Best navigation apps for UK hiking

Make sure you never go off trail again with the best GPS apps for hiking in the UK. 

Best Navigation Apps

It’s time to bring your hiking navigation into the 21st century. When thru-hiking Armenia on a brand new trail last summer, using a navigation app wasn’t just handy, it was invaluable. I can confidently say I wouldn’t have been able to complete a month of hiking the Armenian backcountry without it. Thanks to Armenia’s chequered history, detailed, physical maps are virtually impossible to come by. 

Hiking in the UK is different. Our country has been mapped and remapped and it seems that no stone has been left unturned. Many of us have fond memories of taking a battered Ordnance Survey map on Duke of Edinburgh or Ten Tors expeditions at school, only to spend three hours stuck in the same field, unable to find the exit (this really did happen to 15-year-old Anna). 

While map reading remains a vital skill and a physical backup map is almost always necessary, the below apps are really slick. A big bonus of using a navigation application over a traditional map is that it will give you total elevation gain (or loss), and an estimated time that it will take to complete your hike. And, for the statistics nerds among us (guilty), you can track and map your hiking trails, store them for future use, and share them with friends.

We’re not saying that you should ditch your Ordnance Survey map just yet, but with these navigation apps, you’ll save time on the planning process and be able to bask in the views of your route rather than tracing contour lines. Plus, even Ordnance Survey has gone digital now – see our review below.

Understanding navigation apps

You’ll often see navigation apps lauding the fact that they use TOPO (topographic) mapping. Topographic maps use the elevation of contour lines to show the height, shape and steepness of mountains and gorges (it’s a bit like a 3D effect). It allows you to visualise the landscape at a glance.

Here are our favourite navigation apps for hiking in the UK. Happy trails.

Editor’s notes

Navigation app are fantastic, but putting too much faith in them can be a mistake. If you’re heading off the beaten path, always pack a physical map and compass and learn how to use them!

Outdooractive

Author’s Choice

Outdooractive

Get 10 EURO off the Outdooractive Pro or Pro+ Subscription* with our voucher code: ADVENTUREPYXJLV

Features9 of 10
9 of 10
Usability8 of 10
8 of 10
Community9 of 10
9 of 10
OS Maps

2nd Place

OSMaps

Features8 of 10
8 of 10
Usability9 of 10
9 of 10
Criteria 18 of 10
8 of 10
AllTrails

3rd Place

AllTrails

Features8 of 10
8 of 10
Usability7 of 10
7 of 10
Criteria 19 of 10
9 of 10

1. Outdooractive

Outdooractive recently merged with ViewRanger to create an application that combines mapping, route planning, and navigational tools with a fantastic social media community.

Route inspiration and challenges which you can sign up for via the app make this a one-stop shop for planning hikes, bike rides and mountaineering trips, in the UK or abroad. We also recommend following their Instagram page for ultimate wanderlust

Best overall – Outdooractive

A jam-packed navigation app that’s not only great for hiking, but mountain biking, kayaking and so much more.

Outdooractive

Best overallOutdooractive

With great free and paid subscriptions, Outdooractive has been our go-to navigation app since the Viewranger days. It’s packed full of feature, offers a great user experience and supports routes for skiing, kayaking, mountain biking and so much more.

Key Features 

Outdooractive’s interface may look confusing at first, but that’s because this application is jam-packed with features. Share your GPS location in real-time using their Buddy Beacon feature, and easily find routes suggested by the Outdooractive team or community. 

A pro subscription includes precision maps and offline storage, and you can download different map layers, allowing for detailed route planning. An audio guide saves you needing to spend too much time looking at your phone. The activity tracking feature also lets you upload your activities with photos to share with your network.

Pricing Plans

Outdoor Active is billed in dollars, so the GBP prices below are based on exchange rates at the time of writing. 

  • Basic: Free. Includes downloadable routes for over 30 activities and social network features such as rating and reviewing routes and accommodation.
  • Pro: £28 (annual subscription). All basic features plus offline routes, TOPO maps and ad-free access.
  • Pro+: £55 (annual subscription). All basic and pro features plus expert maps for mountaineering and 3D planning.

Get 10 EURO off the Outdooractive Pro or Pro+ Subscription* with voucher code: ADVENTUREPYXJLV

*Terms apply. Discount is only redeemable against the Outdooractive Pro (currently 29.99 EURO) Pro+ (currently 59.99 EURO) subscription, and is applied to the first year only.

  • Free basic plan
  • Good desktop planning with a 3D preview of your route
  • Easy import and export of GPX files (provided that you have a stable internet connection)
  • Skyline feature which allows you to identify the mountain peaks around you in real-time just by scanning them with your phone camera.
  • Interface isn’t the most user-friendly and takes some getting to grips with
  • Route inspiration is a little Euro-centric at present

2. Komoot 

Another navigation app with a wide and active user base is Komoot.

Filled with route inspiration, there’s a community of roughly 18 million users worldwide. It’s particularly good for cycling routes and inspiration, although the hiking community is growing steadily.

Best for cycling – Komoot

It may be created with cycling in mind, but Komoot’s community of hikers has grown rapidly in the UK. Find trail inspiration from real enthusiasts and keep an in-app log of every adventure.

Key Features 

Komoot is very user-friendly, and even the least tech-savvy app user should have no trouble finding routes here. This is a great alternative if you’re struggling with Outdooractive – Komoot filters hikes by difficulty level, activity and route type (e.g. one way or round trip).

Since the mapping uses OpenStreetMap rather than OS Maps, we prefer it for known trails rather than off-trail navigation in far-flung parts of the world. 

Pricing Plans

  • Basic: Free. 
  • Premium: £4.99/month or £29.99 for a one-off annual payment. Includes offline maps, sport-specific maps, multi-day planners and a weather tool.
  • The free (basic) subscription is still comprehensive.
  • Active community with plenty of route inspiration and ideas.
  • Easy-to-use route sorting.
  • Tracking your activities and sharing them with friends is simple.
  • Mapping uses OpenStreetMap, which isn’t as detailed as OS Maps.
  • Feels more like a social media platform than a serious navigation app.

3. OSMaps 

Remember when we said to not throw away your Ordnance Survey map just yet? We still stand by that – but you can now also upgrade to the OS app.

Ordnance Survey has been going for a long time (over 200 years, since the time of the French Revolution!), and now this wealth of cartographical knowledge has gone digital. 

OS Maps

Best old school mappingOSMaps

The OSMaps app takes the old school Ordnance Survey map, digitises it and puts it in the palm of your hand. Find over a million (yes, 1m+) fantastic hiking, running, cycling and horse riding (to name a few) routes with ever-reliable OSMaps.

Key Features 

OSMaps has the rare combination of keeping techies and luddites happy. The cartography is incredibly detailed, and you can download and print as many routes as you like if you prefer physical maps.

Route planning is aided by 3D topographical maps on the desktop version, offering unparalleled insight into the landscape and gradients you’ll be tackling during your trip.

Pricing Plans

  • Two-week free trial
  • Paid subscription at £4.99/month or £28.99 for a one-off annual payment.
  • Exceptionally detailed maps, which can also be downloaded and printed.
  • The desktop version includes aerial 3D planning, for intricate and thorough route plans.
  • Strong, accurate GPS even when out of network range.
  • Augmented reality view to identify landmarks as you walk.
  • No free plan after the two-week free trial.

4. AllTrails 

If you’re looking for a community-based navigation app, it doesn’t get much better than AllTrails.

With roughly 50 million users worldwide sharing their experiences, it’s hard to find a platform that will give you as up-to-date information on routes as AllTrails (e.g. is there still snow on that mountain pass?).

Statistics nerds will be delighted and the map overlays are seemingly without limit – so the only thing you need to worry about is packing your backpack.

AllTrails

Best community – AllTrails

With more than 50-million users worldwide, AllTrails is the app for a community-based experience. Find inspiration for hiking, mountain biking and running in the Apple App Store’s “App of the Year”.

Key Features 

It’s easy to choose a hiking route that matches your ability level with AllTrails. We found it simple to filter by difficulty, elevation gain and length.

Rather than one nominated emergency contact, we also appreciate that AllTrails lets you have five ‘lifelines’ that you can message through the app. It connects easily to an Apple Watch or Garmin, and on the pro version, the GPS works really well offline.

AllTrails is a great option for multisports as it’s far from just a hiking app.

Pricing Plans

  • Basic: Free. 
  • AllTrails+: £35.99 for an annual subscription.
  • Great for multisports (it even has ski touring!)
  • Incredibly detailed map overlays, including pollution maps and pollen indexes
  • Active community comprising a user base of some 50 million users worldwide
  • Off-route notifications that send alerts if you veer from the trail
  • GPS can be a little gimmicky on the free version
  • The paid version (AllTrails+) is not the cheapest subscription on the market.

FAQ

Have a question about the best navigation apps for UK hiking? Check out our FAQ below.

We’d recommend the AllTrails basic plan, which has a wide variety of different UK routes for inspiration, and an active community. It easily syncs with your smartwatch.

Our favourite is OSMaps, which we feel is well worth the subscription fee. Many navigation apps use Ordnance Survey’s maps and they’re widely regarded as the best of the best. We can’t fault the detailed route planning and unlimited map downloads.

OSMaps again! The OSMaps app works well with both Androids and iPhones.

Absolutely, but if you’re relying on GPS navigation, we highly recommend getting a paid subscription to a navigation app.

That way, you’ll still get good GPS guidance if you’re out of network coverage. When using the free versions of navigation apps the GPS doesn’t tend to be very accurate when you’re not using mobile data.

Google Maps is extremely limiting when it comes to hiking navigation.

The app isn’t designed for hiking, so while it’s great for motorists or finding your way around a new city, many hiking trails won’t appear on Google Maps at all.

If you’re walking an urban trail, or a trail on small roads, then Google Maps can work, but we’d never recommend it as a hiking app, especially with the plethora of free and paid navigation apps on the market which will give you a much more detailed picture.

Still not managed to solve your issue? Don’t be afraid to reach out and send us a message on one of our socials – we’re always happy to help!

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