Using Your iPhone to Explore Nature

Have you ever seen a plant or animal in your area and wondered what it was or wanted to share it with other interested people? It turns out your iPhone provides the perfect companion for a hike into nature.

Today we’ve got a few apps to check out the next time you decide to take a break from civilization and explore the great outdoors.

More Than Just a Smartphone

When I see an iPhone, I think of just about anything but the natural world. I might have grown up fishing and camping in the country but these days I’m a city boy who loves his gadgets and rarely ventures anywhere without a free wifi connection.

For people like me, technology provides so much entertainment and career opportunities that it literally becomes quite difficult to tear your eyes from a digital screen long enough to appreciate the world around you.

Fortunately, there are plenty of app developers who recognize that the iPhone is good for a lot more than browsing Twitter and managing todo lists. Some individuals look at the iPhone and see not only a tool for today’s busy professional, but also an invaluable and fun resource for a hiker or amateur explorer.

Take a Walk

To see how this fusion of technology and nature works, why not take a break from Facebook for a few hours and go on a walk with your spouse or family around your neighborhood? Try visiting a local park or hiking trail and spend a few hours remembering what life was like before Google.

The great part is, you don’t have to leave your iPhone behind. Bring it along and use it to help you learn about what you see. There’s a world full of incredible creatures and plant life to learn about and in the right hands technology isn’t a hindrance to this goal but an unbeatable resource for pursuing it! Let’s look at some apps that you should bring along.


Leafsnap is a completely free app that helps you identify the trees in your area with what feels like a bit of magic. All you do is snap a photo of a leaf and you’ll see a list of suggestions for the type of tree that it came from. The app also contains of alphabetical listing of the trees in your area so that you can manually browse through the available photos and descriptions.

Unfortunately, Leafsnap is currently limited to the Northeastern United States, so most of us can’t quite use it yet. However, the developers promise that the service will soon expand to include the entire continental United States.

Apps like this make great use of the iPhone’s impressive technology and really make you feel like you’re living in a futuristic world where devices sense the world around you and inform you about your surroundings.



Project Noah

Project Noah is an amazing app that is a lot like Foursquare for nature lovers. Basically, you use Project Noah to catalog the wildlife you discover in your travels.

Through geo-tagged images, users can see what others have photographed and shared. This data is used to build field guides that can help you learn about the places that you visit. If you find something that you’re unsure about, upload a photograph and the community will help you identify it!

A nature-themed social network is a pretty tough nut to crack but the folks behind Project Noah have really knocked it out of the park with a free app that is both incredibly useful and incredibly fun. Check out our full review here.


Project Noah


Eager to get back to nature and use the apps above but don’t know where to start? Look no further, NatureFind guides you to parks, zoos, botanical gardens, nature centers, natural history museums, trails, wildlife refuges and more.

The app features interactive maps and detailed descriptions of popular spots around you to visit and take in the sights. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly activity or a challenging hike, NatureFind will help you find it.



Survive it! – Wilderness Survival Manual

A few too many episodes of Survivorman have convinced me that you need to prepare for anything when venturing out into the wild. An afternoon of fun and exploration can be disastrous if you find yourself stranded.

Fortunately, there are several survival guides like this one available for download on your iPhone to prepare you for just such an event. Learn everything from tying complex knots and building shelters to what types of plants you can eat and how to properly cross flowing rivers.

It’s not every day that you come across an iPhone app that could save your life but given the proper circumstances this one might do just that!


Survive it! - Wilderness Survival Manual

How Do You Explore?

I hope this article has encouraged you to think about taking a break from Angry Birds and Groupon and explore the natural environment around you, whether in the parks of New York City or the forests of the midwest.

Leave a comment below and let us know how you use your iPhone to help you discover the natural world.