the top five picks.

1. AllTrails

AllTrails seems to be the most popular pick among trail runners for a few reasons. “This app satisfies my basic planning needs for a short run or day-long adventure,” says Olympian and HOKA-sponsored ultra-marathon runner Magda Boulet.

This is especially important for Zach Miller, ultrarunner for the North Face, who lives and trains out of his bus. “I move around a lot and am often in areas that I am not very familiar with,” he says. “It’s funny how you can be in the middle of a trail running paradise but feel like you don’t know where/how to access all that is there. The AllTrails app is really helpful for seeing what is around.”

One of the most useful features of the app is the difficulty ratings for each trail—but you have to keep in mind that those rating may not be totally accurate for you. “They’re often put in by locals who are used to the trails,” says Mirna Valerio, an ultrarunner sponsored by Merrell and author of A Beautiful Work in Progress. “‘Moderate for a local can be extremely difficult for someone who hasn't trail run there before. So it’s helpful—but take it with a grain of salt,” she says.

Other stand-out features of AllTrails include:

  • Filter by trail length, difficulty, technicality, and more
  • Offline maps to download (pro membership only)
  • Topographic map layer
  • User-provided photos
  • Comments section where users can report on real-time trail conditions

    Price: Basic membership: free; pro membership: $30/year
    Available on: iOS and Android

    2. MTB Project

    Primarily meant for finding mountain bike trails, MTB Project can be helpful when you’re trail running in a place that primarily has mixed-use trails, Valerio says. “Sometimes it has trails on it that AllTrails doesn’t,” she says. It doesn’t always load properly, she notes, so make sure you have your trail picked out and map downloaded before you get into poor-cell-service territory.

    Stand-out features include:

    • Trail difficulty rating
    • Elevation information
    • Topographic map option
    • Information about current conditions
    • Offline maps to download
    • GPS locator even without cell service
    • Favorites list to save trails
    • User-provided photos

      Price: Free
      Available on: iOS and Android

      3. onX Hunt

      The onX Hunt is the app Valerio turns to when there’s a lot of unmarked trails in the area. It shows an extensive trail network, and makes it clear who owns the land—whether it’s federal, state, or private. “You don't want to be trespassing on someone’s property when it’s an unmarked trail,” Valerio says. Since the app shows you who owns the property, you could potentially contact them and ask if you could use their trails.

      Join Runner's World+ for unlimited access to the best training tips for runners

      Stand-out features include:

      • Clearly marked public and private land boundaries
      • Topographic and 3D maps
      • Live route tracking
      • Offline maps to download
      • Different layers including land ownership data, current and historic wildfires, trail slope, trail mileage, river stage forecasts, and recreation sites

        Price: Premium (includes 1 state): $30/year; Elite (all 50 states): $100/year
        Available on: iOS and Android

        4. Gaia GPS

        “The Gaia GPS app offers a wonderful feature of downloading maps, makes it easy to record data, and share trips with family and friends,” Boulet says. “It is my safety partner that helps me navigate the backcountry.” She describes Gaia as her go-to app when she feels more adventurous and needs help navigating the less traveled backcountry trails over multiple days.

        Craig Randall, a trail runner who works with the Fastest Known Time (FKT), says that runners in the FKT community rely on this app big time for both planning and tracking purposes.

        Stand-out features include:

        • Trip-planning tool
        • Route stats include distance, altitude, elevation change
        • Offline maps to download (premium membership only)
        • Public land data
        • Filter trails by length, difficulty, and more
        • Sync with Apple Watch to record fitness data
        • Different map layers including topographic, native lands, air quality, and wildfires (more layers available with premium membership)
        • Print maps (premium membership only)

          Price: Basic Membership: free; premium membership: $40/year
          Available on: iOS and Android

          5. CalTOPO

          Randall says that CalTOPO is another app that the FTK community uses often. He describes the mapping information as “incredibly comprehensive.” “CalTopo is incredibly sophisticated and can show slope angle shading, current snow pack, a water gauge to show where you can fill up and filter water, and wildfire activity,” Randall says.

          Many people chasing fastest known times don't follow traditional trails and paths, Randall adds, and CalTOPO is an invaluable tool for planning routes and gathering important data (namely, those snow pack and wildfire forecasting stats) to traverse safely.

          Stand-out features include:

          • Location sharing feature
          • Different map layers available including topographic, public lands, real time weather, fire activity, and sun exposure.
          • Offline maps to download (paid subscription only)
          • Ability to draw out a route

            Price: Basic mapping features: free; mobile: $21/year; pro: $50/year; and other paid options
            Available on: iOS and Android

            This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
            Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
            More From Trail Running