Listen to narrated audio tours — thoughtful stories of history, wildlife, geology, people and points of interest — as you drive through national parks and other stirring landscapes (like Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and southern Utah) with the Just Ahead: Audio Travel Guides app, which uses your smartphone’s GPS. No internet connection is required, and you can play the stories manually as well. The guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for instance, takes passengers from the park’s lowlands to its peaks, past mountain vistas, wildflowers and waterfalls, offering pointers about hiking various trails, less-visited areas and the most likely places to spot wildlife. There are more than a dozen guides so far (to parks such as Badlands, Capitol Reef, Death Valley, Yosemite and Zion), with more on the way. Cost: You can listen to free samples before purchasing a guide (up to $19.99 each); a one-year pass to access all guides is $29.99.
There are official National Park Service apps for a number of parks, each with their own features and notices, like alerts about Covid-19-phased reopenings. The NPS Yellowstone National Park app, for instance, has self-guided audio walking tours, things to do, cultural history, a detailed park map and updated geyser predictions. The best way to find the various apps is to search your app store by park name or “National Park Service.” Cost: Free. Tip: For up-to-the-minute information about trail closures and parking availability, it’s generally a good idea to follow a particular park’s Twitter updates.
Choosing the hike that’s best for you
With more than 100,000 trails for hiking, running and biking, AllTrails makes it a breeze for travelers around the world to discover nearby trails and sort them by features such as length, difficulty, elevation, attractions (waterfalls, caves, wildlife), dog-friendliness and trail traffic. There are photos and reviews from fellow app users (“Very challenging on the knees, but worth the effort”), and helpful information like weather, UV indexes, and sunrise and sunset times. You can track where you go, record your route on a map, and share the details with friends and family. Cost: Free. (Note: Beachgoers who regularly walk, run and swim might like the interactive and eye-pleasing Tide alert (NOAA)-USA app, which has tide charts, sunrise and sunset times, and a moon phase calendar. Cost: Free.)
National parks lovers may want to try the National Park Trail Guide app, a user-friendly collection of thousands of trails through some of the nation’s most breathtaking places — Acadia, Badlands, Mount Rainier, Zion — with no cell signal required. Cost: Free.
GPS Tracks is a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts who want to track their routes, navigate to way points, share their location, and see and save maps of precisely where they’ve been. Cost: $3.99; more features through in-app subscriptions, from $19.99.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mobile app has broad information about Covid-19, as well as a link to a “Travel in the U.S.” page that addresses the risks of traveling now (be it the risks to different people, or the different risks of various types of transportation); provides questions to ask yourself if you’re considering traveling; touches on state and local travel restrictions; offers guidance for protecting yourself and others, as well as tips for cleaning and disinfecting your lodgings; and answers frequently asked questions about the safety of camping, and of traveling to visit family and friends. Cost: Free.
Citymapper has updated times, maps and advisories, including those about Covid-19, for transportation in major cities. For instance, in New York, a recent alert pointed out that face masks are required, that the state was advising people to use public transportation only when essential and that there were reduced services (details about subway lines, trains, buses and ferries are included). Cost: Free.