onX Offroad Navigation App

Vital Rating:
Tested: onX Offroad Navigation App
Utilize the power of your smartphone for off-road navigation and tracking.
Vital Review
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The Good
Cheaper than any other navigation tool (other than a paper printout), Simple to use, Find new places to ride, Don't get lost, You already have a phone.
The Bad
Have to keep your phone charged, some preplanning required for offline operation.

I’m your average tech user. Not the first guy to grab the latest electronic gizmo, but not scratching my head when it’s time to upload a new engine map into the YZ450F using Wi-Fi. I’m also more inclined to use tech that I already have and know, rather than getting a bunch of different specialty devices that only do one or two things.

Enter the onX Off-Road GPS Maps App. For those die-hard off-road riders out there, I’m sure more than a few of you have GPS devices on your bikes and have been using them for years. While I have played around with Garmin and Trail Tech devices in the past, I haven’t owned either and would be lying if I said I’m confident in my use of said devices if I got lost and my life depended on it. Yet the onX Off-Road GPS App is extremely simple, yet powerful, in showing you exactly where you are and where you want to go. 

First off, this app isn’t all that applicable to the core moto guy that only goes to the track. I did use it a day at Perris Raceway to see if it could be a replacement for using LitPro with a separate GPS device. But I ran into a few problems. For one, to use the tracking feature of the app, you have to have your phone on you or on the bike. I was wearing normal MX gear without pockets, so I was forced to shove my phone in my boot after I hit record. Second, it is not nearly as accurate as LitPro nor does it break down the track into segments or show you lap times. Bottom line for moto, these are two different apps with two very different purposes. 

Not really useful for moto.

Now that we said what it isn’t designed for, let’s talk about what it IS designed to do. Basically, this is like a navigational GPS device that also allows you to track your ride, create rides ahead of time, find out where you are, find out what type of land you are riding on and a bunch of other things. 

Off-Line Maps

First off, when looking at the app on your phone, or logging into the onX website, it looks similar to Google Maps, just with WAY more information. One of the most powerful parts of the app is that you can save sections of maps for off-line use. So many off-road rides are off the grid (which is sort of the point, right?) but that also means that any map app on your phone that needs reception isn’t going to work. By downloading a section of the map where you know you’ll be riding, you can access the map in great detail with your phone in airplane mode. If you think you’ll be riding super far or for multiple days, you can download off-line maps that are right next to each other so you can tile them together and know where you are. 

To create and save an offline map to be used without service, you just line up what area you want to save in the green square and hit save. The app uses the GPS chip in your phone so you can navigate without cell service.

You can also download off-line maps that are 5 miles wide (highest resolution so you can see the finest details) 10 miles wide (medium resolution and what I used for a 20 mile off-road loop) or 150 miles wide (lowest resolution but you can know where you are for ADV rides or long dual-sport adventures). 

Once I had my 10-mile wide map saved on my phone, I headed out to the trails to see how the Tracking feature of the app worked. Probably the best way to use this app is to get a phone mount for your handlebars and use the app as an actual GPS device replacement. I went a little more low-key and just threw my phone in my hydro pack since I knew the area I was riding in and wasn’t worried about getting lost. 

Tracker Feature

At the trailhead, I hit the Tracker feature to start recording my ride. I hit a couple trails that I knew, then to see how well I could use the map to get me back to my track, I purposely headed down some trails I didn’t know. In doing so I found some sweet new single-track that I had never ridden before and used the Waypoint feature to mark the beginning of the new trail so I could find it again. Then I checked the app to get the general direction of where I needed to go to get back to my truck. 

You just hit start to track your ride. This is not only useful to get you back to your truck or the trailhead if you are somewhere new, you can also share rides with others.

While I used the app by myself and it was instrumental in allowing me to safely explore new trails without worrying about getting lost, a major part of this app is being able to share trails, maps, routes, waypoints, and photos with other app users. This means that I can send the Waypoint I created marking the single track to my buddies who then can use the app to navigate to that same point. This feature can be used to make it very clear where to meet at a trailhead, campsite, photo opp, lunch spot, etc. when you are riding in a group, or if you are starting at different spots and converging at some point during the ride. 

Build Routes

You can also use both the app and the desktop version to build routes prior to riding and then follow these when you get on your bike. Since I didn’t have a handlebar mount on my bike, I didn’t really play with this feature much, other than building a route on the desktop and saving it. This is relatively simple, yet a bit tedious. 

General Info

I think one of the best features of the app is finding new places to ride. When you open the app, the map that you are looking at shows all the different land types. There are multiple colored overlays that show if the land is BLM, city land, government land, county land, OHV land, Forestry land, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, regional park, or any other land designation. With this information alone you can find new OHV parks and new trail systems and exactly where they are. 

You can use onX to see where you can ride, what trails or roads are around and what land is designated.

More specifically, you can see what kind of trails or roads are available to ride. A great example in Southern California is the Big Bear area, where legit off-road trails and dirt roads are all mixed together in a spaghetti-plate of confusion. I’ve ridden both street-legal and dirt-only bikes in this area and when you don’t have a license plate, you are limited to specific trails but which ones aren’t always clear by trail/road markers. Plus, you definitely don’t want to pop onto the Pacific Crest Trail which is a highly protected hiking trail. 

With the onX App you are able to zoom in and click on each trail or road and specific information comes up. It lets you know if the trail is good for bikes, quads or trucks, if the trail is open, what the difficulty is and, depending on the trail, even more information. 


When comparing this app to dedicated GPS units that mount to the machine, there are obvious pros and cons. First, a GPS unit typically can tell you engine rpm, speed, battery status, and a bunch of other bike stats. And if you are familiar with making and following routes with Trail Tech or Garmin software, then that is what you are used to and the onX App might be a little limited on functionality.

I knew the general area I was riding, but not which specific trails I could take to get back to my truck. Using the offline saved map, I could just check it now and then to see which trail I should take.

But, for me personally, I prefer the onX App for a few simple reasons. Number one, it cost a tiny fraction of what a GPS unit costs at $29.99 a year. Number two, there is no installation and it can be used in or on any machine you own. Number three, it is very intuitive and simple to use and for my kind of off-road riding, it has all the features I could want. Four, it is on my phone, which I take with me anyway. Five, you can share your rides, photos, routes, and waypoints with other riders who have the app (which is easier to convince your buddy to get versus a $600 GPS unit).

The few downsides are that you could lose or damage your phone if it is mounted to the bar. You do have to keep your phone charged (something you don’t have to worry about with bike-mounted units). And you have to do a little preplanning by downloading offline maps when you do have service. 

Am I saying riders should ditch their GPS units for this app? No. But for those of us, me included, that ride off-road without any mapping or GPS help, this is a super-easy way to get a ton of information, peace of mind, and legit navigation with a low entry fee and simple user interface. 


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onX Offroad Navigation App
985,000,000+ acres of public land
54,000+ campgrounds & cabins
350,000+ miles of open trails
450,000+ points of interest
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