Topographic maps in iOS 18’s Maps app should provide more precise navigation for outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping and fishing.

Topographic map of Colorado on paper showcasing contours, hiking trails, hill shades and other natural and man-made terrain features
Topographic maps of Colorado, USA | Image: Benjamin DeYoung/Unsplash

This is based on discoveries in the Maps backend code made by Nicolás Álvarez on X, formerly Twitter, and published by MacRumors. Topographic maps have been available on Apple Watch since 2023, and might soon expand to iPhone.

In watchOS’s Maps app, topographic maps use contour lines to show natural and artificial terrain features like hiking trails, elevation, hill shading and points of interest. The feature is currently restricted to specific areas in the United States.

Maps in iOS 18 could also gain custom routes

When navigating with Apple Maps, you can see an overview of your route. And with the route planner feature in Maps for Mac, you can easily add one or more stops along your route if you need to stop and fuel up or want to grab some coffee for the trip. But Maps in iOS 18 might let us create our own routes from scratch.

Aaron Perris, MacRumors:

Custom routes would allow users to set what specific roads they want to travel down, whether for scenic purposes or for the familiarity of a route. Route options beyond the default have been a highly requested ‌Apple Maps‌ feature for several years now, and other services like Google Maps allow users to create custom routes on a computer and then view them on an iOS device.

It’s unclear whether these features will be restricted to iPhone or support other devices that run the Maps app.

Coming to iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Vision Pro?

For what it’s worth, the relevant code strings appear in the backend files for ‌iOS 18‌, macOS 15 and ‌visionOS‌ 2, so this at the very least suggests that topographic maps and custom routes will support iPhone, iPad, Mac and Vision Pro.

We’ll soon know whether that’s the case. Apple will kick off  its annual WWDC event with a June 10 keynote. The first betas of iOS 18 and other major updates to Apple’s software platforms will drop after the keynote has wrapped up, with public betas probably following a few weeks later in July.

The testing period will stretch throughout the summer until iOS 18 publicly launches in September. Some updates, like iPadOS 18 and macOS 15, could be released in October ahead of new iPad and Mac models.

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