(Credit: Screenshots:Download.com/Tom McNamara)

While Google Maps or Apple Maps has you covered for turn-by-turn navigation and trip suggestions, they aren't necessarily the best choices when you want to literally go off the beaten path. When it comes to exploring our beautiful state and national parks, you might want to look at more specialized options. Luckily for us, the popular AllTrails app just got a fully redesigned map layer to help you find your way.

With this latest update, AllTrails crafted a fully redesigned map with better park labeling, park border delineation, and legibility, plus they've added nearby points of interest (POIs) that hikers might want to make a detour for.

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Why choose AllTrails over a generalist map app?

Like Google Maps, AllTrails offers a satellite view and a conventional map view. But AllTrails has its own branded layer that's optimized for hikers. It takes elements of contour, topo, and terrain maps to pick out the info that's most relevant for hikers.

For example, AllTrails' elevation details are streamlined with a handy graph that charts every climb and descent. You can see exactly how far you'll walk before the trail starts to rise, how many miles it will stay elevated, and quickly you'll come back down. You can infer this information from conventional maps, but none of them will show a graph, let alone one that's specific to your trail.

In addition to the AllTrails map itself, each documented trail has a detailed description to help you determine if it's the kind of trail that would appeal to you. There are difficulty rankings, contact info, user reviews with star ratings, photo galleries, and weather reports, a set of tags that classify the trail, and you may also find parking notices, dog leash warnings, and birding assessments.

If you don't know where you want to go hiking, that's not a problem either. Once AllTrails picks out your location via GPS, it will create a list of suggestions, sorted by proximity. If you want to look at trails in a different region of the world, you can look them up by name in the search function.

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If you want to explore the larger region around you, tap the Map button near the bottom of the screen to get a local map that you can pinch-zoom and swipe to investigate nearby counties and cities. The Map function also has filters for difficulty, trail length, elevation gain, star rating, and tags.

Basically, anything that a hiker would probably want to know about a trail is available within the AllTrails app. That said, you need a subscription for a few map overlays, such as a live heatmap, live weather, air quality, and fire history. You can subscribe for $2.50 a month, or pay $100 one time for a lifetime subscription. Subscribing also removes ads and allows you to download a map for offline usage.

Note that updating to this version of AllTrails will remove any previous map downloads, but the app will download the new ones automatically, if you have an LTE or Wi-Fi connection.

AllTrails, of course, isn't the only wilderness travel app that's figured out a niche that Google hasn't moved in on yet. Map My Hike, BackCountry Navigator, and ViewRanger are also worth checking out.

The takeaways

  1. AllTrails, a popular wilderness hiking app, has gotten a major refresh to its proprietary map layer, with better park labeling, park border delineation, and legibility, plus they've added nearby points of interest.
  2. Wilderness hiking apps are generally much better for trails than Google Maps or Apple Maps, though there may be a subscription fee to make the most of them.

Also see

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.