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National Geographic Trail Maps iPhone App Review

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


National Geographic Trails app review

The National Geographic Trails app lets you easily and inexpensively pre-download detailed topo maps.

National Geographic

The Bottom Line

Tap into a vast library of high-resolution topographic maps with National Geographic's Trail Maps app. Somewhat misnamed, the Trail Maps app doesn't have special features highlighting famous U.S. hiking trails. It does however have some great features of value to the backcountry traveler, most of all, the ability to easily select and pre-download high-resolution topographic maps.


  • Vast library of downloadable topo maps at a super-low price.
  • Aerial imagery available.
  • Easy to select and download top map sections.
  • Pre-download capability gives you map access away from data connections.


  • Not really a "trails" app.
  • Not a full-featured backcountry navigator.


  • Price: $2.99.
  • More than 55,000 high-resolution, seamless USGS topo map quads available for download.
  • Topo maps for lower-48 U.S. states only.
  • Downloadable Microsoft Bing aerial images.
  • GPS function lets you create waypoints and tracks.
  • GPS distance, time, and speed stats.
  • E-mail and share tracks.
  • Digital compass.
  • Elevation profile graphing.

Guide Review - National Geographic Trail Maps iPhone App Review

National Geographic Trail Maps is an excellent app that is unfortunately misnamed. Those who buy it with the expectation of special features highlighting America's great trails will be disappointed. The app is, however, a great resource for backcountry travelers, and may be used as a supplement to a full-featured GPS navigation app.

What the Trail Maps app does, and does exceptionally well, is provide the user with access to a complete library of detailed, USGS 1:100,000 and 1:24,000 maps of the lower 48 U.S. states. Better still, the app makes the topo maps easy to search, tag, and pre-download. This means you can pack a full set of topos into your backcountry trip without concern about data connection in your destination area.

I used the Trail Maps app to identify and download large sections of west-central Wyoming for a recent trip into the backcountry there. The maps provided a valuable supplement to the full-featured GPS navigation device I was using on the trip.

In addition to providing a great map resource for a mere $2.99, with absolutely no in-app purchases required, the Trail Maps app lets you set waypoints and create tracks, and provides GPS distance, time and speed stats. You may also find the elevation profile graphing and digital compass useful.

Overall, the Trail Maps app is the best I've seen for finding, downloading, and using topo maps in the field. Just don't expect it to be a full-featured navigator or a guide to famous trails.

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