Autumn colors are even more spectacular when you’re out in the middle of them on a hike!
Fall is a great time of year to get out and go for a hike; the weather’s not so humid, the bugs crawl back to wherever they came from and the views are spectacular.
Read on to discover our favorite smartphone hiking gear, ways to meet up with new hiking buddies, and apps for trails, packing lists and more!
Bring your extra battery or solar charger—even if you leave it in your car. Using your camera, GPS and trail apps will use up your battery. (Check out our tips on using airplane mode to save battery life.) Don’t forget a nature-proof case to protect your phone against drops, capture by ravenous birds and scratches. Pack headphones if you like some tunes on the trail. Check out the GoPro to document your adventures.
Lots of folks like to hike alone, but if you’re looking for a great group to hike with, try taking non-credit classes through local universities and colleges. You’ll get some expert knowledge from nature guides and enjoy the camaraderie of other life-long students.
Locals use Meetups to start groups for all kinds of things like bowling, painting and, yes, hiking! Check groups in your area. You might make a few friends on the trail. Find free events and classes about hiking, backpacking and more, offered by your local REI! Don’t forget to check your local Mom-n-Pop outfitters, too. One of the best places to start when looking for a hiking group is where folks go for hiking supplies.
Camping and Hiking Apps
Check lists, trail-finding, survival tips … here’s a list of apps to make the absolute best out of your outdoor adventures this fall:
This checklist app starts with some basic camping/hiking needs, but it can be customized to include your own must-haves.
Find your way with these crowd-sourced descriptions and tips. Get driving directions to the trailhead, choose the best path, even document your own experiences.
Make your digital mark by drawing tracks over maps to show where you’ve been. You can also geotag places along your route with photos, descriptions and more, and share on social media! It’s a great way to share the experience with someone, even when they can’t be with you!
Find your overnight home with reviews and descriptions of nearby campsites.
SAS Survival Guide
Ever wanted to try your hand at making a shelter out of vines and sticks? Wondering what kinds of food might keep you alive if you have to forage? This is the app for you.
Leaf Tracker Sites
Make your hikes more colorful by checking out the foliage on the trail! Leaf peeping is as much a national pastime as football in the fall. There are tons of websites dedicated to finding the peak leaf-turning times for just about anywhere in the U.S.
This page on the SmokyMountains.com site features the science behind leaves changing color and other fun facts, along with a full continental U.S. map predicting peak leaf-viewing times in each region. Once you know where the most vibrant leaves will be, you can plan your hiking trips accordingly. Here’s a Fun Fact from the site: Did you know that deciduous leaves would be those vibrant reds, yellows and browns of autumn all year long without chlorophyll?
On Weather.com, you can select regions to view fall foliage peak times, or see the whole continental U.S. at once.
Planning a trip to view the fall colors? You can search for fall color reports in your area for more accurate knowledge about what’s happening with the trees. For example, here’s a page for the Shenandoah Fall Color Reports, and here’s one for Central Park in New York City.
Apps for Your Leaf Viewing Pleasure
This app, for Apple and Android, is most useful if you’re planning to visit a National Park, like The Great Smokies or the Grand Tetons. It’s an audio tour of the area you choose, helping you color your fall hike with historical context. The downside: some places have very little or no stories in this app. Hopefully, the developers will add more content soon!
Want to identify those lovely leaves while hiking on the trail? Use this app to figure it out! It was developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution. Get your snap on!
Not specifically for fall leaves, Google Lens is a relatively new function you can use to identify things in your photos. Take a snapshot of a landmark, an unusual plant, an animal … and Google Lens will try to tell you more about it. Go here for more information about how to access it.