By Eva Potter

Heading to a nearby state park this summer? Then you need this free, comprehensive outdoor guide created by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in collaboration with ParksByNature Network. The newest generation, revised June 5, 2014, is better than ever after a total makeover!

This app written for Android and iOS is powered by Pocket Ranger technology and provides an environmentally friendly way to enjoy the parks. It contains everything you need to plan a trip to the state parks, navigate them once you get there and share your experiences afterward.

Newly added features include a new user interface with a photo-centric home screen, photo galleries on each park description page and a new “explore” feature to help you find what you need. Optimized search capabilities allow you to run a four-in-one search by location, activities, category and site name — not to mention awesome GPS functions.

App user Jim Parker said: “Great find. Love this app. I used it all summer doing hiking trips with my club. Great for planning then trail tracking in the parks. Friend finder feature links us all up and GPS keeps us on path. Great job.”

GPS functions include advanced GPS maps complete with an accuracy and distance indicator that allow you to access trail data, record tracks from hikes, runs or bike rides, and view elapsed time and distance traveled.

No worries about being disconnected due to a lost mobile signal. Easy-to-cache terrain map tiles have you covered.

You can take a photo to mark and record the coordinates of plant life, animal species, landscape views or your favorite bear cave. Then share with friends and family with the click of a button. The friend finder feature enables you to track friends and family around the parks (no it’s not stalking if they know you’re doing it). You can also record tracking via Facebook, Twitter or email.

It also has a built-in compass and a potentially life-saving alert feature that supplies GPS coordinates to designated contacts in case of an emergency.

Other standard features include state park policies, contact information, available activities, trails, and cacheable maps of park facilities, trails and campgrounds. Stay up to date with news, park advisories and weather information, too.  Access a real-time calendar of events, online reservations and more.

This enhanced app is designed to function in areas with little to no mobile reception, though some features do require mobile data reception in order to function properly.

One side note: Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life (but you already knew that, right).