AllTrails Review – I Used to Love it But Then This Happened

I’m going to share some personal stories in this AllTrails review of how this app saved me numerous times which made me love it at first, but then as I became a much more experienced hiker and explorer, how slowly my appreciation for this app eroded and why today I still seldom use it, and what I do to ensure I don’t get lost when I hike.

The main thesis of this AllTrails review is this:

As a whole, the AllTrails (free) app is great for beginner hikers just looking for popular hiking trails (the free version is perfectly fine for that), but if you get more immersed into hiking and exploring new trails, there may come a point (like it did for me) when this app will not only disappoint you, but it may also end up confusing you which is why you need a plan B (I’ll talk about what that is below).

While Alltrails Pro is a MUCH better option for preventing getting lost (among other benefits), it doesn’t change the fact that you should absolutely learn to develop your own navigational skills and never solely rely on this app (or other navigation apps) to save you, because it’s never 100% guaranteed.

I’ll share the situations I’ve come across where this app has helped me as well as situations where I quickly learned it wasn’t 100% reliable and what I learned to do instead so you don’t run into these situations yourself.

I’ll also be covering the following things in this Alltrails review:

  • Details on the free Alltrails app (pros, cons, personal stories which are both good and bad).
  • My experiences with Alltrails Pro as well (also pros, cons and personal stories) and if you need the upgrade or not.

What is the AllTrails app? How to use it to find hiking trails:

alltrails review

This section of the AllTrails review is for anyone who is a total beginner to the app. I know 99.9% of people know what it is or have heard of it, but just so we’re all on the same page, here’s a quick description:

AllTrails is an app designed to help people find hiking trails and outdoor adventures. If you allow it (location permission), Alltrails will show you the nearest trails wherever you are too, thus taking the “guess work” out of the mix.

Here’s some other features (this is by the way for the free version of All Trails):

  • Again, it will show you a list of nearby hikes and trails depending on your location.
  • You can also manually search for popular hiking trails.
  • You can customize your search to seek out trails, waterfalls, hiking distances and more.
  • You can use the description, map, photos and reviews of the trail to better prepare yourself and/or see if it’s even worth trying.
  • If you are on a trail, you can also open the trail map (and see where you are (if you have a GPS signal available that is).
  • For each hiking trail you find, you will also get a map, description of it, details on the length, difficulty of it and reviews from those who have done it.

Then there is an Alltrails pro version ($29.99 a year):

I’m going to be honest, my knowledge of AllTrails pro is subpar. I did buy it a long time ago but I barely used it. For the most part, AllTrails Pro will help you get better details on your hiking trails as well as download maps in case you lose connection/signal while on a hike so you can monitor where you are.

Update: Further below I detail my very positive experiences using Alltrails Pro.

The pros of using Alltrails (free version):

  1. It’s good to find easy hikes near me (or you in this case).
  2. It’s also a good app I use for (sometimes) finding waterfalls near me as well.
  3. Good for beginner hikers.
  4. Provides decent listings of trail maps.
  5. Provides listings of tons of hikes.
  6. Provides good GPS location details to help you identify where you are (if you have signal).
  7. You can get a good overview of reviews, tips and suggestions from other users on whatever hike or hikes you plan to do.

The cons of using Alltrails (also free version):

  1. I would not rely on this app for all your hikes (doesn’t show everything).
  2. If GPS location is lost, you either need AllTrails Pro or it’s useless in my opinion.
  3. Searching for hikes near you is often confusing because too many choices pop up and it’s tough to tell them apart based on trail names.
  4. AllTrails trail markers are marked in  1 color (red) and that can confuse people if the actual live trails are of a different color.
  5. There are many parks, hikes that do not show up on AllTrails.
  6. I would absolutely encourage you to develop your own skills for hiking/navigation and not to rely on AllTrails all the time!

My positive experiences with AllTrails (when it helped me, the free option):

hikes I found thanks to alltrails new 01

I’ve included an image here showcasing some amazing hikes I found thanks to this app.

Story 1: I was in Harriman State Park hiking a completely customized path that consisted of many different trail colors. While Alltrails didn’t have any specifics to this trail (I was trying to find a place called Lemon Squeezer) because it was not well known about, I had a GPS signal and used it to estimate where I was and which direction to go into.

I did end up finding the right spot, in part thanks to using AllTrails, although the bigger part of my success that day was because I relied more so on the official map of the park instead of the app.

And in regards to AllTrails, this was all predicated on the fact that I actually had a signal. Had I not, I’d likely have to backtrack. rely more on the map I had or I’d be screwed.

Story 2: I was exploring Lake Minnewaska State Park and specifically doing a trail called Gertrude’s Nose. I was doing a specific path of it where the trail would go be tough to navigate at times, but thanks to having a GPS signal and map listings, I was able to determine which was to go to finish the loop I was doing.

Story 3: AllTrails helped me find a cool hike in Columbia River Gorge by exploring an alternative trail to Oneonta Gorge which I would otherwise not know about.

Story 4: Generally speaking, AllTrails sometimes helps me find trails when I travel and sometimes I’ll find good tips and reviews as well as preview maps to help me determine if the trail is worth checking out or not.

Story 5: Alltrails has helped me navigate and find amazing places in Sedona like the Soldiers Pass Caves. There was a part of this trail where I had to steer off it and because it was on the map, I was less worried about being lost.

Story 6: Most recently I did an amazing hike in New York called Avalanche Pass Adirondacks trail and this was one of those cases where the official map of the area was ridiculously confusing, so much so that I opened up Alltrails, found the same trail and used it on much of the hike to get to the right area, and thanks to Alltrails, I was able to do that.

My negative experiences with AllTrails (when it didn’t help me, again the free version):

when alltrails is confusing to use

Story 1: There have been numerous cases, especially in places like Harriman State Park where I could not find any decent maps on AllTrails for the path I wanted to take. I would often get lists of loops and beginner trails which were confusing to figure out and pinpoint.

I also had numerous times where I was exploring a trail in this particular park where I just couldn’t find it on AllTrails and had to rely on a physical map instead.

Story 2: Even when I do follow a hike I find on Alltrails, it may involve doing different colored trails and if I solely rely on the AllTrails map, it appears red for me and that confuses me when in reality I have to pass through trail markers that are of a different color (I mentioned this above).

For example: The picture I included here is of a popular trail in Harriman State Park that combines several small trails to make a 8+ mile loop. It involves going through what is known as the Reeves Brook Loop trail, and if you know anything about it, you’ll know there are actually several colors to this specific trail: Red, blue, white, yellow and possibly more.

I get that when you see specifics on where to go, it’s easier to understand, but when you’re on trails here, sometimes you may miss which colored trail to turn on because you only saw red on the AllTrails map.

alltrails cons example 01

Story 3: Unless you have AllTrails pro and can download a map to pinpoint where you are, this app can be pretty useless if you are hiking somewhere with no GPS signal.

Story 4: I think Alltrails can get very annoying to figure out when you go somewhere you have 10 different versions with the named trail. For example, if I type up Coyote Gulch in the search, I’ll get 9 or so different options and I have to manually sort through each one to figure out what to do. Sometimes I’ll find loops and trails that are totally irrelevant to the region I’m seeking to explore.

These stories would rack up overtime as I would explore more difficult/complex trails out there and as the disappointments racked up, so did the reality that I could not continue to solely rely on this app.

Note: All of these stories are of me using the free version of Alltrails. In hindsight (which you will read about in a moment), having Alltrails Pro would have positively enhanced all of these stories, especially the negative ones.

Time to finally give you my Alltrails Pro review:

As I said earlier I actually bought Alltrails Pro long ago and it was right before my hike to Coyote Gulch.

To be honest, I didn’t use it much (at the time) but very recently, I returned home from a 10 day trip that spanned from California, to Nevada, Utah, and finally ended in Arizona (this happened in November 2022).

In that 10 day period, my appreciation for Alltrails (Pro specifically) skyrocketed because of how useful it ended up being for me, specifically in helping me properly navigate certain trails without getting lost and also if I did wander off the main trail, I could use the offline map and see where I was regardless if I had connection or not to find my way back.

With Alltrails Pro, there are 2 specific and major pros (no pun intended) worth noting:

alltrails pro review 09

1) You can download any trail map that is on the Alltrails index so you have it whether or not you have a signal, meaning if you are somewhere where there’s no cell phone reception, you can still use the offline map and even see where you are on it (this is priceless and potentially a life saving pro). I would highly recommend this as a way to prevent getting lost in the woods (not guaranteed, but your odds of that lessen greatly in my opinion).

2) If there are circumstances in which a specific trail is not listed in Alltrails, there is a “start navigation” option where you basically start hiking and it records (with a red line) which way you are heading on the trail. You can then use that map and trail created to backtrack to where you began. This is exactly what I had to do in Arizona when I was on the Vultee Arch trail and the app greatly helped me here.

Now when it comes to Alltrails Pro cons, there’s 2 things:

1) You won’t have trails for every place you look (it’s just impossible for any trail app to cover all that’s out there). Thankfully there is a navigation tool to start your own trail on the map you can download offline to make sure you can backtrack (this is very useful).

2) I still maintain that you should learn to rely on your own skills to get yourself home safely because no matter how good an app is, if you rely on it too much, you may hinder your own learning/evolution of necessary skills and that may be very dangerous if you ever get lost in the woods and there’s no official Alltrails map of it for you to rely on.

I had one circumstance on that same 10 day hiking trip where I was hiking at Keyhole Cave in Sedona, and Alltrails went crazy when I got into the cave, which would have confused some people, but I just used simple logic to make my way back (this is proof that situations like this can happen).

Conclusions on AllTrails overall:

While I think the free version of AllTrails has a lot of uses and should be installed on your phone, once again I also think it’s a big mistake to only rely on it.

Now regarding Alltrails Pro, it is 1,000x better and well worth it for the priceless pros I stated above and it’s only $29.99 a year, a very small investment for a potentially life saving app.

But overall, even if you do get Alltrails Pro, do not ever assume that this or any other similar app is a substitute for learning your own skills to find your way on trails, off trails and where you need to go.

There are so many easy ways to get lost out there and even miss out on incredible trails that aren’t in the AllTrails index and if you don’t develop your own skills and know which trail you are taking thinking that Alltrails will just guide you through, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment eventually (or maybe something worse).

What about alternatives to AllTrails? Are there better apps?

I’ve seen a few and people have showed me some that they say are better. However, the central problem with all of them in my opinion is that you shouldn’t rely solely on them, just like with AllTrails. If you have a personal recommendation for a good alternative app to AllTrails though, I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts on that below.

Aside from developing your own skills at navigating, here’s a few other things I personally do to avoid relying on AllTrails:

  • Research a trail ahead of time and get a screenshot of the map (or a physical one).
  • Plot your own directions if it’s a trail that isn’t listed on AllTrails (and even if it is, I’d still do it).
  • Find trailheads for hikes if it’s an impromptu hike and take a picture of the map just in case.

Bottom line: Know that AllTrails doesn’t have everything and don’t solely rely on it and get lazy, otherwise you may eventually get yourself into trouble in doing so.

Thanks for reading this AllTrails review! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the app and other alternatives you use as well as stories of when this app helped you or didn’t below!

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16 thoughts on “AllTrails Review – I Used to Love it But Then This Happened”

  1. This was a good review but the complaint about All Trails using red for their route and it not matching up with trail marker colors doesn’t make much sense.

    All Trails HAS to use some color for their route, so of course whatever color they use is not going to necessarily match the individual trail color. Surely you didn’t expect the All Trails route to use individual trail colors?

    I think it is beyond their capability to match their route color with a trail color, and I certainly didn’t expect that from the app. And it certainly didn’t confuse me when it didn’t match. And some trails don’t even have colors. What then?

    This seems to be placing too high an expectation on the app. Is there even another trail app that does this?

    Oh, I and agree, you should never place blind faith in a mapping app, whether it be All Trails or Google Maps.

    Reply
    • Hi Steve, thanks for your comment but let me elaborate on the part about this app not showing the proper trail colors. I totally understand that it’s not perfect and can’t exactly reflect the proper colors on it’s online map vs what the trail marker colors are in real life, but at the same time, people’s reliance on the free app vs pro version vs their own skills makes a complete difference contextually speaking, and let me explain what I mean:

      I made this argument about the trail colors for a place called Harriman State Park and specifically a trail called Reeves Brook Loop trail, where the loop is actually you following 4 different trail colors, but on Alltrails it shows as all red because that’s just the default color there. And I know more than a few people (myself included when I first started hiking and not knowing what I was doing) who would mistake the map they saw on Alltrails and literally think it’s a red trail when in fact it’s not.

      This place (Harriman State Park) has many official and unofficial trails (mix trails together to make your own loops or in and out trails) and at least half (if not more) are not listed in Alltrails which is totally understandable, but here’s where context matters:

      If people are clueless on navigating and do a trail like this (and there are tons of places like this all around the US), it’s easy to miss the right turn on the Reeves Brook loop trail (it’s happened to me and even when I thought I had this trail navigation down). Furthermore, if they rely on the free app and lose signal, they won’t be able to see the map and navigate properly.

      If they had the Alltrails pro version, downloaded the Reeves Brook loop trail, then it would be fairly simple to stay on the right course, follow the red line and make the right turns at the different trail colors.

      But that too has limits since full reliance on the Alltrails Pro has it’s cons in that you may get lazy and not really develop your own skills. So what happens if a trail you’re on requires a turn or you need to adjust where you’re going? Then you need your own skills and that’s where if you know how to navigate, don’t fully rely on Alltrails, do a little bit of research ahead of time from the official map and download it on your phone and follow that as a plan A or B and use Alltrails in combination, that would be best and in fact, that’s how I’ve mostly navigated around Harriman State Park and any place where the trails were complicated to figure out. In fact, with this park, I’ve hardly ever used Alltrails because I’ve wandered into trails that aren’t in the Alltrails index. I used the official map of that park and logically figured out where I was, which in hindsight are priceless skills to use here.

      Alltrails is not perfect and of course, having it reflect the right trail colors is also foolish considering trails change and colors for them change too (I’ve seen this in Sterling Forest State Park where a trail that was white on my map ended up being red). In any case, you HAVE to be ready for unexpected turns and situations and never fully rely on Alltrails or any other app to get you out of a bad spot.

      In that situation or when I have to adjust my trail runs and hikes to see something else or get out of the woods before it gets dark requires me to know what I’m doing and not rely on an app to tell me where to go. Too much reliance on an app to “do that for you” is a major risk I would never recommend anyone take.

      I do highly recommend Alltrails Pro, but the free version can have massive limitations in places like this park and other spots, something to seriously keep in mind and avoid if you’re not experienced in navigating in the woods.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for the article. For my longer hikes I download the Alltrails map to my Garmin. This way I have a backup and it is on my watch.

    It is a great backup.

    I find Alltrails to be a great resource and well worth the pro costs.

    Reply
    • I have to agree with you there too Geoff. I actually have Alltrails pro on my other phone (haven’t reinstalled it on my new one yet), but it’s not a fix all solution and people need to be careful to know when to use it and when not to.

      Reply
  3. I’m a horseback rider. I use All Trails Pro and GAIA GPS together. They each have pros and cons. I also rely on my own ability and my horses. He’s very good at finding his way back to the trailer and his food! Lol

    Reply
  4. For me, the most compelling reason for going pro was ability to download maps before I get to the trail because many of the trails don’t have good cellular signal.

    Reply
    • I completely agree with you Jatin. In rare cases, depending on the trail and lack of connection reliability, getting the Pro All trails version may be necessary for a lot of people. I’ll likely be using that on my future hike in a pretty remote hike called Devils Path or whenever I am in the deep canyons of Utah.

      Reply
  5. Thanks Vitaly, After reading your review I am quite interested in downloading it to try the Free version first.

    Hiking seems easy at first glance but there are many precautions to take as you have dug deep into many other blogs also. I want to ask you is this app available worldwide or not.

    Reply
    • Alltrails is on the Google Playstore and probably the Apple store too so I’m guessing if you have an android of iPhone, you can download it anywhere. Whether or not it has maps worldwide is a different story and I’m certain that there’s plenty of trails and options that aren’t included in the index of this app.

      Reply
  6. Hello Vitaliy,

    As an experienced hiker, I would like to add a few words here. I totally agree with you that you can never rely solely on an application – that’s what I am constantly speaking to young people who think that they have got everything in their hands (phones). The technical stuff can fail you for whatever reason, and the most common is the loss of signal. 

    What I would like to emphasise is that beginners should definitely go for a Pro version and the others can make use of the free version. Hence, they will be safer in case of getting lost, no internet connection or loss of GPS signal. 

    Of course, artificial intelligence is sometimes very confusing, so before you start, you should better check all offered routes and find the best or easiest one. 

    However, people who know they are not so good at orientation should definitely have someone experienced with them, or report their intended hiking route to someone who would know where to look for them (just in case).
    It’s really helpful for the beginners to visit your site and get ingormed before starting the hiking adventure. 

    Reply
      • Good stuff!

        I do feel like you’re reaching with a lot of the cons:

        1. It doesn’t show everything. I feel like this should not only be expected but also appreciated. The day *everything* is mapped will be a sad one, exploration and adventure will lose a lot of their meaning if/when that happens. Plus, imagine the amount of resources needed to map EVERY trail.

        2. Surely we can’t expect a product/service with these many features to be entirely free… Especially when you *should* (obviously not always but on more complex hikes at least) not depend on anything digital when doing an activity like hiking.

        3. This is an integral part of software design, reaching for simplicity and standards. There isn’t a standard for color markings in trails, how could a service like All trails ever get that 100% accurate? Much better to lead the way and try to standardize it yourself to reduce complexity. I think this is more of a pro, pretty straight forward for a regular user to understand what red = trail path.

        4. Same as 1…

        5 and 6 – absolutely yes! Especially #6, relying on your own skills, which makes the cons from above even more of a reach imo.

        Reply
        • Hi Marco, I agree with some counter points but just to clarify:

          1) When I say it doesn’t show you everything (Alltrails), the context of that isn’t that it should show everything, it’s that people reliance on Alltrails thinking it shows them everything they need makes them lazy from learning necessary skills.

          2) I’m not saying Alltrails need to give it’s best features for free. I’m a businessman and totally understand that value often needs to cost something and Alltrails pro has good value and is decent to get for many situations.

          3) The part about the color markings in the app, I’m just pointing out the flaws from my own experiences. Sometimes this simplicity has helped me and other times it’s confused me a lot.

          Reply
  7. Vitaly, thanks for this great AllTrails Review. As a beginner at this sort of thing, I think it would be really worthwhile for me to download this app onto my phone. I take your point, though, that if I find myself somewhere without GPS, I maybe quite lost and not know how to find my way back. I guess, then you would recommend a course in map reading for someone new, so that would be a good Plan B?

    Reply

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