AllTrails - Trail Guide and Map
Owner Review by Mike Lipay
September 15, 2019
|5' 6" (1.6 meters)
|155 lb (70.3 kg)
|Southwest Pennsylvania, USA
|I’ve been hiking since ’65 with occasional backpacking trips (backpacking became a love affair in the early 80’s). My first sleeping bag weighed in at 8 lb (3.6 kg) by itself! These days my loaded pack only weighs about 15 lb (6.8 kg) sans food. While most of my adventures are in the Northeast I’ve also been spending a good deal of time in the desert Southwest and most places in-between. My trips tend be in the cooler months - September through May - as I’m not much of a hot-weather person.
Installation and Setup
The first step is to create an account on the AllTrails website (http://www.alltrails.com). Accounts can be basic (free) or Pro (Annual or 3-Year pricing).
- Basic Account
- “Favorite” trails for easy access in the future
- Record a hike and share it with friends
- Create a new hike trail for future use
- Pro Account adds:
- Download maps for when cell signals don’t exist
- Alerts me when I wander off the planned trail
- Create a lifeline to let people know if I’m late finishing the trip
- Overlays that add additional information beyond just the topo map
- Print a paper map to take on the trip
- Ad-free use
Installation: Go to either Apple Store or Google Play and search for AllTrails then follow the instructions on downloading and installing the app. That simple.
Setup: After it finished downloading I opened the app, it then started downloading information on maps local to where I am. Sadly, it does this every time I open the app, and this takes time depending on the network strength. Once everything has been downloaded it then asks to either Sign Up or Log In. Since I created an account on their website I just had to log in, otherwise I would have had to create an account from the app in order to use it.
Signing up required entering my name, email address, and a password, this is so the app can save information on the trails I’ve hiked. If I had one I could have signed in with either a Facebook or Google account as well. It then asked for permission to access my current location and send notifications. Location is so that I can track myself on the trail while hiking, and to show the trails it knows about that are near me.
AllTrails provides several features for use by hikers, these features are listed and described below:
- Explore Trails - As soon as the app is opened, if Location Services is enabled, it presents a list of the trails the app knows about in the immediate area. The trails are presented by distance from the current location. Each listing shows:
- Name of the trail (usually provided by the person who first tracked the trail).
- Favorite (a heart-shaped icon that can be tapped to keep the trail in a Favorites list).
- Difficulty rating (Easy, Moderate, Hard).
- Download maps for when cell signals don’t exist
- Review rating (1-5 stars and a count of the number of people who reviewed the trail).
- Download icon (pressing downloads the trail’s GPS onto the phone).
- An indicator of whether or not you have completed the trail.
- Filtering - The list of trails can be filtered by the following criteria:
- Location - By typing in the name of a trail, a city, or park / forest name (ex: Appalachian Trail, Ohiopyle Pennsylvania, Allegheny National Forest) a list of trails in that area is presented.
- Sorting - The results can be sorted by: Best Match, Most Popular, or Closest.
- Difficulty - Easy, Moderate, or Hard.
- Length - A two-sided slider allows trail length filtering from zero miles to 20+ miles.
- Elevation Gain - A similar slider allows elevation gains from zero to 10,000+ feet to be selected - note that this is a total elevation gain, not from the lowest to the highest points.
- Trail Rating - select from 1 to 5 star trails.
- Trail Usage - select from (multiple selections allowed): backpacking, bird watching, camping, cross country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nature trips, off road driving, paddle sports, road biking, rock climbing, scenic driving, skiing, snowshoeing, surfing, trail running, and walking.
- What to see - select from (multiple selections allowed): beach, cave, city walk, forest, historic site, hot springs, lake, pub, rails-to-trails, river, views, waterfall, wild flowers, wildlife.
- Route Type - out-back, loop, point-to-point.
- Trail Traffic - light, moderate, heavy.
- Trail Completion - not completed, completed, verified completed (completed means that I flagged the trail has having completed it, verified means the app tracked my hike of the trail.
- Plan - Plan is a bad title for this, what it really is is a list of the trails that I “liked”. These can be trails I have already hiked, or trails I plan on hiking and so have clicked the “like” heart. The standard sequence is the order that I added the trail to my “like” list, but once in the Plan function I can move the trails around.
- Record - This is the meat of the app. I can record my hike of a trail, either one I selected from the Explore list or I can just record a trail as I hike it. It provides information about how far I have hiked, how long I have been hiking, my hiking speed, and a visual track of where I hiked on the map. The other option here for Pro users is called Lifeline - I can set hike start and end times and a list of email addresses/mobile numbers of people I want notified if there is a problem. When I begin the hike (if there is a cell signal) an email/SMS is sent to those on my lifeline; if I am running late a notification is sent; when I complete the hike a notification is sent. Having been in search-and-rescue, this is a big help. If I am late my contacts know, if I are late enough they can call the appropriate agencies, along with knowing that I am late they also have access to my hiking map and my last known location. Information that can save my life.
- History - This is a list of the hikes I have recorded, whether completed or not. Included in this list is a 5-star rating of how I rated it, not a composite of everyone who has hiked it.
- Profile - This is where I can see my stats, reviews, photos, etc., and make personal changes to the app (like metric units instead of imperial).
I have used AllTrails for two years now, taking it with me everywhere I have hiked from New Hampshire to Arizona, and everywhere I have hiked in-between. For the most part I have enjoyed the functions the app provides, especially the tracking and Lifeline options. I tend to hike lesser-used trails where signage and blazing are frequently absent, more than once I have used the tracking map to determine the “right” trail at a junction on a trail I have not hiked before. Fortunately I have not had to actually use Lifeline for help, but the people on my Lifeline list have told me that they are delighted to know when I have safely returned to my Jeep.
One feature I do like is the camera option, take a photo while on the hike and it gets shared with other hikers. Which means I can see their photos as well, which helps to identify special features such as waterfalls. It’s nice from a trail description to know there’s a waterfall on the trail, but it’s really handy to be able to see a photo tagged to a specific location on the trail to know exactly where it is.
Another handy feature is the Directions feature on the trail description. This opens directions in a navigation app (in my case, Apple Maps) allowing me to drive directly to the trailhead. In most navigation apps typing in a trail name either comes up with “location not found” or what the app thinks is the trailhead (sometimes in the middle of the park/forest where the trail is located). With AllTrails I know I am driving right to the trailhead parking lot. Sweet.
Not all is perfect, I have come across some issues that I hope will be addressed in future releases. First and foremost is regarding the Lifeline, it only works when actually hiking on the trails. I would like it better if it also tracked driving to and from the trailhead, getting home safe is just as important as getting back to the car safely.
Also, I have to remember to pre-load maps into the recorder before I head out. If there is no cellular service in the trail area then the map can’t be downloaded. If I accidentally close the app all is lost, when I get to the trailhead no maps of the trail I plan on hiking can accessed.
AllTrails is a handy app to have, especially when hiking new trails, or when I have to work my way around a trail issue (downed trees, poor blazing, etc.). One of the best features is the Lifeline, which I make sure to set up ahead of every hike. While some problems do exist I find it far handier than the old physical trail map.
- Things I like:
- Tracking my location on a hike.
- Lifeline, so people know when I start and finish the hike, and where I am on the trail at any particular time.
- Directions, so I know how to get to the trailhead.
- Things I don't like:
- Does chew up battery life (can’t be helped, but still a problem).
- Lifeline can’t be used to track me on my drive to/from the trailhead. If something happens on the drive no one knows.
- Having to remember to pre-load the maps - and not close the app afterwards.
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