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Trail-Tested Tips for App Users

Posted on: May 1st, 2019

“Trail-Tested” Tips for app users

By Charles Wells

I’ve driven a whole lot of trails using our app since we introduced it in 2016. During that time, I’ve discovered some handy new ways to use the app beyond what are already shown in the app.

Tip 1. Before you head out, review trails at home or anywhere you have a strong Wi-Fi signal. In these ideal conditions, detailed satellite maps pop up quickly, scroll easily and zoom in tight for maximum detail. If you see something of interest or a possible area of confusion, take screenshots to refer to later (Photo A).

Photo A. Examining Hells Revenge trail in Moab while still at home. Zoomed in on parking lot at start of trail. Note 100 ft. scale indicator on left.

Tip 2. If you forget to download an offline map before you get to the trailhead, don’t worry. The app works well with any kind of background, even if the screen goes black. While on the trail, you’ll always see the pink track line and the blue dot showing your position. (Make sure your position is centered. See Tip 3.) Zoom in as far as possible on the track line. This way, if you make a wrong turn, you’ll see it very quickly.

Tip 3. The White Arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the screen has 3 modes. When you first open a trail, the arrow is white with a black background (Photo B). If you’re on the trail, you’ll see yourself moving along the track line with north-up orientation. If you move off the map, you won’t see your position. If you touch the white arrow, it will turn black with a white background (Photo C). This centers your position wherever you are with north-up orientation. Hit the arrow again and it turns black with a purple background (Photo D). In this mode, your position will be centered on the screen but with track-up orientation. This means the map will rotate so that “up” on the screen matches your forward direction of travel. Remember you can always get the entire track line to show on the screen with north up by touching the purple squiggly line above the arrow. Also, if you touch the screen anywhere, a scale indicator will appear for a few seconds.

Photo B. Opening screen shows whole trail (Zoom level 12). Note white arrow with black background.

Photo C. Position centered at start of trail (Zoom level 16). Note black arrow on white background.

Photo D. Position centered in direction of travel (Zoom level 19). Note black arrow with purple background.

 Tip 4. For simple, hands-free operation, do the following:

  1. Mount your phone where you can easily see it.

  2. Put the phone in AIRPLANE MODE. (Optional)

  3. Set AUTO LOCK to NEVER.

  4. Center your position on the screen.

  5. Zoom in on track line as much as possible.

Note: You’ll use more battery power with AUTO LOCK set to NEVER, so you may need a power cord on a long trip.

Tip 5. I’ve noticed an increasing number of trails have full or partial phone service. Even a 2-bar signal while on the trail will bring in detailed satellite maps if you allow a little extra time. This can really be handy when exploring side roads. You’ll be able to see features you didn’t know were there, like cabins, mines, structures, etc. It might also save you time if the side road is a dead-end.

Tip 6. When you have full phone service, our app displays satellite maps very quickly. This can be handy for every day, non-trail use. If you get lost in a residential area (Photo E), shopping center or industrial park, just open any trail and hit the white arrow to center your position. Zoom in and out or scroll around to get your bearings. I find this is much simpler and quicker than switching to satellite view on major-brand mapping apps.

Photo E. Lost in a residential maze? Just open any trail and hit the white arrow (turns black) to center your position.

Tip 7.  Keep a power cord handy in case your battery gets low. Our app runs a long time when you start with a fully charged phone. It runs even longer in AIRPLANE MODE.

Tip 8.  When you’re in an area with a weak phone signal, the app works hard to bring up satellite maps. Sometimes the screen goes black while it is working or only part of a satellite map shows up. Downloaded offline maps may pop up briefly and then go away. Even though the track line is constantly displayed, the flip-flop effect can be annoying. Solution: Put your phone in Airplane Mode. This will provide a constant display of downloaded offline maps. If you haven’t downloaded any maps, see Tip 2.

Tip 9.  When using “Directions to Trailhead,” or “Directions to End of Trail,” if the waypoint we have in the book is not on a recognized road, you may be told prematurely you’ve arrived at your destination and to walk from there. Solution: Know that this can happen (only happened to me once, so far). Consult the “Getting There” instructions in the book.

Tip 10.  When you get to the trailhead, Apple Maps may tell you to turn the wrong way. This happens because civilian GPS is not perfect and can be off by more than the width of the road. Solution: Once again, consult the “Getting There” instructions in the book, or just look at the map in the book.


  • Thanks for your dedication and hard work so we can accurately enjoy these trails. Will you be updating the app with all the latest trail updates?

    • You’re welcome! We love what we do. Since the app is a companion to our books, the trail information is only updated when we update a book. For the most accurate information, we suggest visiting the trail page of the trail you plan on driving for the most up to date information.

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