From Stargazing To Bird Watching: The 6 Best Outdoor Apps

Here are six cool outdoor apps that can help us have some fun amidst a pandemic -- and maybe we’ll even learn a thing or two in the process.

It’s the tail end of summer in an extraordinarily unique time featuring a virus taking its toll around the globe. And that means a lot of indoor activity is now taking place outdoors. So what better way to deal with social distancing than in the great outdoors, exploring the world around us (with hopefully a little cell reception).

CRN has compiled a list of cool apps that can help us have some fun amidst a pandemic and maybe even learn a thing or two in the process.


Curious about the flora and fauna on your walks or runs? PlantSnap, developed by Bulgaria-based Eden Tech Labs, uses artificial intelligence to help you identify plants in an instant. All you need to do is aim your phone’s camera at some greenery and the app will spit out details about the plant. The app also uses augmented reality technology that allows users to move the camera around and get plant identifications in real-time. The freemium app will let you take 10 photos per day without paying extra. For $4.99 a month or $14.99 a year, you can go wild and snap as many plant photos as you want.


There are several stellar stargazing apps out there, but SkyView (and SkyView Lite) might just be one of the best. Rival app Night Sky also features an amazing interplanetary experience. Night Sky lets you look at a virtual representation of the universe based on your exact location. SkyView and its light-weight version SkyView Lite use augmented reality to allow you to explore the stars and planets in the sky on your screen. Just sit in your backyard, point your phone’s camera up at the sky and presto!

Dark Sky

Dark Sky is the incredibly well-made hyper-local weather app that Apple acquired earlier this year. The app features down-to-the-minute forecasts for any location you can think of – all for a one-time price of $3.99. Because of its new parent company, there is no longer an Android version of the app .

Merlin Bird ID

The free birding app Merlin Bird ID, developed by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, is a cool piece of technology that uses artificial intelligence techniques and the millions of bird images archived in Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. The app includes more than 6,000 birds across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia, according to Cornell. Merlin Bird ID is available for free for iOS and Android devices.


Whether you’re new to hiking or a veteran of walking the roads less traveled, AllTrails sets the standard for trail finding. The app, which uses your location, will list the top trails nearby, trails with the best views nearby, dog-friendly trails and more. Each trail listing contains reviews by hikers, a map, the local weather forecast and UV index. You can also download every trail listing in case you run out of cell reception.

Shark Tracker

If you happen to be by an ocean and want a little “Jaws” experience, why not track some sharks? Shark Tracker is an app developed by marine conservation nonprofit OCEARCH and lets you track sharks in near real-time. Another app, Sharktivity, also gets good reviews but focuses on Atlantic Ocean sightings of white sharks (it was developed by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy). You can track sharks and submit sightings of a shark if you see one.