Besides being a fun and relaxing activity, spending time in nature offers a number of health benefits from reducing stress to helping us stay fit. Engaging with the great outdoors is also a way to explore what’s happening around us and learn more about the plants and animals that make up our ecosystem.
There are a number of smartphone apps that can help you make the most of your next nature excursion, whether it’s hiking, camping, or enjoying a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood. With so much data literally at our fingertips, there are apps to help you identify rare birds and butterflies, track animal species, find trails near your home and plan a trip to a national park.
Here are some of the top apps for nature lovers.
With a database of more than 100,000 trails, AllTrails connects users with hiking, biking, and walking paths in their area. You can discover a new trail near your home or find a place to commune with nature while traveling. You can filter trails by length, difficulty level, and rating, and also find kid- and dog-friendly trails.
The National Audubon Society has educated bird enthusiasts for generations with their printed field guides. With the Audubon app, you can carry all that information in your pocket. Featuring 800 species of North American Birds, you can identify and learn about new species of birds, keep track of birds you’ve seen, and share photos with other bird watchers.
Butterfly Collection includes 240 diverse species of butterflies and moths. Detailed photographs help you identify species you may have seen on a hiking trail or in your backyard. You can learn the names of different species and figure out which ones live near you.
A joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, iNaturalist lets you record sightings and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts. By sharing photos of the plants and animals around you, others on the site can help you identify and discuss the species. The app encourages its users to be “citizen scientists” by recording what’s happening in the natural world around them.
If you’ve ever spotted a unique plant or tree and wondered what it was, this app can help you do just that. Using visual recognition software, the app identifies plant species based on photos of the leaves. Simply take a photo, upload it and let the app do the searching for you. Leafsnap is also being used in the classroom: The City College of New York developed a curriculum to help middle school students identify plants and trees with the help of the Leafsnap.
A perennially popular app with over 6 million downloads, Solar Walk is a 3D model of our solar system allowing users to see the planets, moons, comets, and asteroids in their correct position in space. Stunning graphics and a haunting soundscape make this educational app enjoyable for all ages, from young children beginning to learn about the earth and the planets to adults with an interest in astronomy.
Planning a trip to one of the 423 national parks in the U.S.? This app can help with information on lodging, hiking, accessibility, restaurants and concessions, audio tours, downloadable maps, and more for every national park in the country. A one-stop-shop for all things national parks, the new NPS app eliminates the need to download a different app for each park.
If you can’t get outdoors but still want to create a relaxing atmosphere, Relaxio Nature Sounds will help you feel like you’re basking in nature in no time. The app offers 13 soothing soundscapes including ocean waves, rain on grass, waterfall, mountain forest, and campfire, and you can even combine sounds for a custom effect.