Apple Maps’ iOS 18 upgrades extend to all on-foot travel


Key Takeaways

  • New Apple Maps update on iOS 18 focused on hiking and national parks with detailed trail networks.
  • Easily create custom hiking routes by following simple steps in Apple Maps and customize them.
  • Custom walking routes in Apple Maps provide an opportunity for more personalized walking directions beyond hiking trails.

While the flashier updates coming to iPhones with iOS 18, such as cosmetics and Apple Intelligence, may have been the attention magnets coming out of WWDC, there’s another update coming to iPhones that you shouldn’t overlook. Especially if you spend a lot of time commuting on foot.

In the midst of the various updates coming to a variety of Apple’s default iOS apps, Apple Maps is receiving several further tweaks. This time, these updates are specifically geared at navigation for walking. While Apple may have emphasized hiking during its WWDC presentation, these new features extend to all kinds of walking directions.


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Hiking and national parks with Apple Maps

During the brief blurb about Apple Maps updates in iOS 18 during WWDC, the only things mentioned were new topographic maps, detailed hiking trail networks, and the ability to create custom hikes. These hiking networks will also specifically support all 63 U.S. national parks at the time of release.

Utilizing the service is simple enough, and will only require a few quick steps to pick out a hike and get moving:

  1. Open Apple Maps
  2. Select any US national park
  3. Scroll down the info card to the Popular Hikes section.
  4. Swipe through the available premade hikes, or tap More for a more detailed map view of the available hikes.

With the full list open, you can select any given hike and view a range of information about it. This information includes length, estimated time the hike will take, and elevation. When viewing any of the premade hikes, you can choose to open up the hiking directions right away or add the hike to your library.

Adding a hike to your library will allow you to give it a custom name and enter any notes you may want to leave alongside it. Most importantly, adding a hike to your library will allow you to download the route onto to your phone so that you can access it without an internet connection.


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Customizing routes with Apple Maps

Going off the beaten path, or a specific way up the road

While the preset hikes are a great resource for anyone wishing to explore a national park and be given a reliable hiking path, there’s one more feature iOS 18 will bring to Apple Maps that rounds out the experience. Specifically, all the above-mentioned features about selecting a hike will also be available for making your own custom walking routes.

Creating a custom walking route is actually a little more robust than just hiking, as you’ll be able to create these walking routes on just about any mapped road or trail. So, while you can use this to map out a hike through a local park, you can also use this to map out frequent walking routes.

To begin making a custom walking route:

  1. Open Apple Maps
  2. Open your library, and select Routes.
  3. Select + Create.

You can also create a custom walking route by viewing preexisting walking directions between two places, and selecting “Create a Custom Route” instead of the preexisting routes.

Once the custom route creator is open, you just need to tap points along the map, and Apple Maps will connect your selected points as you go. This can be as specific as you want, as you can drop two points very close together to achieve a specific route or drop two points further apart to let Apple Maps make the quickest connection possible.

When you have finished placing points, you have a few extra options available to customize your route. Front and center, there will be three options available: reverse, out and back, and close loop. The reverse option will simply switch between the starting point and end point. The out and back option will layer the walk back over itself, making your initial starting point the end point. The close loop option will do the same thing as the out and back option, but it will make the route back to your starting point completely different from the original route you took.

Additionally, any point you’ve added along a route can be tapped and removed from the route. If it’s somewhere in the middle of your custom route, Apple Maps will simply connect the two surrounding points automatically. Depending on how out of the way a point may have been, this can dramatically alter your custom route.

As you modify your custom route, information about the route will be displayed and updated as you add on to the route. Once you’ve finished creating a route, you can either begin navigating the route or save it to your library. Saving the route will offer the same options as saving a premade hike, including quickly downloading the route for offline use. If you save a route that you later wish to rename or download for offline use, you can do so from the library in Apple Maps.


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Not just for hiking

New features offer something for walkers of all kinds

While Apple may have focused their presentation of the new Apple Maps features toward hiking, the custom routing offers a lot for anyone that may want to utilize walking directions. If you find yourself frequently commuting on foot and aren’t the greatest at remembering directions, this feature can be a game changer for building more preferable walking routes.

Of course, there are some changes that it would be nice to see Apple add down the line. The ability to share custom routes, in particular, would really push this feature from great to outstanding. But as it stands now, the updates to Apple Maps present in iOS 18 stand to make walking directions a cornerstone of the app’s feature set.

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