Apple watch hiking apps

Apple Watch Hiking Apps: The Ultimate Guide (2022)

Are you wondering which are the best Apple Watch hiking apps?

In recent years there has been a huge increase in casual hikers exploring the great outdoors.

You might be questioning whether Apple Watch hiking apps will meet all your needs for hitting the trail.

The good news is that unless you are a serious hiker on long treks, you probably don’t need a specialist hiking watch or GPS unit.

If you have an Apple Watch (or are considering buying one), you’ll be pleased to know that Apple Watch hiking apps will cover all bases for casual hikes.

Tech enthusiast and WWB guest writer Kaz Wellington, will share all the best apple watch hiking apps for you to explore !

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Apple watch hiking apps

Top 3 Best Apple Watch Hiking Apps?

There are just so many different Apple Watch hiking apps that it can feel overwhelming trying to decide which you should use.

If you just want to get started using your Apple Watch for hiking but don’t have time to read detailed reviews and comparisons, here are our top 3 to make it easy for you:

  1. Best for Navigation: Gaia GPS
  2. Best for Discovering New Trails: AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run
  3. Best for Safety: Cairn: Hiking & Outdoor Trails

15 Best Hiking Apps for Apple Watch

Apple watch hiking apps

Apple Watch hiking apps are an absolute must for hitting the trails safely.

Trails often feature unpredictable terrain such as gravel, rocks and wet slopes. Hiking with an iPhone in hand is a recipe for disaster. 

With your hiking apps easily accessible on your wrist, you’ll be able to focus more on your surroundings: the beauty of nature as well as the potential hazards to avoid.

While most Apple Watch hiking apps focus on navigation, there are many different apps to explore that will make your hikes safer and more fun.

Most of these work in conjunction with a companion app for your iPhone, which can stay snugly tucked away.

The best approach is to explore a few different apps and see what works for you.

Here is our list of the 15 best Apple Watch hiking apps for you to explore:

Apple watch hiking apps

1.Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS is a feature-rich route navigator (iPhone app and Apple Watch hiking app) that gives turn-by-turn directions and provides comprehensive information about a particular area. 

As you walk your watch will vibrate when there is a turn coming up or if you are straying off course.

With Gaia GPS you can:

  • Record track routes and waypoints (points of interest), 
  • making it easy to recall the location of hazards, viewpoints, flora, fauna, waterfalls, unusual rock formations and more. 
  • With a Gaia GPS Premium Membership you can access an incredible catalog of maps that you can download in advance, giving you peace of mind in case you wander out of cellphone range. 

What to use this app for: Out-of-range navigation, recording waypoints

Price: Free & Paid (US $39.99 / year)

Download: iOS | Android

2. AllTrails

AllTrails is a trail guide (encompassing a website, app and Apple Watch hiking app) that provides over 200,000+ crowd-sourced maps, reviews and photos. 

The AllTrails Apple Watch hiking app offers a range of features for navigation. These include: 

  • Maps, and
  • a GPS activity tracker.

With AllTrails PRO, you can:

  • Track your GPS location,
  • download offline maps,
  • use on-route notifications, and,
  • receive detailed information about the local area.

Where AllTrails shines however, is its trail search feature which enables you to find well-reviewed trails near your current location.

What to use this app for: Navigation, discovering trails

Price: Free & Paid (US $29.99 / year)

Download: iOS | Android

3. Cairn: Hiking & Outdoor Trails

Cairn provides another Apple Watch hiking app option with additional paid features to help you stay safe on the trails

The name of the app comes from the word “cairn” which means a small stack of stones used as a marking point. These have been used through the centuries for wayfinding.

Cairn’s safety features include:

  • Access to maps even when offline.
  • A filter that shows where other hikers have found cell coverage, as well as dead zones to avoid. This means that if you wander out of range, you can find your way back to a reliable signal.
  • A live tracking function (requiring an internet connection) that shows your location to friends and family.
  • An emergency contact feature alerts nominated contacts if you don’t finish the hike within the time that you are due to return.

In line with many other Apple Watch hiking apps, the free version of Cairn requires a cell phone connection, whilst the paid version can be used offline.

What to use this app for: Navigation, safety

Price: Free & Paid (US $26.99/year)

Download: iOS | Android

4. Outdooractive (previously known as ViewRanger GPS)

The ViewRanger GPS app was recently discontinued after ViewRanger merged with OutdoorActive. 

Many ViewRanger GPS features were incorporated into the OutdoorActive platform, which has an Apple Watch hiking app.

With OutdoorActive you can use your Apple Watch for navigation. Navigation features include:

  • Directions and vibration alerts when a turn is coming,
  • alerts when you are going off-course, and,
  • information about how much further you have left on your walk.

Loyal users of ViewRanger GPS report there have been some teething problems with the change to OutdoorActive. Hopefully these issues will be resolved with time.

What to use this app for: Navigation

Price: Free & Paid (US $29.99 or $61.99/year)

Download: iOS | Android

5. Wikiloc Outdoor Navigation GPS

Wikiloc Outdoor Navigation GPS is an all-round navigation tool (including a website, smartphone app and Apple Watch hiking app) that is extremely helpful for exploring the great outdoors.

It is quite similar to AllTrails as it offers the ability to discover new trails, as well as providing a range of navigation features.

  • You can track your hikes and other activities such as running, biking, kayaking and skiing. 
  • The app provides real-time metrics such as distance, speed and hike duration. 
  • It is possible to download maps for use offline, which will work with your watch’s in-built compass even when out of cell phone range.
  • The live tracking feature (requiring internet access) enables you to share your location with family and friends, providing peace of mind especially if you are walking alone.

What to use this app for: Navigation

Price: Free & Paid (US $9.99 / year)

Download: iOS | Android

6. Komoot

Komoot offers another hiking app for your Apple Watch complete with turn-by-turn voice navigation and offline topographic maps.

Whilst popular for hiking, this app is particularly beloved by cyclists and mountain bike (MTB) riders. 

  • In addition to its navigation features, Komoot also provides recommendations of attractions to explore.
  • You also get access in real-time to statistics such as your speed and distance traveled. 
  • Komoot offers a social experience: you can connect with other hikers or riders and explore the routes and “highlights” they have added to the app.  

With its focus on community, it is no surprise that social groups of Komoot users have sprung up all over the world.

What to use this app for: Navigation, community connection

Price: Free or Paid (US $3.99/one region$29.99/world pack)

Download: iOS | Android

7. WorkOutDoors

WorkOutDoors is a highly customizable workout app that allows you to simultaneously navigate and track a variety of metrics.

  • You can download maps, load GPX tracks onto it, record and view waypoints, and view all the data from your walks.
  • According to seasoned hikers, WorkOutdoors on the Apple Watch delivers an experience as close as you can get to a dedicated GPS hiking watch like the Garmin Fenix.
  • Most other Apple Watch hiking apps need to be used alongside the companion app on your iPhone. However, with WorkOutdoors, you can simply use the app on your Apple Watch without needing to pair it with your iPhone. 

What to use this app for: Navigation, fitness tracking

Price: US $5.99 

Download: iOS 

8. Carrot Weather

Knowing the weather conditions is essential for safe hiking. That’s why you will want an app like Carrot Weather among your Apple Watch hiking apps.

  • You get short summaries of the current, 24-hour and 7-day forecasts, with the ability to pull up more detail and switch locations.
  • Carrot Weather is not your average weather app. With its personality-packed AI (artificial intelligence), Carrot makes tracking the weather a fun and hilarious experience.
  • Word of warning: Carrot Weather has a hilariously snarky sense of humor that is not for the faint-hearted.

What to use this app for: keeping tabs on the weather

Price: Free or Paid (US $19.99/year)

Download: iOS | Android

9. SolarWatch Sunrise Sunset Time

Apple watch hiking apps

All the hikers out there who love taking photos will want to keep a track of the “golden hour” or the “magic hour” (the last hour before sunset) in their location.

During golden hour, the setting sun casts a beautiful, soft and warm light which is ideal for capturing everything from selfies to landscapes.

  • As well as providing weather information, the SolarWatch Sunrise Sunset Time Apple Watch app allows you to set alarms for all kinds of solar events such as golden hour, sunrise, sunset and noon.
  • This means that you’ll never miss golden hour on your hike, and you’ll also get a heads up before sunset when it’s time to get home.

For hikers into photography, you’ll definitely want to include Solarwatch amongst the hiking apps on your Apple Watch. 

What to use this app for: getting the best light for your photos

Price: Free or Paid (US $17.99/lifetime)

Download: iOS

10. Night Sky

One of the best things about getting out and beyond, is taking in a sky full of stars. You’ll see stunning constellations usually hidden by the light pollution of the city.

Your best companion for star-gazing while out on hikes is Night Sky.

  • What makes Night Sky an awesome hiking app for the Apple Watch, is that it’s basically a mini planetarium in your pocket.
  • Just aim your device towards the sky to see a live 3D map of all the constellations, stars, planets and satellites in front of you.

What to use this app for: stargazing

Price: Free or Paid (US $29.99/year)

Download: iOS

11. what3words

If you’re looking for hiking apps for your Apple Watch, you probably love exploring, finding and sharing new places.

What3words provides a simple way to identify specific locations. 

  • Every 10-foot square in the world has been given a unique three word combination, known as a what3words address. This makes it possible to locate, share and navigate to particular locations using only 3 words. 
  • What3words is known amongst emergency responders as it gives a simple way to discuss locations.
  • For creative hikers who love tracking and sharing locations with friends, what3words opens up many intriguing and fun possibilities.

What to use this app for: tracking and sharing locations

Price: Free (personal account)

Download: iOS

12. Apple Watch Medical ID

For all the safety-conscious hikers out there, you will absolutely want to set up your Medical ID on your Apple Watch before setting out.

  • You can enter any allergies or medical conditions that you have, your emergency contacts, the medications you are on, whether you have a pacemaker and more.
  • Along with your name and date of birth, this information can be accessed by first responders and emergency room doctors.

You never know when this might be needed, so you won’t regret taking the time to include this feature among the hiking apps on your Apple Watch.

What to use this app for: Storing essential medical information

Price: Free

Download: Already on your Apple Watch, needs to be set up

13. Apple Watch Emergency SOS

An in-built Apple Watch feature called Emergency SOS might one day save your life.

  • If you take a hard fall while hiking, your Apple Watch will tap your wrist, sound an alarm and give you the option of calling emergency services.
  • If you do not respond to the alert, the call will be made automatically. Your watch will also notify the emergency contacts (in your Medical ID) of your location, that your watch detected a hard fall and that emergency services were dialed.

Hiker James Prudenciano credits the Apple Watch Emergency SOS with saving his life after it alerted authorities when he fell down a cliff in New Jersey.

What to use this app for: Lifesaving communication

Price: Free 

Download: Already on your Apple Watch, needs to be set up

14. Apple Watch Workout App

Have you ever wondered about using the Apple Watch Workout App for hiking?

The hiking workout type in the app allows you to track:

  • Pace,
  • distance,
  • elevation gain, and,
  • calories burned.

Workout is a great option when you are working towards fitness goals.

What to use this app for: Tracking your fitness while you hike

Price: Free 

Download: Already on your Apple Watch

Frequently Asked Questions About Apple Watch Hiking Apps

Why Use a Hiking App?

Apple watch hiking apps

Hiking apps make your hikes safer and more fun. For example, the hiking app AllTrails will let you create custom trail maps, follow friends’ activities and read trail reviews from its user community. 

Can you use AllTrails on Apple Watch?

Can you use AllTrails on the Apple Watch is a common question amongst hikers. AllTrails offers an Apple Watch app that is used in conjunction with the AllTrails iPhone app. With the watch app, you can control and view your activity stats on your watch screen while using the navigator for your route.

Is the Apple Watch Good for Walking?

Are you wondering: is the Apple Watch any good for walking? If you are a casual hiker and want something to navigate and track your hike with, the Apple Watch is fantastic. More serious hikers taking on long treks in difficult conditions might find the Apple Watch falls short.

Apple watch hiking apps

What is the Best Hiking App?

The top 5 best hiking apps are:

  • Gaia GPS (iOS, Android: Free, $39.99 annually)
  • AllTrails (iOS & Android: Free/$29.99 annually) 
  • Cairn (iOS, Android: Free/$26.99 annually)
  • Outdooractive (iOS, Android: Free/$29.99 or $61.99/year)
  • Wikiloc Outdoor Navigation GPS (iOS, Android: Free/$9.99 annually)

How do I Make the Apple Watch Battery Last Longer?

When hiking, there are many ways to make your Apple Watch Battery last longer:

  1. Disable the always-on display. 
  2. Reduce your notifications. 
  3. Use the power saving mode. 
  4. Minimize use of media playback, particularly over cellular. 
  5. Turn off the “wake on wrist raise” setting. 
  6. Disable some complications.
  7. Manage your apps.
  8. Switch off the background refresh.

What about Apple Watch Hiking: Built-in Features?

The Apple Watch comes with several built-in features that are great for hiking:

  • The GPS, which is essential for hiking. 
  • A heart rate monitor which tracks your fitness burn and effort level.
  • In the newer Apple Watches, a barometric altimeter that allows you to get an altitude without the GPS.

Is Gaia or AllTrails better?

Given that they are both quite similar, you might be wondering if Gaia or AllTrails is better. Gaia GPS offers more detailed maps and GPS features than AllTrails. This makes Gaia GPS the better option if you are taking multi-day trips in the backcountry. 

What is the Difference Between Outdoor Walk and Hike on Apple Watch?

When choosing your workout type you might be asking what is the difference between outdoor walk and hike on Apple Watch. It seems there is no difference between Hike and Outdoor Walk. Though according to Apple’s documentation, in hiking mode you can see elevation gains.

Apple watch hiking apps

Conclusion

As you can see, it is possible to turn your Apple Watch into a hiking watch through the use of Apple Watch Hiking Apps. 

Unless you are a serious trekker, there is no need to rush out and buy a serious hiking watch like the Garmin Fenix.

From providing essential navigation and weather information to keeping you safe, hiking apps for your Apple Watch will help you make the most of your time on the trails.

Let us know in the comments section if you have used any of these apps, and whether you would recommend them to other hikers.

Do you use any other apps for your hikes that we have not listed? Please also let us know below.

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