National Park Apps

Autumn Geyser Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park. National Park Service photo.

Chimani is busily creating a series of apps for National Parks and other outdoor gems for your smartphone. All were free when I last checked at the Apple App Store.  Apparently they are also free at Google  Play and the Amazon App Store.

According to company founders, Kerry Gallivan and Shaun Meredith: “The concept was born on top of Gorham Mountain in Acadia National Park one rainy day in April 2008. Kerry was hiking 7+ miles and wanted some data on where he was going, what route he should take, the amount of rain he could expect, and the steepness on the western side of Cadillac Mountain. Kerry had his iPhone, but there was neither cell phone coverage nor an app to guide him. Frustrated and alone in the rain in Maine, Chimani was conceived.”

Chimani Apps

Zion NP

Zion National Park. National Park Service photo.

To date Chimani has produced the following Apps:

  • National Parks
  • Yellowstone
  • Yosemite
  • Grand Canyon
  • Acadia
  • Great Smokey Mountains
  • Zion
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Glacier
  • Cuyahoga Valley
  • Grand Teton
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Olympic
  • Baxter State Park (Maine)
  • Sequoia-Kings Canyon

The National Park App

The National Parks app is basically for planning your trip.  It includes:

  • a photo gallery of all the parks,
  • an option to purchase news from National Park Traveler,
  • a planning section that accepts information about where you would like to go and the type of experience you desire.  It then suggests a number of places to visit in your area of interest.  The app provides Wikipedia information for each suggestion to help you narrow your choice.  You can then bring up a Google map of the destination of interest.
  • a Google map of the U.S. showing each park and allowing you to zoom into a detailed map of the area.
  • lists of parks, historic parks, monuments, battlefields, memorials, historic sites, parkways, recreation areas, preserves, seashores, lakeshores, scenic trails, rivers and miscellaneous (like the White House, Wolf Trap and so on) that allow you to get the Wikipedia information without going through the planning section.
  • a gear store where you can purchase Chimani branded items

Apps for Specific Parks

The other apps look much like the National Parks App, but provide specific details and maps of each location.  For example,  the Yellowstone App includes:

  • 141 photos from Yellowstone
  • encyclopedic information about the geology, vegetation, history, wildlife, climate and other aspects of the park.
  • auto tours that address various road segments with information about each interest point along the road.
  • Yosemite National Park. National Park Service photo.

    Yosemite National Park. National Park Service photo.

    an option to purchase news from National Park Traveler.

  • a map of the park with the option to download a fully detailed map.  This allows access to the map even without a connection to the internet.  It’s often impossible to get an internet connection in remote areas like these so this is an important feature.  The maps are large so they take awhile to download and the consume a lot of storage space on your phone or iPad.
  • Ranger Events, that are, theoretically, updated regularly.  I found none listed for Yellowstone.
  • Information on each trail in the park ordered by your choice of distance, time, terrain or difficulty.  You choose the general area you want to hike in then get of list of trails in that area for which you can then get the details about the trail
  • Viewport, an augmented reality function that allows you to point your phone’s camera at the scenery in the park and learn about whatever it is you are seeing.
  • My Trip that works like the planning section of the other app, but returns suggested activities for the specific park.
  • general information about the park including fees, contact information, operating hours, camping and so on.
  • points of interest along various roads that seems to have the same information as the auto tours, but a little different way to access it
  • details on the Leave No Trace philosophy
  • safety items to know about that are specific to the park
  • details about each camping area in the park
  • details about lodging in the park
  • picnic area and restroom information organized relative to each entrance point in the park
  • bicycling, fishing, wildlife viewing and museum opportunities
  • sunrise and sunset for the date of your choice
  • food availability and stores by area of the park
  • ranger station details
  • ways to support the park
  • notifications that should be current
  • settings that help you do things like control what features are shown on the map

Just looking at the list gives you a good idea on how comprehensive these apps are.

Recommendation

Choose the app for your destination and get it now while it’s free – these are must-have apps if you really want to know what’s what at the National Parks.

Having said that, there were some glitches with an iPhone 4.  For example,  I was able to crash the National Parks App several times although the Yellowstone App ran smoothly.  The apps are specifically designed for the iPhone 5 and, I suspect, newer versions of Android, so that may have been the cause of my issues.

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