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[cdt-l] CDT Planning Info - Maps

Yeah - a case of spastic finger - this is what you should have gotten.

This is our take on maps.  There are other opinions, other routes.

Buying maps is one of the significant expenses for the Continental Divide 
Trail. Unlike the PCT, the maps in the guidebooks are not sufficient to hike 
the trail,since they only show a narrow corridor and there will be many 
times that you NEED to have the bigger picture.  We used a wide variety of 
maps on our thruhike:  state highway maps, National Forest Maps,  Bureau of 
Land Management (BLM) maps, and commercial maps put out by Trails 
Illustrated (TI) and Earthwalk Press and Delorme.  To save weight, we didn’t 
carry more map than we needed when we were on the trail.  There were maps 
that we purchased but didn’t
end up carrying because they weren’t necessary (like the NF maps in Colorado 
that duplicated the info on the TI maps - or NF maps on both sides of the 
Divide in Montana/Idaho – we only carried the maps on one side.)  You’ll 
find the list of maps we actually used at the end of this discussion.  
Before you leave, it is a good idea to mark your proposed route, and 
whatever alternates seem like likely possibilities, on the maps to make sure 
you have the entire route covered and that you understand how the guidebooks 
and maps interact.

Get the highway maps for each state.  This will give you a basic idea of  
where the trail runs within the state and where the nearby towns are 
located.  (A discussion of towns will soon follow this post.)  Many of the 
trail towns are quite a ways off trail so if you cut the maps to save weight 
(we did) leave a good margin.  If you need to bail out for any reason, this 
can be really essential.  And make sure you leave essential information on 
the section that you’ll carry (like mileage scales, compass declination, 
contour intervals, etc).

Our National Forest maps (including the Wilderness Area maps) were purchased 
directly from the Forest offices, though we were able to buy several within 
a state at a time.  They are generally not topographic, except the 
Wilderness Area maps (Anaconda-Pintler, Bob Marshall-Scapegoat, Gila & Aldo 
Leopold), and the scale is very large (sometimes covering 100 or more miles 
on one map), but they are good at showing alternate trails/routes and are 
generally more current than the BLM maps.  This can be important if you need 
to bail out or if the weather
makes the situation dangerous so you need to go to lower elevation or if you 
get lost.  Flexibility is key here. Although there is a lack of detail 
because of the scale, they were all we needed for Montana.  Since the trail 
often runs along the Divide, which is generally the division between two NF 
areas, we usually only carried one of the two possible NF maps (i.e. along 
the Idaho/Mt border.)  Get whichever is the most current, as they are still 
constructing new trail in many places.
In Wyoming, we used a combination of National Forest Maps, commercial maps 
(Earthwalk Press and Trails Illustrated), and BLM maps.  Except in the Gros 
Ventre area, route finding wasn’t that difficult.  We had gotten trail 
information for the desert route directly from the BLM. There was little 
detail, but it was sufficient, since the trail mostly follows roads across 
the Basin.

In Colorado, Trails Illustrated puts out a good series of water-resistant 
maps that cover the entire trail through that state.  They are expensive 
($8.95-$10 each), but since they are topographic and smaller scale than the 
NF maps, they’re worth the money.  We carried, but didn’t use, many of the 
NF maps in Colorado on our thruhike.  (But when we had to bail out on our 
San Juan hike in 1997 because of AMS, we used the NF map to find a quick way 
out.  If you’re hiking northbound, I would recommend carrying the NF maps as 
well as the TI maps in Colorado, unless the snow levels are very very low.)

In NM, we sometimes carried up to three maps for a section of trail 
(Delorme, NF and BLM), and found that while each had errors, together they 
usually added up to an adequate picture of the actual terrain. The old 
Delorme Atlas had water
sources (wind mills and stock tanks) – better than the BLM maps.  I don’t 
think the current ones do.   Some people think the BLM maps are great.  I 
didn’t, but they worked, for the most part, despite very outdated water 
information. BLM (Surface Management Status) maps are better than the 
regular USGS (topographic only) maps because they show land ownership 
(private vs. state vs. BLM) and some water sources – often outdated, but 
better than nothing.  (e.g. the area south-east of the Malpais in the 
Cebolla Wilderness in NM is now all public land, thanks to land trades.)  We 
used the 1:100,000 (60 minute) maps, and they were adequate.  Unfortunately, 
USGS no longer makes the 15 minute maps. We briefly considered carrying the 
7 ½ minute maps, but they ended up being unnecessary, as well as very 
expensive.  I was told it would take over 400 maps to cover the entire 
trail.  The only place we carried a 7 ½ min. map was just west of 
Yellowstone, where the jeep roads are somewhat confusing.  It’s only purpose 
was to help us find Latham Spring.  We did.  The BLM maps can be purchased 
from USGS by phone (888 ASK USGS) or on-line.

All the maps have errors – in particular, they often do not show all the 
jeep roads and trails that exist on the ground and sometimes they show trail 
that hasn’t been built yet or jeep tracks that no longer exist.  You will 
probably get lost, at least once.  Expect it, but don’t worry about it.  A 
lot of the country is very open, so getting found again is not difficult if 
you know how to read a map.  As long as you are heading generally in the 
right direction (north or south) eventually you’ll find the trail again, if 
you really LOOK at the map carefully and don’t panic.  While, generally 
speaking, backtracking is the best way to find a lost trail, on the CDT 
there may not be a trail to find, so it doesn’t always help to go back.

It is a good idea to contact the BLM in Wyoming and NM to find out about the 
official routes through the desert and through the southern part of NM.  
They have completely marked the trail through  the Great Basin in Wyoming 
and have posted part of the trail through the Big Hatchets in NM.  Wyoming’s 
BLM office (Ray Hanson) is known for being very helpful, while NM is less 
so.  (Despite writing to the BLM 5 times, we have yet to get any information 
from them.  Try calling.)

Contact the Mountain Club of NM to find out about the relocated route south 
of Cuba, NM.  Because we had a lot of time prior to our trip, we contacted 
each of the NF offices to ask specific trail questions and to find out about 
recent trail work.  A few offices were very helpful, a few never responded 
to our queries.  Most gave irrelevant information that didn’t correspond to 
our letters.  Try it though, it doesn’t hurt to let them know that we are 
out here, and they may become more responsive in time.

This is the list of maps that we used.  If your route is different than 
ours, you will need some others, but it gives you a place to start.  There’s 
a note about that at the end of the list.

Northern MT:
TI #215 – Glacier/Waterton NP
Bob Marshall/Scapegoat Wilderness Map
Helena NF
Deerlodge NF

Southern MT:
Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Map
Beaverhead NF,
Targhee NF – Dubois
Targhee NF - Island Park
Gallatin NF west

TI #201 - Yellowstone NP
Bridger Teton NF – Buffalo, Jackson
Earthwalk Press Wind River Range - North & South
            (much better detail than the NF maps)

BLM South Pass
BLM Bairoil
BLM Rawlins
BLM Baggs,

Near the Colorado border:   Medicine Bow NF


Routt NF
San Isabel NF
Gunnison Basin
Rio Grande NF
San Juan NF

Trails Illustrated Maps (www.trailsillustrated.com)
              (Not in chronological order)

102 - Indian Peaks/Gold Hill
103 - Winter Park/Central City/Rollins Pass
104 - Idaho Springs/Loveland Pass
108 - Vail/Frisco/Dillon
109 - Breckenridge/Tennessee Pass
115 - Rand/Stillwater Pass
116 - Hahns Peak/Steamboat Lake
117 - Clark/Buffalo Pass
118 - Steamboat Springs/Rabbit Ears Pass
126 - Holy Cross/Ruedi Reservoir
127 - Aspen/Independence Pass
129 - Buena Vista/Collegiate Peaks
130 - Salida/St Elmo/Shavano Peak
139 - La Garita/Cochetopa Hills
140 - Weminuche Wilderness
141 – Silverton/Ouray/Telluride/Lake City
142 - South San Juan Wilderness/Del Norte
200 - Rocky Mt Natl Park

Carson NF
Santa Fe NF
Cibola NF – Mt Taylor
Gila NF
Gila Wilderness Area
Aldo Leopold W.A.

BLM Chama
BLM Abiquiu
BLM Chaco Mesa
BLM Grants
BLM Acoma Pueblo
BLM (corner of) Fence Lake
BLM Quemado
BLM Tularosa
BLM Mogollon Mtns
BLM Hatch
BLM Deming
BLM Columbus

Other routes (Antelope Wells / Silver City) will require different maps –
BLM Alamo Hueco
BLM Animas
BLM Lordsburg
BLM Silver City

Most of the USFS, BLM and TI maps can be purchased on-line from Public Lands 
Information Center at: http://www.publiclands.org/html/home.html .
The pricesrange from $6.00 to $9.95 ea. The USFS and BLM have evidently 
out-sourced their map sales.

The TI maps can also be purchased ($9.95 ea) at:

We got the Earthwalk maps at:  www.adventuroustraveler.com . ($7.95 ea)  
Some of the other maps are also available here.

Ordering on-line is easy, but before you actually order, check out the  
price and availability from each source before you give them your money (or 
credit card number).  There ARE some small variations in pricing.  Another 
thing to check out is ‘volume discounts’.  Why would you want to spend more 
money than you have to?

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