I keep several map books in my car for the different states that I hike and backpack in, called Gazetteers. They’re published by a company called Delorme (recently acquired by Garmin) and contain detailed maps of each state including all of the paved and unpaved roads, seasonal roads, gated fire roads, mountains, ponds, rivers, streams, and campgrounds in the state, as well as a host of other recreation-specific information.
Gazetteers are absolutely indispensable for planning backcountry trips and contain a lot of the information that is left out of activity-specific maps intended for hiking, backpacking, skiing, and mountain biking.
Each state is broken out into a numbered grid, each with a full page topographic map. The scale in the Maine Gazetteer is 1:135,000, which is a good scale for identifying roads and natural features.
I use Gazetteers to for planning on almost every trip I take into the backcountry. They’re so useful for finding remote trail heads, trout streams, hiking trails, primitive campsites, and old jeep trails, you name it, because they integrate so much information into a single uniform overview that I can’t get anywhere else.
In addition to topographic maps, the Gazetteers contain huge lists of:
- All of the state’s public recreation areas and the activities each offers from swimming to riding
- Suggested family outings to conservation areas, museums, and historical locations that you can visit
- All of the state’s public and private campgrounds and the services they offer from showers to RV amperage
- All of the state’s lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers and the fish species found in each
- Statewide place name index
It’s a treasure trove of outdoor recreation information that’s far easier to browse than anything online.
Gazetteers in Action: Some Examples
Here are a few ways that you could use the to plan trips that’d be hard to plan any other way. Theses are representative of the types of questions you can answer with any of the state-specific Gazetteers that Delorme publishes.
- Meeting an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker in the 100 mile Wilderness at the southern end of Nahmakanta Lake, which has a nice beach. The Gazetteer shows you which roads you’d need to drive to get there and information about road quality or gated access that you can’t find on most online maps.
- The closest roads to a Maine 4000 footer like Mt Redington, so you only have to bushwhack a short distance to get to the summit. While you can find turn by turn directions online, there’s nothing like having a map that you can follow, especially if you want to approach the peak from an original direction and not one followed by “the herd.” Again, the information about road quality, including indications of impassable, washed out roads, is essential for planning.
- A map showing all of the trailerable boat ramps, and maintained or primitive campsites along the shore of mighty Chesuncook Lake.
That’s just scratching the surface. Whatever your pleasure: hiking, camping, boating, fishing, hunting, kayaking, photography, or mountain biking, Delorme Gazetteers are your gateway to backcountry exploration off the grid.
Disclosure: I purchased all of these products with my own funds.
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