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The 7 Best Nature Apps to Learn Things on Your Hike

So when you wonder what flower/bug/mushroom that is on trail, you can actually find out.

Sure, a big perk of spending time in nature is unplugging from technology, but we've all had that moment when we wanted to identify a tree, a constellation, or that bird that seems to be hiking along with us. And a major perk of bringing your phone (aside from basic safety, of course) is the wide range of nature apps that can help you do just that.

Wondering which are worth the download before heading out on your next hike? Here are our picks for the best nature apps—and yes, all have free versions!—to enhance your experience, whether you're heading out for a multi-day backpacking thru-hike or a casual afternoon stroll on your local trails.

READ MORE: The Best Hiking Apps to Discover New Trails

1. AllTrails

Forked roads right and left in green forest.

Getty Images, Alex

What it is: This nature app probably needs no explanation as it's the number one app for hiking, biking, camping, and backpacking trails with over 10 million downloads. But if you aren't already familiar, AllTrails allows you to search over 400,000 trails around the world by location, interest, skill level, and more, providing detailed trail and route planning. With the Plus version, you can also download offline maps, satellite weather, and there's even a "Lifeline" section to keep you in touch with loved ones.

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Basic: Free
Plus: $35.99 annually

Other good apps for hiking trails:

2. The Dyrt: Tent and RV Camping

What it is: Why include a camping app for your hike? Simple: Many of our hiking adventures turn from a day's hike into an extended journey. If you decide to stretch your afternoon into an overnight, The Dyrt gives you access to 44,000 campgrounds across the U.S. But better yet, with a Pro subscription, you can book many near lakes and hiking trails, get reservations (at times) in sold-out campgrounds, and receive discounted campsites for up to 40% off.

Basic: Free
Pro: $35.99 annually

Other good apps for camping:

3. Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab

European robin singing in sun rays during mating season in springtime.

Getty Images, Sander Meertins

What it is: If it says "Cornell Lab of Ornithology," I'm in with both feet. (And if you're a hiking enthusiast, then you're a birder—or birder-to-be as well!) To use the nature app Merlin Bird ID, all you need to do is snap a photo of or answer some questions about an unidentified avian friend and it will scan the app's bird database—the world's largest such electronic resource—to instantly ID the bird on your hike. The app can also listen to the bird songs and calls around you and shows real-time suggestions of what might be lurking in the trees. And all of this doesn't cost a thing!

Cost: Free

Other good choices:

4. Picture Insect: Bug Identifier

What it is: Birds aren't the only creatures that you may come across on the trail. Because you'll undoubtedly want to know what the weird bug is on that branch, you need Picture Insect. And in the event that you get bitten or stung by something you can't identify, having a good insect ID app can really come in handy.

Cost: Free

Other good apps for birding:

5. Shroomify - USA Mushroom Ident

A basket of freshly picked mushrooms in the forest.

Getty Images, BUKET TOPAL

What it is: With mushroom foraging and cooking getting a lot of attention these days, it pays to know all the edible species, and especially how to differentiate the lookalikes that could be toxic. Learning to identify common fungi is just a matter of putting in your time and using an app like Shroomify—and what better place to do it than on the trail?

Cost: Free

Other good apps for mushroom foraging:

6. LeafSnap Plant Identification

What it is: My personal favorite app for IDing wild plants, LeafSnap works how you'd expect: Take a photo and the app provides matches for virtually any greenery that grows in North America, with trees, shrubs, fruits, and flowers to choose from. With the Premium version, you can also keep track of the needs of the plants in your collection at home with the handy Care Calendar.

Basic: Free (comes with ads)
Premium: $5 per month, or $26 annually

Other apps for identifying plants:

7. SkyView Explore the Universe

Night sky with stars and clouds.

Getty Images, michal-rojek

What it is: For those hikes that don't stop until after the stars come out, you'll want an app that brings the night sky into detail—and entertains you to no end. SkyView not only finds the constellations, moon, planets, and most every star out there, but it shows the current location of various manmade satellites, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

Basic: Free
Premium: $1.99 per month

Other good choices:

READ MORE: 8 Best Camping Apps Worth Downloading Right Now