Tech Report: The Pocket Ranger App

A new app helps nature fiends find their way to state parks

Nothing says summer like a spontaneous jaunt to a park, whether for a quick picnic, an inspiring view or a strenuous hike. But if you find yourself always landing at the same old locations, you might need to call in the Pocket Ranger. Launched in March to coincide with Washington State Parks’ centennial celebration (and created in collaboration with the national ParksByNature Network), this free smartphone app introduces users to the diverse wonders of Washington’s state parks. Highlights include a full list of parks and all the amenities therein—from campsites and restrooms to trail info and special events. You can search by activity or location, cache trail maps for use when there’s no cell service and make reservations for campsites. A cool “waypoint” GPS feature means you can take a photo of a cute animal, weird plant or spectacular scenery and its exact coordinates will be recorded. Use the compass to get your bearings—and the safety alert to send an automatic call for help in an emergency. A constant stream of annoying ads runs across the bottom of the screen, but tuning out this tidbit of visual noise is a small price to pay for such a useful summer accessory. Available at