Routes & Maps
Alltrails is by far my favorite website and app for routing and recording hikes. Search for hikes based on park or location, save and download them to your device, and hike with certainty. Alltrails works great when your phone is in airplane mode— I’ve used it on several mutli-day backpacking trips.
If you are a moderate hiker, I would recommend purchasing the annual Pro membership. Search the internet for coupon codes, you can usually get a membership for $15-30 a year.
National Geographic Topographic Map Trail Guides
If you are planning on a long day hike or an overnight backpacking trip, don’t just rely on your phone for navigation. I would recommend a hard copy map for your backpack in case your phone dies or something happens. Many open spaces, state parks and national parks print paper maps and distribute these at entrances. These can be helpful for day hikes. For overnight trips or hiking in the high country, I would recommend a topography map to accompany your trip. Also, if it is a park you frequent, purchase a reusable map to save trees.
My favorite reusable maps are the National Geographic topography series. They are waterproof and tear resistant, plus they include backcountry campsites for a lot of the national parks. They are around $10-15 each and can be purchased at REI or any other outdoor gear shop. You might also be able to borrow these from your local library— I know that the Denver Public Library has a select few.
Make sure you pack the correct gear for your hike! The 10 essentials should definitely be in your bag for day hikes. REI has a good Day Hiking Checklist that is “deliberately intensive,” here.
People always ask me how I find hikes or backpacking trips. I have a few different methods for hiking inspiration. The first way is pretty passive, I follow a lot of hashtags on Instagram (#alltrails , #viewsfromcolorado , #womenwhohike just to name a few). If I see a picture or view that really blows me away, I always look at the geo-tagged location, then look it up on AllTrails. I have so many different bucket lists on AllTrails, I will add something to the list it best fits. Whenever I need hiking motivation, I browse through my bucket lists and chat with Travis about his priorities. Or, if we are planning a trip, I will pull up the map view on AllTrails on a bucket list, and see if I have already saved hikes in that area.
The second way is through plain old conversation. When I lived in Indiana, most hiking trails I learned about through word of mouth. Especially in southern Indiana, trails are more lucrative and are not crowd sourced on apps the way they are in Colorado. People would always give me vague driving directions and I would get a little lost looking for “trail heads” (random unmarked shoulder parking lots). When I talk with other hikers or backpackers, I always ask them their favorite trails, parks and camping locations. I love hearing about stuff off the beaten path.