There used to be a time, before cell phones and GPS devices, that hikers would use maps, research fishing locations in books and photocopy pages out of hiking guides to have step-by-step guidance on a trail.
Times are different and our cell phones now pack all those books, guides, maps and more in one little device that fits in a pocket.
Try these five apps for assistance hiking a trail, fishing a river or just planning a day outdoors. Note: prices are as of October 2022.
The TroutRoutes app helps anglers find and navigate to some of the best fly fishing locations. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)
Exploring the outdoors means knowing the boundary between public and private land. TroutRoutes, an app designed by anglers for anglers, not only helps you navigate boundaries but also guides anglers to great fly fishing destinations. With more than 25,000 color-coded trout streams, this app packs a punch for keeping you busy with a fly rod. Maps can be downloaded for offline use – an important feature for exploring the backcountry – and can be customized with notes, favorites, photos and markers. Available for iOS, Android and desktop. $39.99 per year.
With a collection of 950,000 mountains throughout the world, PeakFinder helps you explore with confidence by identifying each mountain peak. Whether looking up a name from home or a far-away destination, this app will create a real-time rendering of the surrounding landscape with labels. Zoom in and out to get more names, use the camera button to overlay the names on a photo of the scene, touch a mountain name to bring up additional information and use the app offline for easy use on trails in the backcountry. Available for iOS and Android. $4.99 one-time fee or online at peakfinder.org for a 360-degree view from the top any mountain you enter.
This app is an absolute must when going on a hike, bike ride, snowshoe trek or rock climb of any length. Search for the trail you plan to explore and download the map within Wi-Fi or cell service and then open it up at the trailhead to use offline. The app will track your progress and navigation along the trail including off-route notifications. The app includes more than 350,000 curated trails and can recommend trails near your location. Many trails have comments and trail reports from recent users who have completed the trail. Available for iOS and Android. $2.99 per month billed annually at $35.99.
Sun Surveyor and AccuWeather help photographers plan where to be, when to be there and what the weather will look like for the best images. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)
For anyone interested in taking images of the landscapes and sky, check out this app that provides a comprehensive sun and moon guide. With augmented reality, it is like being in a sun, moon or Milky Way path simulator. Use the app for times of sunrise, sunset, golden hour, blue hour, nautical dawn, astronomical dusk and more. App also provides information about solstices, moon phase, azimuth and altitude of the sun, moon and Milky Way, and Milky Way center rise and set. Available for iOS and Android. $9.99 one-time fee.
Anyone spending time in the outdoors – photographers, hikers, snowshoers, rock climbers, anglers, hunters – should have a few good weather apps. Weather forecasts are notorious for not always being accurate, especially in a place like Colorado where the weather changes frequently and quickly. AccuWeather is one of eight weather apps I have on my phone but the one I rely on the most frequently. Although it does not work offline, it does break down weather by the hour, giving information about rain probability, snow probability, humidity level, air quality, wind speeds for sustained and gusts, dew point, cloud ceiling and cloud cover. Great for photographers planning a shoot or adventurers heading onto a trail. Available for iOS and Android. Free or the ad-free AccuWeather+ for $8.99 per year.
Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer and writer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours, purchase prints and calendars, or suggest future topics at DawnWilsonPhotography.com.