Bracken Cave Preserve | July 2021
Lake Somerville State Park | August 2021

Tips & Tricks | 5 Great Apps for Exploring the Outdoors

While we venture outside to disconnect from the busy world around us, sometimes there are pieces of that world that can help make our outdoor adventures more enjoyable and safer. Here are five apps for your phone that can help you plan your next excursion and have a great time outdoors!


Texas State Parks app

Texas State Parks app

Cost: Free

Offline capabilities: kind of

The official Texas State Parks app has all the park information you could need right at your finger tips. You can filter for whichever outdoor activity you're looking for to find a park that has what you want OR use the map to find parks that are located nearby! The app allows access to park maps, photos, operating information, and more! You can create a list of your favorite parks for easy access in the future, too. One of my favorite features is that you can see up-to-date park alerts like burn bans, closures, road conditions, etc.

Not all features are accessible offline so I always make sure to download park maps, trail maps, and any other things I may need or want ahead of time so I don't have to worry about having cell service to download them when I'm out on the trail or at a campsite with no signal!


National Park Service app

NPS app

Cost: Free

Offline capabilities: yes

Similar to the Texas State Parks app, the National Park Service app offers information about all of the NPS sites in one place. While you cannot use it with no connectivity, you have the ability to save park information for offline use. You can save all of the parks that you are planning on visiting so that you don't have to worry about whether or not you can access them once you arrive! This app has great information for each park, including recommendations on things to do, trail information, amenities, nearby attractions, and in-app self-guided tours! If you have service, the app will automatically show you the closest parks to you, which is a handy feature, as well.


AllTrails app


Cost: Free; Pro membership:  $29.99 per year

Offline capabilities: yes

AllTrails has been a lifesaver when it comes to planning our trips! I can find hikes in the places that we are going and make our 'to hike' list based on trail ratings and distances. I also read reviews and check out the photos from fellow hikers. It's easy to create lists for separate trips so they are easily accessible once you arrive at your destination.I also love that it has categories for dog friendly areas, ADA accessibility, and biking.

When we are at a trailhead ready to go, I turn on the navigation feature so that I can log the hike in my account, too! It's not only a good way for me to track where we've been and what we've done, but I can also use it as a trail journal and share any insights about the trail that could help other people planning on making the hike. Aaaand, not going to lie, the navigation feature has helped prevent me from getting us too off course when I accidentally make a wrong turn somewhere.

The free version has all the features that we need, but if you want more, the Pro version includes downloadable maps, real time overlays to show weather, air quality, pollen, and more, and a feature that allows friends and family to track you in real time for safety purposes!


INaturalist appiNaturalist

Cost: Free

Offline capabilities: no

iNaturalist is a really cool app that can help you identify all the amazing things that you might find during your explorations! The best part is that with each observation you submit, you're contributing to a huge citizen science database! All you need to do is snap a photo of your specimen and iNaturalist will use the location info with the image to help you figure out what it could be!  While you DO need internet connection to submit your observations and get identification suggestions, I usually will take photos along the trail and then upload them at a later time when connectivity is better. It's an excellent way to not only enjoy the beauty of nature, but also to learn more about it!


Red Cross app

Red Cross First Aid

Cost: Free

Offline capabilities: yes

No matter how well prepared you are, accidents do happen. While I always recommend having a basic first aid kit on hand, the Red Cross First Aid app can help guide you through some common emergency situations. It's always good to review some of the information ahead of time, too, so your memory is refreshed before heading out into nature. This app can come in handy for more than just outdoor exploration, too! Accidents can happen anywhere and having this app readily accessible can help you to deal with them as they come, even if you forget what to do in the moment.

I highly recommend downloading all of these apps and having them accessible when you need them! They all are free (or have free versions) so what are you waiting for?

Do you have any favorite apps that you love to use in the outdoors?


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