Your Apple Watch is about to get even better for hiking

Woman using smartwatch and trekking pole while hiking
(Image credit: Getty)

Apple has unveiled a new version of its smartwatch operating system, which will make your Apple Watch even better for hiking. Whether you own the tough Apple Watch Ultra or one of the less rugged devices, it'll now do more to keep you safe when you're adventuring outdoors without a satellite communicator.

The company unveiled watchOS 10 at its annual showcase event on June 5. One of the most interesting new additions is an update to the Compass app, which will automatically add a Last Cellular Connection Waypoint at the location where you last had cellular connectivity. If you need to check your messages later, you can make your way back to that point, where you should be able to do just that.

The app will also drop a Last Emergency Call waypoint, which will mark the last spot where your watch could connect to any carrier's cellular network. If you head back to this location, you should be able to call emergency services.

Plan your adventure

There are also new features for planning your hikes. When the Apple Watch Ultra launched last year, one of its drawbacks was the need for third-party navigation apps like AllTrails, TrailForks, or Komoot to plan your expeditions, which sometimes require a subscription fee to unlock certain features.

That's now changing thanks to watchOS 10, and you'll soon be able to do a lot more with just your watch, For example, when you're planning a route, your Apple Watch will use elevation data to give a 3D view of saved waypoints, helping visualize the type of terrain you'll be tackling.

Apple Watch Ultra with topographic map on screen

Apple watchOS 10 will introduce topographic maps with contour lines for users in the US (Image credit: Apple)

Apple is also adding a topographic map including contour lines, hill shading, elevation details, and points of interest. This sounds similar to Garmin's TopoActive maps, which come preloaded on watches including the Fenix, Epix, Enduro, Marq, and Tactix series.

Apple watchOS 10 will also let you search for nearby trails and trailheads, with place cards for information including trail length, type, and difficulty. Topographic maps and trails will only be available for users in the US at first, but will hopefully be rolled out to more territories before long.

The new operating system is currently in testing, and will be rolling out to devices later this year. It will probably land in September, when Apple is also expected to reveal the Apple Watch Series 9.

Cat Ellis

Cat is Homes Editor at TechRadar and former editor of Advnture. She's been a journalist for 15 years, and cut her teeth on magazines before moving online. She helps readers choose the right tech for their home, get the best deals, and do more with their new devices.