Best iPhone (iPad) Apps for Walkers and Hikers

My wife and I love to go for long walks and hikes with our dog.  Living in Britain, we are somewhat spoiled for choice I believe – especially with so many public footpaths.  Lately, we have started to invent new walks every week by using some of the GPS-based apps available for the iPhone.

Each week, we drive to a village that we like (usually has a nice pub for the all important “after walk recovery”) or that is in a beautiful area. We then load one of the iPhone apps listed below and plan a circular route that we then adapt as we go.  We have discovered so many fantastic walks this way with only the occasional hiccup (usually involving a field and a bull, but that’s a different story).

Below are the main apps that I have tried and tested – there may be others of course.


1. Google Maps.

The great thing about Google Maps is that it is free and standard as part of your iPhone implementation.  The satellite images are a great way to locate landmarks.  But that is where the benefits of this app end I am afraid.  The app requires internent access to work and so you are stuffed when out in the countryside with a slow or non-existent network connection.  Also, the level of detail in these maps is simply not good enough for hiking.

Pros: free, built in, satellite images clearly displays reality and doesn’t rely on surveys.

Cons: need decent internet connection in the field, slow, not accurate – does not display footpaths which makes it pretty useless for hikers.


2. Routebuddy Atlas iTunes link. app free, must purchase maps.

This was the first GPS mapping app I tried after Google maps and I used to be really impressed.  The Ordnance Survey (OS) maps do not come with the app, you need to purchase them separately but when you have done so, it has some nice features.  The OS maps are accurate and clearly display the footpath and bridleways along with your current location.

It is the way you need to download the apps that pretty much makes the app a reject for me now.  You have to go to the web site on your PC/Mac to download a specific OS map.  You then need to upload this map to your iphone by enabling a “file server” process on your iPhone.  The whole thing is complicated and clunky.

Pros: full UK Ordnance Survey maps available with excellent way-point functionality.

Cons: you need to purchase each OS map and require a degree in computer science to get them on to your phone.


3. GB Nat ParksiTunes link. £9.99 all in.

This is an excellent app!  You have full access to the UK 1:50K Ordnance Survey maps from the point of install.  This means that you do not need to download anything.  It works brilliantly wherever you are without any worry about future planning or internet connectivity.  The maps are clear and accurate.

Pros: Access to all 1:50K OS maps from the minute you download it, for free.

Cons: the maps only go to 1:50K with no ability for finer detail (minor point)


4. UK MapiTunes link. £4.99 all in.

This is also an excellent mapping app for the iPhone / iPad and trumps GB Nat Parks on two points – 1) price and 2) detail.  When you download this app, you get the level of detail you would expect from the start – down to 1:50K OS.   But the main advantage of this app is that you can get 1:10K detail if you need (for free).  Getting the more detailed map is a bit clumsy, you have to keep your finger pressed on an area for a few seconds and then confirm that you want to download, but other than that it is a very nice product.

Pros: 1:50K Ordnance Survey at point of install but with access to 1:10K when you need it. Price.

Cons: 1:10K maps are downloaded and so it requires a bit of future planning as it would be pretty slow or impossible if already out in the field.


Although the most recent addition to my iPhone, I have found the UK Map app to be the most useful.  This is primarily because of the better map detail and the way it rotates the map based on the compass.  I would also recommend the GB Nat Parks app for a great “all rounder”.


Happy trails.


  1. Thanks very useful comparison between mapping apps. Please keep up the good work and add more if you can!! 🙂 (e.g. Memory Maps).

  2. Great detail. Are these apps only for i phones, or does anybody you know if they can go onto any android phone.

  3. The new iFootpath App – iFootpath Mobile has just been launched. It has lots of new features including walks to download, GPS tracking on walk maps as well as the ability to create tracks and walks from the App. It’s free at the moment but this is likely to change. The website is

    and the itunes link is

    There is a new forum on the iFootpath website if you want to post up some comments.

  4. How I wish I had never read this. Off on holiday in the Cotswolds tomorrow, eagerly downloaded GB NatParks app on your recommendation plus a 1.50 map of the area, and the latter had not appeared on the iPhone even though it appears as purchased on iTunes account. So, instead of packing and getting ready, I have spent HOURS on the computer trying to contact the app developer and iTunes, they all say they will respond in 48 hours, by which time I will be up the wrong footpath somewhere in the Cotswolds. How I wish I had never read this but bought a OS map in the information centre when I arrived.

  5. I am sorry you have had problems.  I can only write from my own experience and these are reflected in the post above.  However, I did point out that I mainly use “UK Map” app – it doesn’t cost anything for downloads and has always been good for me.

  6. Sorry to hear your problems. I haven’t used this app so I am not sure I can help. But you should be able to download straight to the iPhone rather than through iTunes i guess?  I presume that you have teh app on your phone? If not then you probably have a sync issue. In itunes you need to see what apps are on your phone and what you have bought and ensure that they are ‘ticked’. Also I find contacting any help service slow so I find the trick is to Google/Bing the question you have. Nine times out of ten someone else will have had the problem and often post up the solution. Whether it’s an App problem or a general software or hardware problem try searching first.  I have had a quick search for you. So some people have had a problem because the map si so large and takes ages to download if not on WiFi. So maybe it will load up but take a long time as it could be over 1Gb… Just a thought.

    I like to use a satellite view of where I am walking with map features, often known as a hybrid. I agree in many ways not as good as an OS map but they are free and will help you navigate. With our App we are adding walks that are marked on the live Map – together with descriptions – so that you can be sure to be following the right route.

    (Unfortunately no walks through the Cotswolds yet – but you can track them and add them to our site using our App.)

    Anyway I hope that you have the map you were looking for now and enjoy the holiday and walking.

  7. Just about to go for a walk and found your post. I pulled out my Ordinance Survey map thinking there must be a better way. Thanks for the referral on UK Map – exactly what I was looking for.

    Fortunately, BT has upgraded the broadband line so that I can download the UK Map app in about 12 minutes. It’s worth noting that the app is now £7.99.

  8. The UK Map app worked very well and as described. I downloaded the portions that pretty much cover my area between the M25 and Wokingham. The user interface is more complicated than it needs to be, but everything works pretty much as described and there was no additional charge for the roughly 10 different parts of Ordinance Survey maps I downloaded. But as you said, download the maps in advance.

  9. Love that app John.. hope it works out for you.. it seems to be the best of the bunch at the moment, but I suspect more will come.  Thanks for commenting.

  10. can someone confirm that public footpaths are shown on the maps as a couple of reviews i found suggest that they are NOt shown which would make this app useless to me.
    Many Thanks

  11. Thanks for showing the way! I leave tomorrow for the UK and Ireland, from the US.  Can’t wait to try out UK Map.  Any last minute suggestions about similar apps for Ireland?  Any suggestions about what iPhone carrier might have the best signal for hiking remote areas?  Any crucial updates to the info above?  Thanks so much for providing this information!!

  12. public footpaths are shown – you need to make sure you zoom in on the maps to get the right level of detail.  But UK Maps definitely shows footpaths

  13. I cannot find the ‘switch’ to enable backup of downloaded maps. Do you know how to do this?

  14. Very useful information on the apps. Do you have any ideas on how I might be able to draw a circle with a ten mile radius from an exact point onto an os map ? With google maps it is possible but as you say there is very little detail in comparison.

    I hope you can help.

    Many thanks


  15. I was looking for an iPhone walking app that could get me back-on-time and I found one! It is called “My Walks” and provides advantages over most of the other GPS walking/hiking/apps: (1) Easier to use with an auto-pause feature, (2) More accurate with adjustments for uphill climbs, (3) An auto shut-off battery saver, (4) Easy to email your route map and fitness history. But most important to me, it can (5) Can get me “Back on Time” or “Back by Dark”!

    Here is a link to the app in the Apple app store:

  16. Do any of these apps show you where you are in relation to – and where the path is supposed to be, I was confronted by a poor farmer in his £100,000 brand new motor having walked through a sign posted but completely overgrown path, to head height, that, when it opens up appears (looking at google & o/s maps) to have been diverted away from his pond/lake and horses fields. It was the classic “what are you doing here” – I said I thought I was following the footpath signs but turned around and went back where I’d been because I wasn’t too sure I was right ( until I checked on pc)- and he sat there watching me go too! Now I want to walk the exact legal route, even if it’s straight through his lake!

  17. Absolutely. Both UK Maps and ViewRanger will display your exact GPS location in the map. ViewRanger is probably the better choice here as it uses ordnance survey maps vs the OS Open Map platform and so can be more accurate (you need to buy credits from ViewRanger to download the more detailed versions of the maps as tiles but it is worth it). Hope this helps, Matt.

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