Gaia GPS Hiking App 2020 | The Best Gets Better

It’s no mystery that Gaia GPS is the best hiking navigation App. It blows away other phone navigation Apps as well as handheld GPS units. But the Next Gen GAIA GPS Hiking App is vastly improved. The new GAIA maps are stunningly sharp and legible. It is much faster and easier to use. And possibly the best feature of Next Gen GAIA GPS is the full line of National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps. They are the most trusted and highly-rated maps for America’s top outdoor destinations.

Next Gen Gaia GPS Hiking App

2020 Specialty Maps

Additions of specialty maps like Cell Phone coverage Maps (to see if you’ll have service where you’re going) and Apple CarPlay Maps (to guide you to hiking trailheads) are likely the biggest recent improvements for 2020.

2020 International Maps

And GAIA’s list of international maps like Span, France, Norway, Sweden, etc. continues to grow as well.

Highly Regarded National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps

As you can see in the lead photo for this post, you get ALL the National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps with your GAIA Premium Membership! These maps are the gold standard for our National Parks. And you get the exact same level of detail and quality in GAIA GPS on your phone as paper versions of National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps. This is a game-changer for electronic maps and navigation in National Parks.

Tutorial | How to Use GAIA GPS + Your Phone as the Best Hiking GPS

Be sure to checkout our tutorial,  How to use Gaia and your Smartphone as the Best Hiking GPS to learn how to get the most of this amazing app. It will change how you navigate hiking in the backcountry and how you use electronic maps.

Video | GAIA GPS Navigation North of the Arctic Circle in Alaska

How we used GAIA GPS to navigate 10 days in the roadless/trailless Alaska’s Brooks Range.  Includes what maps we used and why. And the Gates of the Arctic is just part of an Alaskan roadless and trailess wilderness so vast and devoid of humans that it’s almost incomprehensible. Your navigational tools & skills need to be up to the task!

Overview of Next Gen Gaia GPS

In the past three years we’ve extensively used versions of the Next Gen Gaia GPS [now just plain GAIA GPS] in Patagonia, the jungles of Columba, the mountains of Cuba, technical canyoneering in Utah, all the way to north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Here’s our take of the pros and cons of the app that turn your iPhone or Android phone into a superb hiking GPS.

Updated July 2020

Additions of specialty maps like Cell Phone coverage Maps and Apple CarPlay Maps are likely the biggest recent improvements for 2020


  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps available. The most trusted and highly-rated maps available for America’s top outdoor destinations. They give you current trails, distances, and other official park info. Vs. USGS TOPO maps where this info is 50 years out of date or just missing.
  • New vector-based maps look sharp and beautiful at every zoom level, with incredible legibility! The new vector map engine is much faster than the old raster-based one.
  • Fast download and smaller map file sizesDownload Yellowstone in 33 seconds.. January 2020 map files are much, much smaller, saving space on your phone and with faster download times.
  • Great battery life. In non-tracking mode, I can get 7+ days of average GPS use before recharging.  But more impressive, I can even run it in full tracking mode at around 2% battery drain per hour! That means I can generate 4+ days of beautifully detailed GPS tracks before I need to recharge my iPhone. See more detail how to best manage battery life…
  • A more intuitive and faster user interface with icon-based top and bottom control bars. (There is also an option to close all menus down to get maximum map area! See screenshot below.)
  • Worldwide basemap included so you are never without at least one map type!
  • Powerful search function that allows you to quickly jump to a location like “Yosemite,” or “Half Dome.”
  • Great Trip Stats Bar. At a glance know your mileage, speed, altitude and more

For more information see: How to use Gaia on your Smartphone as the Best Hiking GPS


Start of the JMT in Yosemite. Screenshot of NG Trails Illustrated Map in GAIA. [click to enlarge and see the full detail]


  • I am not a big fan of the folder management system for maps, tracks, and waypoints. It could use organizational improvements. I would like an “active folder” function where all the new tracks, waypoints, and maps are automatically added to it. And it needs a way to bulk select and manipulate waypoints. Moving them into folders one by one doesn’t cut it.
  • If you have a large inventory of maps and switch phones, the GAIA will attempt to automatically download all of them. Many users may be fine with this. Some may want more control to only download a few of the maps that were on your old phone. [A workaround: You can stop the automatic download, delete the old maps you don’t want, and then resume the download.]
GAIA GPS App | Picture of Hiking GPS Screen on iPhone

Showing the new user interface with icon-based top and bottom control bars. And the excellent Trip Stats bar. [click to enlarge]

Essential Info for GAIA Hiking GPS

gaia gps membership

GAIA GPS Membership

The new Gaia GPS has a free trial and two price levels. Basic Gaia GPS Membership $19.99/year and a Premium Membership $39.99/year.

  • The Member Level lets you use the full app, and all but a few map sources – try it free for 7 days.
  • The Premium Member Level gives you access to sources like National Geographic Trails Illustrated, international maps, and other specialized maps.

GAIA Maps | So Many Great Maps to Choose From

One of the great strengths of GAIA is the wealth of maps available, free with your subscription (depending on level). Some of my favorites are:

  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps | the reference standard and most accurate for National Park trails and regulations, use zones, etc.
  • GAIA TOPO Maps Excellent vector-based topo maps | super fast & small file size!
  • USGS TOPO Maps | the standard for off-trail travel)

Other GAIA Maps

  • Satellite Imagery
  • Cell phone coverage Maps. Know if you’ll have service where you’re going.
  • GAIA with Apple CarPlay Maps. Quickly find and get directions to hiking trailheads (and then use GAIA trails maps to navigate your hike!)
  • USFS Recreation Sites Map | Quickly Find Campgrounds and Trails

International GAIA maps

  • New Zealand TOPO
  • A number of international, official country maps for Europe. E.g. Spain IGN Topo, Swiss Topo, Norway Topo, Sweden Topo, Finland Topo, Luxembourg Topo, France IGN Topo, Austria Topo, etc.


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