apple maps
Apple's new iOS 18 will include a trail maps feature that provides turn alerts offline in U.S. national parks. Credit: Apple

Apple Rolls Out Trail Maps Feature, But It’s No AllTrails — Yet

The new Apple Maps includes functionality that hardcore hikers and trail runners pay a premium for -- turn alerts.

This week, Apple revealed the new iPhone with a host of new features, including the new operating system iOS 18, but what caught our attention was the new trail map feature.

As first reported by SF Gate, Apple buried the hiking app under other upgrades that come with iOS 18. In fact, in Apple's press materials, the trail maps feature was listed as merely "additional." The argument here is that it might become more popular than the creators intended.

During Monday's presentation at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the head of Apple's software development, Craig Federighi, called the map feature part of some "great updates to apps and features you use every day."

"Maps delivers new topographic maps with detailed trail networks and hiking routes, including all 63 U.S. national parks, that can be saved to your phone and accessed offline with turn-by-turn voice guidance and the ability to create your own hikes," Federighi said.

Where exactly Apple got all the data is unclear. However, a ton of information is available about national park trail systems from the Park Service and third parties, the biggest being AllTrails.

Apple takes aim at AllTrails

AllTrails is by far the most popular trail map app for hiking. With the application (or the website), you can access maps to official and unofficial trail systems in parks all over the world.

Plus, users can review and comment on the trails, so you can learn almost every detail of the trail. In descriptions, AllTrails provides maps, distance, effort, best time to visit, and more. And that's just the free information. With a paid subscription, you can download maps, get turn alerts, and get real-time updates.

And as a business, AllTrails has been incredibly successful since it launched in 2010. By the numbers, it has amassed data on more than 400,000 trails, generated 65 million users, and it rakes in some $75 million in revenue annually. On top of that, Apple last year named it the iPhone App of the Year.

So a huge demand for trail maps exists and the product seems relatively simple, especially when you aggregate information from multiple sources and real-time users.

Apple Maps vs AllTrails

Since iOS 18 isn't yet available, it's impossible to review the new Apple Maps trail functionality or say if it's definitively better than AllTrails. However, there are some comparisons to make that are worth mentioning.

Besides the maps, what appears to be the overlapping quality of the apps is the turn alert. With a turn alert, most apps tell you when to turn or if you missed a turn while you're on a trail. It's typically sold as an additional feature for any navigational device, including smartphones, smart watches, or any digital map tool. And they're highly desired by hardcore hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers.

The edge that Apple has over AllTrails is including turn alerts with the Maps application. Whereas you need to pay a $36 annual subscription fee for AllTrails. However, AllTrails has a huge library of trails while Apple Maps will just cover national parks. Yet, it's just a matter of time before the company gets more data as users can input and record activities.

Following the announcement, Apple said iOS 18 will be available in the fall of 2024.