If you’re a member of the iPhone Legion and you updated to iOS 6, you’ve probably already noticed that Apple Maps are pretty dang awful.

Apple had to swap out Google Maps for a variety of reasons – licensing agreements, technical limitations, etc. – but unfortunately replaced it with something that falls far below the threshold of an acceptable map. It’s gotten so bad that Apple’s CEO formally apologized with links to direct competitors’ mapping apps … which is great, except that Apple Maps is still the map that’s baked into the OS, so it’s still going to be your default no matter what.

I know a lot of people say this is just a bunch of nerds complaining about a minor inconvenience – but it’s not — Apple Maps simply just cannot locate things. I couldn’t get directions to Cole’s or Eagle Rock Brew Supply – and when I searched for the Improv on Melrose it tried to send me to a traffic school.

This has ramifications beyond just trying to find good places to eat or buy beer grains – a recent post on KCET’s SoCal Wanderer documents Apple Maps’ tremendous failures out in the desert, where the app seems bent on sending you down old 4WD roads in the middle of the Mojave. A search for Furnace Creek – one of the main destinations in Death Valley National Park, instead sends you to an actual creek some four hours north of where you were trying to get to in the first place.

Unfortunately, a lot of people use their iPhones to find trailheads for their hiking trips – and this is kind of a recipe for disaster. I strongly recommend you always bring (and know how to read) an actual, physical map with you when you’re heading out into the wilderness – but if you still want to use your iPhones for directions, follow these instructions to add Google Maps back to your home screen. All of my write-ups have a Google Maps pin-location on the trailheads, so you can always use that to find out where you have to go.

Also, if you’re using the Modern Hiker iPhone App, we’ve got an update submitted to the App Store that adds satellite views to the Maps section – that should go live within 2 weeks once Apple gives it the OK. Unfortunately, unless Apple itself goes back to Google we won’t be able to incorporate Google Maps in our app, but the satellite view should at least help you get your bearings.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Modern Hiker
Since founding Modern Hiker in 2006, Casey's work on the site has appeared in regional and national publications, including the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, CNN, New York Magazine, High Country News, and others. He has broken several national news stories about outdoor vandalism and policies and his first book "Day Hiking Los Angeles" is available for pre-order.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on October 2, 2012


  • I’ve used my iPhone for some time during day hikes, but not with the standard map applications. Most of those require a data connection and it’s all too common to lose that 3G or 4G connection entirely, even in local canyons. Instead, look for apps that allow you to turn off cellular data (saving battery life) and instead use a pre-downloaded map set. A search on “offline maps” ought to turn up a few. The one I use and like is called Galileo, which is free but adds features with in-app purchases. Another that I recall seeing was called Offmaps, I think. The Galileo app has been invaluable while driving in the Sierra and hiking in Palos Verdes and Griffith Park when data connections were not available.

  • Bryan says:

    I made the mistake one time to trust my location to my cell phone map. It was a bad time when I lost signal and the map that I thought I saved was not loading.

    Needless to say after that event I always had a physical printed map that I knew would not loose signal!

    Great heads up about the new map updates!

  • David says:

    I told my wife and parents not to upgrade to io6 for this exact reason. They are extremely dependent on Maps for navigation. I’m so glad I dumped my iPhone over a year ago for a Galaxy S2. Not only do I have Google Maps that work, but I have a replaceable battery. I can bring an extra battery or two with me when going into the wild and still have a functioning phone/gps tool for several days.

  • the update came out a day after I got my first iPhone, so I didn’t know the difference, but man, that app is just terrible! the biggest complaint I have is the fact that you can’t tell the app to search public transit options, which is something I rely on a lot here in Philly. but a few twitter folk recommended using Google Maps through Safari like you did, which seems to be working well. Yikes!

    • Modern Hiker says:

      I used to use my Maps app for a lot of transit stuff, too. The Google Maps web link works fine, it’s just a lot slower. I’m hoping Apple gets around to fixing this ASAP, but I’ve been waiting for them to release a refreshed desktop for almost two years now so I’m not holding my breath :/

  • Skyhiker says:

    It’s not on the same level as the Apple Maps thing, but, for some reason, there’s a pin that say’s “Ray’s Schabarum Regional Park” in the park that’s named after former L.A. County Supervisor Pete Schabarum. Maybe one of you guys who know how to get pins stuck in those maps can get the “Ray’s” thing removed? It just bothers me.

  • Colorado Gal says:

    THANK YOU! I just updated my OS this weekend and used the mapping on Saturday night– hated it! I was so confused and irritated, but I just thought it was because I’m a tech-nightmare and was too stupid to figure it out. I didn’t realize all of that Google map stuff had happened. Hopefully your link will help me add it back because Apple maps seriously is no bueno!

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