by Diane Spicer
Hiking trail maps: this topic opens up an entire universe of options for a hiker. If you're not using maps for your trail time, you're missing out on a lot of fun.
Plus, it's a Hiking Best Practice to know where you are, where you're headed, and what the terrain is like.
Even better news:
The best hiking maps are easy to use, portable, weather resistant, and fold up quickly! Don't leave home without one.
And hey, don't overlook the fact that maps for hikers make great gifts!
There are 3 ways to use maps:
Let's look at some big categories of hiking trail maps for you to consider carrying in your pack, or gifting to your trail buddies.
There are free United States topographical hiking maps, available for instant download and printing thanks to the taxpayers. These provide detailed information on contours and land features.
If you'd rather have someone else do the work to create customized, waterproof topo (a handy shorthand for the long word of topographical) maps, try these folks.
They also have a nice selection of map software, and I'll bet they can recommend something that's a good match for your hiking navigation.
One more nice feature on their website: free online map viewing.
Warning: You can spend a lot of time playing around, creating hiking maps for your next adventure on this site! Give yourself at least an hour each time.
Flat maps, folded maps, downloadable maps...
these little topographical gems deserve a spot in your backpack.
They are indispensable in so many ways:
Here's an example of the wealth of info which is available to you.
Make sure you have a waterproof map case to protect your investment.
Inexpensive U.S. Forest Service maps shows numbered roads, trails, trail heads, and campgrounds.
You'll be amazed at how quickly your map collection grows as your appetite for outdoor time increases! You might have to build a special map repository in your gear locker!
The U.S. Department of the Interior (love that name!! I wonder who's in charge of the exterior??) is overseeing (and I quote):
They also have loads of maps that you can use to plan some great backcountry travels.
You'll have to poke around a bit to get to the state, and the area within that state, that you're interested in.
But again, prepare to get lost in a wealth of free and low cost information!
Pick a state.
Put that state's name in front of the words "Department of Natural Resources."
Use your favorite search engine to locate some great info, including maps, about hiking opportunities.
Here's an example: Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.
The home page gives me a wealth of choices, but I go straight to the good stuff by typing "hiking maps" in the search box.
Lo and behold, I find a sweet little map and info on the Iron Belle Trail, which can take your feet from Detroit up into the Upper Peninsula. All the way across the U.P., in fact!
There are lots of other choices on the Michigan DNR site, too, like state parks and mushroom hunting maps.
All sorts of options for a great day outdoors, yours for the clicking.
How many national parks are there in the United States?
Ha! Trick question!
If you count everything with a "national" in front of it, there are around 390.
If you just focus on National Parks, the number drops to 60.
And here's a great little tool for finding maps for these parks. Just pick the state you're interested in, and drill down.
So much information!! So many trails and so little time...sigh.
But look where these maps can take you...and here's the topo map to get you there.
Why not use the highest level of technology available to plan your next hiking adventure?
Explore Flash Earth now!
Since you're geeking around, you might as well try out this site.
It gives you the ability to customize a map, adding or subtracting features such as:
and lots of other things a hiker might like to find (or avoid).
If you stick to well marked trails and never consider carrying hiking trail maps, you're missing out on a lot of fun.
You might have hiked within a few hundred yards of a great little lake, or a waterfall you could have had all to yourself for the afternoon.
Maybe there's an abandoned mine site you could explore, or the ruins of a homestead.
And wouldn't it be cool to know ahead of time where you could climb a hill to get a better view?
Map reading does take a certain skill set, there's no doubt about it. If you're going to stray at all from the trail, you need to know how to navigate using a map and compass.
And when you "read" a map, it's not like reading a book.
Numbers and little drawings mean a whole lot more than words. For instance: What scale of map are you talking about?
And what do the
hiking trail map symbols
mean? More importantly, why would a hiker care? (Great question! spend some time on the answer.)
Luckily, there are free resources waiting for you.
Try my links (underlined above) to trustworthy guides to locating, reading, and utilizing maps to locate the best North American hiking trails.
Investing a bit of time BEFORE you hit the trail will yield amazing dividends ON the trail - and just might become your new hobby.
Now that you know how many miles you're going to cover, why not verify it with a pedometer?
I review a simple, lightweight device here that does double duty as a fitness tracker: calories, food, sleep, motivation.
The reason I recommend using one?
It makes the symbols on a piece of paper (i.e. a hiking map) come alive in a new dimension.
Start your hunt for the best hiking trail maps right now, using my tips.
Just think of the places you'll go (to channel a bit of Dr. Seuss).
And a map annex in your dwelling is a really cool notch in your hiking tool belt.
Trust me...you're gonna love being a map aficionado.
Hiking Trail Maps
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