How to Read the Route Map

Walking and hiking in sparsely populated parks is one of the few things we can still do without worrying too much about the spread of COVID-19 (provided that you are either alone or with people you have been quarantined with or other people with physical distance). If you’re new to hiking, you’ll quickly find that figuring out where you are is a little trickier than it sounds. Of course, there are maps, but have you ever tried to read one of them? So many lines! Here are some tips for reading route maps correctly.

Have both paper and digital maps

Both types of cards have distinct advantages. Digital maps are great (when you have service and GPS) to show you exactly where you are and which direction you are looking in. But Angela Faet , co-owner of Map Adventures, a mapping company based in Portland, suggests that you always have a paper map with you, not only because they offer a wider view of the area, but also as a backup in case the battery runs out or you lose it. service.

Find north

A route map is useless if you don’t know which direction you are looking. Fortunately, maps usually have a compass or arrow pointing north to help tourists get their bearings. And yes, even if you have a compass on your phone, it is recommended that you bring a real compass with you to avoid getting lost.

Pay attention to the contour lines

The first thing you notice about a route map is that it has lines on lines on lines. These contour lines show changes in elevation and can also be labeled with numbers that indicate the number of feet above sea level for a location. “If the numbers go up, you’ll have to go up the hill,” Hope Rowan, a GIS (Geographic Information System) specialist at the Center for Public GIS , told Bangor Daily News . “If the contour lines are closer together, it means that you climb to the next level for a shorter distance, so it is steeper.”

And don’t forget the scale

Once you get the route map, find the scale bar that will show you how the distance on the map matches the distance on the ground. For example, one inch on a map can be equal to one mile on a map. “The scale is very important, ” Rowan said. “It tells you how much you are enlarged, so to speak. Thus, the large-scale map is closer, and the small-scale map is farther away. “

Not only that, but the scale of the map can help you roughly determine how long it will take you to follow a particular trail (if it is not something that is not already marked on the map).

Look at the legend

It probably came about during your squad on maps in Social Science classes, but when you get your hands on a trail map, be sure to take a look at its legend. This will let you know what each of the colors, symbols and lines mean. (And no, blue doesn’t always mean water.)

Keep looking at the map

Even if you think you know where you are going, Steve Bushey, co-owner of Map Adventures, recommends checking the trail map more often. “One way to stay found is to always know where you are,” he told Bangor Daily News . “If you are walking the trail and decide not to check the map, you can walk past the intersection where you should have turned.”

Bushey says that if you end up getting lost, you should repeat your steps until you reach a location that you can identify on a map, such as a body of water. Also, if you track your location on a map, it can help people find you if you need help, because you can tell them roughly where you are.

Get the most recent map version available

Even if you have walked the trail before and have an old map, Faert advises you to check if an updated version has been published. You might think that parks and nature are not changing, but routes may be changed, new ones added, and camping and recreation sites may change.


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