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New (or Improved) Apps to Help You Explore Colorado

Colorado-made mobile apps will help you predict thunderstorms, identify wildflowers, and find the best trail to explore.

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It happens every year: Summer goes by in a blur of heat and hailstorms, leaving bucket list items unchecked and enticing locales unexplored. Luckily, a bevy of new (or improved), free mobile apps will help you maximize what’s left of the summer.

Walk This Way

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, with the help of 230-plus land managers and nature organizations, debuted the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app late last year. It’s akin to AllTrails but with features you never knew you needed, such as icons for paths that allow pups, road closure updates, and even nonhiking attractions like ATVing. The interface can feel cluttered, though we suspect that’s a casualty of its thoroughness. Lean on the search bar to find what you need, from the kid-friendly category to specific trails.

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New Heights

Designed by coders Andy Laakmann and Nick Wilder in 2006 and sold to REI nine years later, Mountain Project was a go-to resource for climbers long before Free Solo created a national obsession with the sport. The app, currently run out of Boulder, provides real-time alerts about rockfalls and changes in a route’s consensus rating (in which users vote to determine a route’s difficulty grade). A May 2019 update shows trails leading to each crag. Need a little extra motivation? Thumb over to the in-app message boards for lively banter and support.

Storm Search

A surprise thunderstorm can quickly take your high-country hike from adventurous to dangerous. Boulder’s OpenSummit—which, after three years of assisting iPhone users, finally launched an Android version this past May—uses National Weather Service data to deliver hour-by-hour precipitation, lightning, temperature, and wind speed forecasts for about a thousand mountains in the United States.

Know-It-All

Think of Outly, a year-old, Boulder-born website (and its new-this-summer app), as the Swiss Army knife of adventure planning. The basic version offers topographic mapping, a campsite finder, trail and road maps, and maps to help hunters pinpoint public-land boundaries. Opt for the Pro version (free, for now) if you want to know water levels and flow rates and track animals’ migration patterns.

Fun with Flora

Use the Colorado Wildflowers Guide to gain some knowledge while prancing through paintbrush (metaphorically speaking, of course—stay on the trail!). A Fort Collins team that included a research associate from Colorado State University’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory built photo recognition abilities into the program. All you have to do is shoot an intriguing wildflower. The software will identify the variety with 86 percent accuracy and tell you more about it, such as its species. Bonus: It works offline. Find it in the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

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