Step it Up: The Best Navigation Apps for UK Hikers

We’ve pulled together a list of our favourite navigation apps – easy-to-use platforms that will take you seamlessly from city to country – so you’ll never be left out in the cold. Disclaimer: if you are, we take absolutely no responsibility.

So, you want to head out into the hills; to stretch out your hip-flexors, quads, piriformis and all manner of other supporting muscles that have slipped into lockdown lethargy? For the uninitiated or city-based, the simple act of heading out on a hike can seem rather daunting.

Aside from picking a route, there are other factors to consider. What is the difficulty of the route you've chosen? How long will it take you? Importantly, will there be a country pub warmed by a crackling fire waiting to greet you at the end?

To help simplify things, we've pulled together a list of our favourite navigation apps. Expect easy-to-use platforms that will take you seamlessly from city to country, geocaching interfaces for grown-up kids and more high-spec products for the nerds who like to monitor climatic conditions and analyse topography as they go. With these nifty apps, you'll never be left out in the cold. Disclaimer: if you are, we take absolutely no responsibility.

Six of the best navigation apps for UK hikers


Perfect for: Anyone from nervy first-timers to experienced adventurers

Simply plonk your pin in any destination and a tangle of previously trodden walking routes will pop up, all with ratings by fellow wayfarers - very useful if you're a nervy hiker. If you're heading seriously off-piste, we recommend cashing out for AllTrails Pro, which enables you to download and follow routes offline, but there's really no need if you're walking somewhere with a half-decent network connection. Whether you're urban rambling in Tottenham Marshes or forest bathing in the Highlands, you can guarantee that AllTrails will be teeming with viable routes.


Perfect for: Easily distracted ramblers with a propensity for calamitous high jinx

"Take the next left, over the kissing gate." Komoot's rather fabulous USP is its turn-by-turn voice navigation. Some might find it a little distracting, but those who get lost in conversation and forget to check their map (thereby leading to calamitous high jinx) will be grateful for this vocal little app. The interface is as technical as you want it to be. You can either plot your own route, picking out different topographies and prioritising certain types of path (footpath, roads, bridleways etc.) or take it easy by picking an area and asking Komoot to draft you a hike that takes into account local sites of interest.

The OS Maps app

Perfect for: Trad trekkers with a soft-spot for old-school map writing

OS? More like OG. For a while Ordnance Survey slipped off the map, so to speak, as Google Maps became the preferred route-finder of choice. This app matches Ordnance Survey's iconic paper maps in design and comprehensiveness. It doesn't have the most dexterous interface but, unlike Google Maps, you can easily plot paths on the hoof with no need for internet connection, which makes it a reliable chum to have loitering in the background if and when things get a little hairy.


Perfect for: Those who walk and walk and walk and walk

If you're that friend - the one whose insatiable appetite for adventure leads you into evermore dangerous situations, and who is uncontactable even at the best of times - this app is for you. Cairn users plot a path and enter the estimated time and date they expect to complete their hike. If users haven't resurfaced from their off-grid ramble by that point, a message is automatically sent to their nearest and dearest. You'll have to pay for the privilege of using Cairn, but its alarm system works whether you're online or off and, at the price of your friends' peace of mind, is worth every penny.


Perfect for: Big kids who remain enraptured by the humble treasure hunt

This phenomenon might have taken off a few years ago, but geocaching remains popular among those who enjoy the simple pleasures of a treasure hunt. The concept is simple. Open the app and you'll see that a selection of GPS-identifiable containers, each filled with a log book and a "trackable" gizmo, are speckled around your local area. Once you've hiked out to said geocache, you can take its contents and replace them with something of equal value. The entire operation is maintained by fellow members of the geocaching community. It's undoubtedly geeky, but fun nonetheless.


Best for: Visionaries who like to see a walk before they commit

Many of the walks on Viewranger have been pieced together by established travel writers or given the green light by national parks and come replete with a gallery of images taken along the way. In brief: they're expert-approved. Of course, you can also upload and plot your own routes. We particularly enjoy the function which lets you add little audio snippets and pockets of text at moments of significance along your journey. Of all those in this list, ViewRanger is most similar to AllTrails. It's an all-rounder with a hefty collection of 150,000+ off-the-peg routes stored and ready to ramble.

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