Trailforks and Gaia GPS

Not Wahoo related, but you are my fitness community.

I keep getting ads for Outside+, touting its included Trailforks and Gaia GPS subscriptions.

What I can’t figure out is, what’s the difference between the two apps? Why would someone need both; what does one do that the other doesn’t? They both look like electronic trail maps to me.

[Context: I’m overwhelmingly a road & KICKR cyclist, not a mountain biker. I’d use one or both of these apps for occasional trail running and hiking, plus once or twice yearly backpacking. I use Komoot to plan my rides and runs.]

Gaia is primarily GPS navigation. It has dozens of different layers from different map providers that also show slope angle (handy for avalanche terrain), weather/precipitation, and so on. It’s my primary navigation tool for ski touring in the winter, and hiking in the summer. There’s actually a Trailforks layer within Gaia, come to think of it, that shows TF trails. You can download maps so that they’re viewable when out of cell service.

Trailforks is more of a trail map for mountain biking. They’ve added other activities to it, but it’s still 90% about MTB in my view.

There’s a ton of videos, tutorials, reviews etc out there on both. Shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to get a good idea of the differences. They’re fairly different use cases. If you don’t MTB much, then TF probably won’t be of much interest to you. But Gaia is pretty useful to just about anyone who does outdoor recreation.


Thanks very much. You’ve taught me more than I learned in an hour of googling.

@AlexEllermann @Skibikehike I would agree with all of the above. Strava and TF overlap a bit but TF is more user generated content including updates on trail conditions. After I ride MTB I usually get an email where I can update trails - eg running great, tree down, wet, etc.

Gaia is great for both navigation and hike planning. I used it extensively this summer when hiking in the White Mountains. I have a goal of hiking the New England hundred highest and have marked each of the peaks in Gaia so that I can look at all of them in the aggregate to plan a strategy.

I also have Outside+. It seems like a good deal to me - especially with access to Gaia and also access to the magazines online - Outside and Velo news mostly but I check out the others from time to time.

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Thanks for the reminder on Outside+, by the way. I’ve been paying for each app separately and meaning to investigate whether the bundle is a better deal. I was an early adopter of TF so it’s only 20 bucks a year. I don’t recall what I’m paying for Gaia.

One thing I should have mentioned is that my ski/hike buds and I have found Gaia to sometimes be pretty buggy. For example, a couple weeks ago I was doing a big hike through Willmore/Jasper parks. I’d pre-determined my route by day and downloaded a couple map layers for offline use and checked the “offline map routing” box. But when I was back in the bush, every time I tried to create a new route to evaluate a different option, it would immediately crash when I picked the second waypoint and it tried to auto-route. Over and over again. That pretty much made the app useless for any route planning. I’m on Android, and Gaia definitely struggled with it’s Android version for a few years. But one of my buds is on iOS, and he’s also had issues where Gaia can’t seem to get a GPS fix. In his case, GPS was still working on the phone, as he also used GPS Status to confirm it was. So that seems to be an app bug. On Android I’ve had a similar issue, but even GPS status couldn’t get a fix, and it would require a restart to work again. That seems an Android bug.

Nothing’s perfect! I know a few ski guides who use Avenza for navigation, and their heli/cat ops have custom layers to help them navigate their runs. I take great joy in ribbing them about being lost when I ski up and they’ve got their phone out.

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@Skibikehike It was $90 last year but I caught a special and think it was around $50.

I have had this issue as well. I do my planning on Gaia and then rely on paper maps when I am hiking.