Apple Maps Takes On AllTrails: New Hiking Features in iOS 18

Apple has announced a significant update to Apple Maps as part of the upcoming iOS 18 release, slated for later this year, in an effort to appeal to hikers. Announced earlier this month during the Worldwide Developers Conference, the tech giant revealed plans to seamlessly integrate comprehensive hiking features for national parks trail navigation directly into Apple Maps. 

This move directly targets a market dominated by AllTrails, a popular hiking app that Apple itself crowned iPhone App of the Year in 2023. With these tweaks, Apple aims to consolidate urban and backcountry navigation in one app, providing topographic maps, detailed hiking trail networks, and specialized navigation features alongside traditional driving directions. The new features are free for iPhone users.

“Maps delivers new topographic maps with detailed trail networks and hiking routes, including all 63 US national parks, that can be saved to your phone and accessed offline,” Apple software head Craig Federighi announced at the event, according to reports.

In addition, users can now create custom routes, add personal notes, and even follow turn-by-turn voice directions. 

Screenshot of Apple Maps interface. Photo Credit: Apple

Apple Maps or AllTrails: Which App Reigns Supreme?

The key selling point of Apple’s new hiking features is that they’ll be integrated into an app most iPhone users already have, eliminating the need for a separate subscription. AllTrails has set the gold standard for hiking apps with its extensive database of over 400,000 trails and crowdsourced reviews, but its advanced navigation features come at a premium. 

Although a free version of the app exists and offers plentiful basic resources to users, AllTrails’ elite subscription costs $35.99 per year for downloadable offline maps and other navigational capabilities. 

That said, while it’s obviously a benefit only to iPhone users, Apple Maps will also lack the crowdsourced information that makes AllTrails so valuable to hikers. Firsthand user reviews, photos, and tips are not currently part of Apple’s offering, which could be a significant drawback for those who rely on community insights when planning their trek. 

Furthermore, Apple’s expertise begins and ends with the national parks — for now. The tech company has announced they’ll unveil a comprehensive network of hiking routes within all 63 US national parks, but navigation for trails outside of national parks will not be available in Maps.

For our thru-hiker crowd often navigating trail systems outside the confines of a national park, AllTrails remains your best bet for reliable, extensive trail mapping. 

In addition to the new hiking features, Apple also announced “messages via satellite,” an extension of the technology currently used for emergency calls. This game-changing decision would allow iPhone owners to send texts to emergency responders without wifi or cellular data, enhancing safety and further propelling the company into the satellite communication stratosphere. 

Apple’s Impact on the Hiking App Market

Apple’s foray into hiking navigation could shake up the market, particularly given the free nature of these new features. For many hikers, especially those who frequent our nation’s national parks, Apple Maps could become a go-to resource for planning and navigating trails.

However, for more detailed, comprehensive trail information, AllTrails still holds the edge. As Apple continues to expand its software offerings, it remains to be seen how this new feature may play out on trail. 

Feature image: Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

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