8 Apps to Help You Get Closer to Nature

Apps for adventuring.

Sounds contradictory, but sometimes technology can actually help you get closer to nature. Take, for instance, the following eight iPhone and Android mobile apps, which arm you with ways to find nearby green spaces and the information to identify anything from animal tracks to constellations to rare butterflies. Most of the apps are available offline as well, so you can venture as far off the beaten track as you please.


Discover nearby parks, zoos, botanical gardens, nature centers, wildlife refuges, and more with the location-based NatureFind app. The app also pulls from event listings so you can join organized hikes or participate in educational lectures.

Available for iPhone for free.


With the Science Channel’s SciSpy app, you can capture, tag, and share your wildlife sightings. Once your photo of, say, that funky looking beetle is uploaded, it is date-stamped, geo-mapped, classified, and offered up to a worldwide community to advance scientific research.

Available for iPhone for free.

Audubon Guides

Audubon’s array of more than a dozen Mobile Field Guide apps are a trusted source of information for wildlife enthusiasts. Whether your passion is North American Butterflies or Fishes of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, there’s probably an app for you. Or, splurge on the multi-pack.

Available for iPhone, Android, HP Touchpad, Amazon Apps, and Nook for various prices. Click here for a full list of apps.

MyNature Animal Track Guide

Identify mysterious paw prints with the MyNature Animal Track Guide app, which offers a searchable database with illustrations of both fore and hind feet and complete descriptions of track measurements, gait patterns, and animal life cycles.

Available for iPhone for $6.99 and Android for $4.99.

iBird Backyard Plus

The iBird Backyard Plus app is the ultimate birdwatcher’s tool, with 15 search attributes, 234 backyard bird species profiles, and two hours of audio bird songs and calls from Cornell University.

Available for iPhone for $0.99.


Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution joined forces to produce the Leafsnap app, which uses innovative visual recognition software to identify tree species from photos of their leaves. The app is currently limited to trees found in New York City and Washington, D.C., but continental U.S. expansion is in the works.

Available for iPhone for free.

Google Sky Map

Google’s Sky Map app was developed partly to show off the sensors in first-generation Android phones, and partly because the Google developers are admitted astronomy geeks. Now open-sourced, the app provides a “window on the sky” augmented with nifty facts and information.

Available for Android for free.


If trails, hikes, and bike routes are your jam, the Trailhead app from The North Face is a must-download. Not only does it help you locate nearby trails, it can also track your route, distance, speed, and elevation in real-time and let you post the results to your social media channels. What is a challenging outdoor adventure if you can’t tweet about it?

Available for iPhone for free.


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Jessica Marati

Jessica Marati currently resides in New York City and covers travel and sustainability for EcoSalon. Catch her weekly column, Behind the Label.