Blue Skies: Spring Into Hiking With Apps for the Trail

Early spring is regarded by some hikers as one of the best times to hit the trails – it’s not too hot, foliage is budding and wildlife is beginning to stir.

Photo Credit: caljuggler via Compfight cc

Still, there are chores and pitfalls associated with any hike that adventurers like to avoid, chief among them is getting lost.

But app developers, acknowledging these downsides and risks, have devised practical downloads designed to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Here are four apps to ease the journey. Happy Trails!

Washington State Trails – The official app of the Washington Trails Association is part of a category of downloads that is providing hikers with vast databases of trail maps on their smartphones. Users can search trails by name, location, difficulty and whether dogs are allowed. A social-media component allows users to assess trail conditions by reviewing user-submitted trip reports and photos. The app also uses Bing Maps to provide driving directions to trailheads.

Trailhead – The North Face, a leading manufacturer of outdoor apparel, is getting into the app business with a download that is rooted in a searchable database of more than 300,000 trails for hiking and biking. The app is powered by, which aggregates user-generated content. It also allows users to post details of their trips to social media once they’ve conquered the trail. The North Face would be remiss if it didn’t provide users with places to stop off for equipment, hence a complete listing of The North Face dealers.

Flashlight-X – The mostly stellar user-submitted reviews for this app mainly praise its simplicity. Its publisher boasts that the app turns on instantly at the moment the app is launched and doesn’t dim the screen to give an illusion of a bright light, a trick apparently used by other apps. Flashlight-X provides a constant light with no flickering, making it ideal for hikers who are still on the trail after sunset. A battery meter reduces the risk of a hiker being left in complete darkness.

Metro Compass – The tool on every hiker’s pre-trip checklist is outfitted for the smartphone with this simple app that may lighten the load, if only a little. The app allows users to choose between compass types – head rotation versus needle rotation. A calibration function ensures accuracy, while a switch under settings prevents the screen from locking during those pivotal forks in the trail.

Nick Clunn is an award-winning journalist who has worked for several websites and daily newspapers, including The Record in New Jersey. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at Montclair State University. Follow him @NickClunn.

Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn is a journalist covering the tech beat and an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. He lives in New Jersey, where he had worked as a staff writer for several leading daily newspapers and websites.
Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn
Tags: Downtime,Mobile Apps,Tech Culture