The U.S. is, fortunately, still filled with unspoilt tracts of land that are well protected in the country’s preserves and state and national parks. Within these wilderness landscapes are exciting trails complemented by spectacular natural features like canyon views, waterfalls, sheer drops, and river crossings. Of course, these trails constitute hundreds of thousands of miles. Navigating them isn’t always easy and, especially in remote settings, safe unless hikers come prepared with some must-have supplies. When planning your hiking excursion, you’ll want to have a hard copy trail map as a matter of course. Even in these days of sophisticated digital maps and online trail guides, there’s nothing as dependable as a trail map in your pack. The following are some essential reasons to take a trail map with you on every hike.
Cut Large Tracts of Land Down to Size
If you’re planning to visit large national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or other expansive forest preserves, a trail map can help you determine the size and nature of the setting. Trail maps provide practical information such as trail length so you can prepare your hiking schedule. Some of the country’s best-known trails like the Appalachian Trail are extensive, but your trail map will allow you to portion your hike so you can cover appropriate distances that are in keeping with your trip schedule.
Plan (and Update) Your Hike
It’s not uncommon for hikers to plan their route and hiking experience from the comfort of their own home using the latest online applications and tools. However, any experienced hiker knows that conditions on the ground may be different than what the online planning tool accounts for. For instance, weather conditions might necessitate a change in hiking plans after your hike has begun. With a trail map in your pack, you can easily update your hike with changes based on the on-ground experience. Illustrated trail maps include topographical information so that you’ll have practical insight about the routes you’re choosing if you have to make changes during your hike. If you’re hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for instance, you might have to shift gears because of a rainstorm and find a detour. A trail map affords you with the information you need at your fingertips.
Technology is Fickle
If you’re venturing out on the Sierra Nevada Trail or into the backcountry wilderness of the Badlands National Park, Utah’s Arches, or even Acadia National Park, you can’t rely on cell phone service. If you can’t access the internet, you can’t access online mapping tools. That’s why it’s crucial to carry a hard copy trail map. You might have to take a detour that leads you away from a trail. Something unexpected like an animal encounter might lead you astray. Having a trail map in your backpack allows you to more easily orient yourself so that you don’t become lost. Parks can be in excess of more than 800,000 acres. During inclement conditions, you need to ensure that you can navigate your way back to your trail or to a safe site when you need to.
Don’t Miss Out on Sights and Features
Using your trail map, you can pinpoint some of the best natural features located on or near your proposed hiking trail. The Appalachian Trail, for instance, is routed to include many special overlooks and natural highlights. However, some trails that meander through remote tracts of wilderness may require a bit of navigating expertise to ensure you don’t miss them. Trail maps include important sites so you won’t miss them when you are hiking. Some of these natural features might include an historic site like a celebrated pioneer campsite or a postcard-worthy view of a ravine or cliff lookout. Trail maps feature all kinds of natural features like waterfalls, craters, extinct volcanoes, lakes, caves, etc… that can be accessed from the trail.
Include Special Park Amenities
If you’re planning a multi-day hike, you’ll definitely want to know where to find campsites. It’s always safest to camp at a marked site. Trail maps typically include the park’s various amenities such as campgrounds, bathrooms, or a ranger’s station. You never know when you may need these amenities. Your trail map will allow you to find them easily.
Designed for Outdoor Exploration
High-quality trail maps are designed for harsh conditions. If you’re exploring Voyageurs National Park, a veritable water world, and you happen to get your map wet–no problem. The best trail maps are designed with waterproof properties. That means you examine your map in the rain or snow without fear that it will be ruined or important information will get smudged and become unreadable. Map-N-Hike carries trail maps that are waterproof and designed for rugged back-country hiking. You can rely on these trail maps over and over again when you revisit your favorite trails for continued exploration.
Maps Can Save Your Life
A trail map is a life-saving device. If you’ve set out to explore the backcountry for any of the national parks, a trail map may be the only thing that prevents you from getting lost. In many settings, getting lost is a dangerous predicament. A map can show you where to find fresh water, a park ranger, or the nearest trail should you find yourself on a tractless bit of wilderness. Severe weather can make a trail map all the more priceless. Being out in the elements can be a life-threatening situation. A trail map in your pack increases your chances of survival if you become lost during a storm or other inclement weather.
National Parks and glorious trails like the Continental Divide Trail, Ice Age Trail, and Appalachian Trail are among the country’s most iconic thoroughfares for hikers. However, don’t attempt to navigate these trails without first procuring your trail map. Map-N-Hike features a wide assortment of high-quality, waterproof trail maps that fold to fit easily in your backpack. They’ll provide you with all the information you need to ensure that you know where you are at all times. Don’t rely on technology because service in remote areas can be spotty at best. Take a paper copy of your trail map and stay safe on your journey.