Anyone who has read the tragic true story Into the Wild will understand why Intermap's AccuTerra for iPhone is an amazing and possibly lifesaving service. While many map-based applications utilize Google maps and require a wireless connection, AccuTerra and competitor GPS Motion X let recreational adventurers view maps of U.S. national and state parks, both online and offline from their iPhones. It's not surprising AccuTerra was just awarded an Apple Design Award for best iPhone OS 3.0 Beta App.

According to the award site, the map application is being heralded for its exemplary "usability, performance, technology integration and adoption". However, while the new 3.0 release was expected for the start of the conference, the application's first maps just hit the store a few minutes ago due to Apple's quirky app store approval process. Still, this app appears to be well worth the wait.

Perhaps the secret to AccuTerra is that Intermap's key business is not iPhone applications at all, but rather, aerial mapping. In the past, Magellan GPS and the US government have partnered with the company to utilize their 3D map data. And mapping in this world is no easy feat. To collect more than 3 million square miles of high-resolution 3D map data, the company didn't ping a satellite. Their work involved developing new mapping technology and deploying more than 2,530 aircraft over U.S. airspace for more than 10,000 hours of airtime. Imagine that paperwork. Still, the company believes your safety is well worth the effort.

Even in a storm far from a wireless connection, hikers can use AccuTerra to see their distance from warming huts and roads, routes around river beds, and most importantly, the terrain. While the app's ability to create and share annotated hiking tours with geo-tagged photos is interesting, it's the offline maps that make this application a solid survival tool. AccuTerra plans to sell state park maps at $1.99 each and national park maps at $2.99 each in the app store; however, for WWDC attendees, Intermap released free maps of Yosemite National Park and the SF Bay Area including Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais. If you're in the Bay, download the maps and geocache us some beer.