Kick off National Park Week with these park guides and outdoor adventure apps

National Park Week starts this weekend with free admission available on April 18th and 19th to visitors at at participating parks. The week-long event is meant to encourage people across the nation to get out and explore their national parks. To help you get up and get out, here is an assortment of park guides and outdoor-focused apps that’ll make your visit memorable.

Travel Guides

Not everyone has a national park in their backyard, which means most visitors will have to travel in order to take advantage of this weekend’s fee-free entrance. One of the most beautiful guides is National Parks by National Geographic. The free app includes stunning photo galleries, basic visitor information and maps for 25 of the most popular national parks.

It’s the must-have resource if you plan to visit one of the parks featured in the guide, which include Acadia • Arches • Badlands • Big Bend • Bryce Canyon • Canyonlands • Crater Lake • Death Valley • Denali • Everglades • Glacier • Glacier Bay • Grand Canyon • Grand Teton • Great Smoky Mountains • Haleakalā • Hawai’i Volcanoes • Hot Springs • Joshua Tree • Mount Rainier • Olympic • Rocky Mountain • Sequoia and Kings Canyon • Shenandoah • Yellowstone • Yosemite • Zion.

If you know what activity you would like to do at your park destination, then you should download the Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder. The guide provides comprehensive information on all the National Parks along with a variety of other public lands including state parks, national forests and more. The app includes a handy filter that lets you find locations based on available activities in 30 different categories.

Another popular guide choice is the Chimani National Parks guide, which is chock full of information about 401 National Park Service units. The app provides location information, a historical perspective and news about each National Park. The daily news feed is available via a $1.99 add-on.

Unless you frequent national parks, you may not know about the passport program that provides visitors with a passport cancellation stamp every time they visit a new park. If you participate in this program, then you should install Passport to Your National Parks app. The Passport app is a trip planner allowing you track those parks you have visited and those you have not. When you are at a park, it will also help you find ranger stations where you can obtain your cancelled stamps.

Lastly, it’s worth including the History Here app from the History Channel. This app lets you view historical facts about important points of interest across the country. Though not specific to the National Park system, you can use it learn about the history of important locations within the park and the surrounding areas.


Outdoor Navigation

If you plan to spend most of time away from people, then you should load up your iPhone or iPad with navigation apps to track your hike and help you stay on the correct path.

One of my tops picks is MotionX GPS, which is a great outdoor navigation app that’ll track your location as you walk, hike or bike. The app will mark your path on a map as well as calculate details such as elapsed time, speed, distance and elevation. The app works offline as long as you remember to pre-download your maps before you leave civilization.

As an alternative to MotionX GPS, you can check out iHikeGPS, which is perfect for situations requiring detailed topo maps and waypoint tracking. There’s also Topo Maps+ from Glacier Peak, which is a solid topographic map app that’ll pinpoint your location and let you trace routes in order to calculate hiking distances.

For added fun while you are out and about, you might as well fire up the Geocaching app from and create an account if you don’t already participate in this enjoyable outside scavenger hunt. This premier title will help you find nearby geocaches so you can pick up a trinket or drop one off as you go on your way.


You can’t visit a National Park and not want to capture that beauty with your camera. There are a tons of photography apps and you likely already have your favorite. Even if you don’t, the camera app in iOS does a good enough job that most casual photographers don’t need anything else. As a result, I am going to highlight a few apps that allow you to capture a different perspective or record your adventures in both photos ands words.

For creative photography, you can’t go wrong with this trio of apps that allow you to do more than snap a basic photo. These apps include Slow Shutter cam for recording amazing slow shutter speed photos, time lapse video app Hyperlapse and Frontback, a unique camera app that allows you to take a single photo with images captured from both the front and back camera.

A picture may paint a thousand words, but sometimes you need a thousand and one to capture the moment. One the best apps for recording your daily adventures is DayOne. The journaling app is perfect for trip histories, nature journals and pretty much anything you want to record for posterity's sake.

DayOne is a versatile tool — it includes an iPhone version that allows you to snap a photo and write a few words while in the field. Along with those details, the app also automatically records the location where the entry was made and the local weather for that day. When you return home, those entires automatically sync to the Mac version, allowing you to add in more details when you have returned from your adventures.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what apps are available for your outdoor activities. If you have any suggestions for apps that you take with you in the wild, please share them in the comments.