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(Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash)
Your Guide to Urban Adventure
Sponsor Content: adidas TERREX

Adventure Local: The Most Useful Outdoor Apps 

From route planning to stargazing, here’s how to transform your phone into a more functional piece of gear

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Between weekly group rides, exploring new urban trails while traveling, and weekend camping trips, it can be tough to keep track of everything you’ve got going on. Of course, there are also hundreds of apps promising to make it easier to help you find new adventures and keep you organized. Which ones are the best? To find out, we tested a few dozen of the most highly rated apps, from campsite finders to off-line trail maps. The following six apps made the final cut and are guaranteed to help you make the most of your free time, whether you’re staying close to home or fleeing the city. 

Roadtrippers

Google Maps is great for directions, but let’s be honest: Waffle Houses and interstate rest stops are not the kinds of attractions you’re after when you hit the road in search of adventure. Enter Roadtrippers, the app that allows you to punch in your destination and then explore everything from accommodations (filter for chain hotels, B&Bs, etc.) to campsites to parks and trails—all within striking distance of your route. We planned a trip from NYC to Washington, D.C., and found dog beaches, botanical gardens, campsites, and a vegetarian restaurant with killer falafel. You can even invite friends to help edit and plan the trip. Most key features can be accessed for free, but a premium version of the app—which unlocks off-line maps, unlimited itineraries, and live traffic conditions—is available for the road warriors among us. (Basic: Free; Premium: $6.99+)

Trailforks

This website and app might be the single best source for finding new trails at home and afar. The crowdsourced database was started by mountain bikers but is now stacked with more than 195,000 trails for everything from hiking to dirt biking—just hover over a specific area and hit the “explore” button to find trail ratings, user-generated beta, and even photos and videos. It’s like having a local guide on your phone. Plus, if you download a state’s data, your maps will be available no matter how far you head off the grid. (Free)

Recreation.gov

Where do you want to camp? The Adirondacks? Rocky Mountains? California desert? Type in your desired location and the recreation.gov app will give you all of the available campsites on public lands in the area. If you struggled with older iterations of this site and app, fear not: the modernized and totally updated version features photos and descriptions of the sites, and real-time occupancy status. And if you find a site you absolutely love, but it’s booked, you can search for the next available open dates and book straight through the app. (Free) 

Bunchrides

Let’s face it: sometimes planning a group ride feels like herding cats (I thought we were meeting at the trailhead, not the coffee shop!). This new app takes the pain out of planning a group ride, making sure everyone joining in has all the pertinent details, like when and where to meet and how many miles you’ll be riding. Plus, you can message people in your group and make sure that one guy doesn’t forget to bring the post-ride beer. (Free)

Komoot

This app uses the OpenStreetMap database to help you plan road rides, mountain-bike rides, bike commutes, or hikes. After you plug in your starting point and destination, choose your mode of transportation, and set your fitness level, Komoot crunches the data to provide you with far more than just a map of your route. It spits out the obligatory stats—distance, elevation change, and estimated duration—along with a whole host of far more useful information, like a quick summary of the route’s difficulty and what types of surfaces and pathways you’ll encounter along the way (i.e. 20% bike path, 80% singletrack trail; 20% paved, 80% unpaved). It even has off-line maps and voice navigation with turn-by-turn directions. ($3.99+)

Night Sky

Get astronomy lessons on your phone with this app that lets you target a specific group of stars in the sky and learn all the details. Even better, Night Sky gives you regular stargazing reports, so you can plan the ultimate nocturnal excursion and know exactly what will be visible and where you should look. Spend $2 a month and you’ll get augmented reality tours of planets and moons. ($2)

Lead Photo: Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash
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