There is something to be said about exploring and discovering. But if you really want to know how you can find amazing places to hike there are apps that will highlight trails and offer recommendations on where you should go. There are two apps that offer some of the best experiences, so this post will break down which hiking app is best: AllTrails vs Hiking Project.
This post will focus on some key details: Cost, Ease of Use (the maps and user interface), and offline usability.
For the sense of clarity, each app offers some of the same key features. The ability to know your location, track records, and to pull up trails from across a wide spectrum. They also each offer user-contribution; so users can rate, rank, and contribute to the maps. Just each does it a little differently.
What it won’t cover is anything related to a smart watch device. There are too many variables in those instances, and not everyone has or needs them. So it’s skipped for a more streamlined approach.
Hiking apps are a great way to get more people outside. With their free or low-cost plans, the access to great places is in the hands of anyone with a mobile device.
AllTrails vs Hiking Project
AllTrails has two structures; a free app and a pro version. The free app includes a ton of information, but it also includes ads. The pro version comes with two price structures: An annual plan that’s billed at $29.99/ year, or a 3-year plan that’s billed at a one time fee for $59.99 (for the three years).
The paid AllTrails app has additional features including:
- Downloadable maps to stay on track without service
- Never miss a turn with off-route notifications
- Keep friends and family informed with Lifeline
- Know what to expect with real-time map overlays
- 1% of every subscription goes back to the planet
Hiking Project is free. There are no ads, and there isn’t a way to add additional features. You get what you get. Which is still a ton.
Winner? Hiking Project.
Even with both offering a free version, ads can distract from the user experience. Being able to add additional features does make AllTrails appealing to some users.
Each offers a ton of maps that can be downloaded and used as needed. But make sure you download the maps ahead of time when you have cell service to ensure they are ready to go.
Free isn’t always great, but with the free Hiking Project app, you’re getting a ton of useful information without having to worry about ads, or upgrading to a fee-based system.
Ease of Use
When you open Alltrails you’re immediately greeted with a window that shows ‘trails nearby’ right on top (if you allow it to know your location). This is a great feature to have if you’re not really sure where you’re heading to for the day.
As you scroll there are numerous categories of trails that fit your interest. The experience really feels like a hotel reservation app in that sense.
Hiking project opens to a map. It won’t show pinpoint location necessarily unless you hit the ‘Star Trek’ arrow. If you don’t have any immediate trails near you you will have to move the map around to find somewhere to go.
There is a ‘Top Hikes’ menu at the top of the screen, and from there you’ll see the trail results in your general area, and there are based off of ratings from previous users of the trail.
Alltrails has multiple layers you can add, and different regions and locations. You need to pay for additional layers, so think about where you’re going and make your best judgement as to what you’ll need. Very similar to GAIA GPS. You can learn more about GPS devices here.
When you decide on the trail you want to hike it will open to a full spread on information about the trail; length, elevation change, etc, but it will also have a brief description and reviews.
One thing that’s different is you can just place reviews fairly easily once logged in. This creates an easier way to let others know about current conditions. On Hiking Project you have to submit the user feedback through the website, and it then needs to be approved.
When you open a map it has a red line on the trail, but it in a way that feels like you’re looking at someone else’s recording of it. It’s visually unappealing, but one of the big differences in this screen is that it shows full trails within your area. On Hiking Project it will only show other trails that have been hiked, commented on, and/or tracked.
Opening up a trail on Hiking Project is a little more streamlined. Once you’ve tapped on the trail itself, a window will appear with the trail’s name, and additional trails nearby. Tapping on the name will show elevation changes, but you have to touch the name again to open up additional information. It’s not there to see when you scroll. Because the majority of the content is user-generated, there are a lot of trails that are used, but not commented on thus not affording much insight into current conditions.
If you’re familiar with the travel apps, AllTrails has a ton of great information that will help narrow a search. The UI (user-interface) is much cleaner on Hiking Project, but it’s lacking some really important info, especially information that’s recent. Having to jump through a few hoops to relay that data is a miss.
But according to the developers of HP, this is for a reason, “We review every trail, route, photo and symbol that gets submitted. We recognize the importance of displaying only accurate and legal trails which helps to keep folks on track and protect the places we all love to play”.
Here’s an example of the formatting from Hiking Project. You have the trail information, and note that on mobile that the information to the right would be displayed after you tap the name of the trail itself:
Because of the GPS capabilities both apps will offer some sort of location when you no longer have cell service. I have been at parks like Lost Maples, where I unexpectedly got a little turned around and found that it was just enough to get my bearings.
They each also have the ability to save tracks and pull them up for reference. You can also save hikes under a ‘favorites’ tab to keep your potential hiking lists for later.
Where AllTrails shines is in the ability to download maps to use while offline, but they are part of the Pro program. This feature will also let you print customizable maps that including any of the layers for a bit more depth than what you may receive at the headquarters or trailhead.
The main usage for each app offline is really the GPS capability. And both offer the same technology in that aspect. They each offer some aspect of saved hikes, recorded hikes to revisit, and favorite hikes for future reference.
Because you have to pay for downloading it just means not everyone may have the resources to use the additional features when you can just screen shot maps and save them as a photo.
Not sure if that paid aspect really adds that much value to the app itself. Because if you look at the list of what is included, the download aspect is really a small portion of what you get with the Pro version.
Again- what Hiking Project offers for free is a really great application for tracking, sharing, and location for hiking while offline. It doesn’t include all of the bells and whistles that AT does, but it doesn’t really need to.
AllTrails is a much more in-depth hiking experience for exploring, and adventure. And what you get with the paid version is really neat, but that may come at an expense of clutter, and bloated information not really needed, or used. For $29.99/ year, or three years for $59.99 it’s important to break down what you’re paying for that’s usable.
- Downloading maps
- Off-route notifications
- Lifeline (a way for others to keep track of where you are)
- Real Time Overlays
- Printing maps
- Ad-free (Hiking Project is ad free)
- Healthier Planet with the 1% For the Planet
- Track your favorite trails (Free on HP)
- Record your tracks (Free on HP)
- Create/share custom maps (You can submit your custom tracks on the HP website)
- Social Following
- Community (?) I don’t know why that’s even a thing to list on the Pro version
Share you thoughts in the comment section below on who you thought wins in the AllTrails vs Hiking Project debate!