As we enter the summer hiking and backpacking season, I wanted to share some valuable resources my friends and I use to plan our adventures. I've received an influx of queries regarding trail recommendations through my e-mail and social media. While I am always ready to assist, I can't promise a prompt response due to my ever-changing schedule. It's also beneficial to utilize various external resources to refine your search. Here's an overview of several notable tools along with some trail-specific resources:
Highly favored by hikers, AllTrails offers a handy filter function allowing you to sort trails based on various criteria such as elevation gain, difficulty, distance, scenery, accessibility, and more. Whether you need a dog-friendly trail with a waterfall or an easy trail for your visiting family, AllTrails makes it simple. With the ability to save and categorize hikes for future reference, it becomes easy to pick a trail at the last minute. The premium subscription, usually on discount, offers additional benefits like offline map access and in-trail progress tracking. Be mindful, however, that some information on the site may not be entirely accurate.
An advanced planning tool much like Gaia, CalTopo is also widely used by Search and Rescue groups. It includes a slope angle shading layer for identifying avalanche-prone slopes and a multitude of layers providing rich and valuable information not available on AllTrails or WTA. Features like weather, wind, fire history, and activity layers are invaluable during summer.
An entertaining side tool, PeakFinder helps you identify the peaks in your surrounding area. Simply point your phone camera at the peak, and the app does the rest. You can even overlay your photos with peak identifications, creating an informative keepsake for your summit adventures.
PeakVisor stands as the pinnacle of Mountain Identification and 3D Maps applications, showcasing unparalleled advancements. With a vast database of over a million named summits and an abundance of supplementary mountain-related information from across the globe, it reigns supreme. This cutting-edge tool can be accessed through a mobile app on both iOS and Android platforms, as well as a web app called Mountains Explorer.
WTA is another widely-used resource, offering similar features to AllTrails. It also provides additional information regarding trail passes, directions, and weather. Often, hikers compare trip reports from both WTA and AllTrails for comprehensive insights. Like AllTrails, WTA's accuracy might sometimes vary.
While often underutilized, guidebooks are a treasure trove of information, detailing trail conditions, potential dangers, campsites, and more. Some guidebooks specialize in specific trail categories, such as dog-friendly trails, helping you find the perfect fit.
Gaia is a more sophisticated tool with advanced features. It's particularly useful for mapping routes and calculating the total mileage and elevation gain. Offline map tracking is also an option. Gaia is convenient for plotting longer backpacking trips or off-trail routes.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Each hiker or climber usually has a favored tool or app. Many share overlapping features, making the choice largely personal. Experiment with the free versions before purchasing any membership, or continue with the free version if it meets your needs. Often, you may need to use several resources for comprehensive planning.
Enjoy your hiking adventures!