Take Your Kids for a Hike with National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated Maps

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Image: National GeographicImage: National Geographic

Image: National Geographic

Summer is fast approaching, and it’s a great time for hiking. Whether it’s a quick trip of a few miles with your whole family (and peanut M&Ms, of course), a day trip with three square meals and plenty of water or a week-long backpacking trip across a mountain range, you need a really good map. In the days before GPS, a quality compass and an excellent waterproof topographic map were all you needed to find your way in the wilderness. If you don’t have an outdoorsy store near you, though, it may be tough to find a good map.

Image: National GeographicImage: National Geographic

Image: National Geographic

The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps are outdoor recreation maps, complete with topo lines and GPS information for certain locations. I’ve seen my share of hiking and topo maps for recreation use, but these have to be the nicest ones I have ever seen. They are full of easy-to-read information, yet they are still really nice to look at.

Printed on shiny, tear-resistant, waterproof paper, these maps are meant to be used over and over. They are based on the USGS topo maps and come complete with topo lines, major roads, ranger district borders, clearly marked trails and paths and a good map key. Also marked are wilderness and recreation areas, rivers, lakes and mountains. Foliage color is present but not distracting. Trails are all numbered and recreation symbols are clearly marked. Maps that include more populated areas also contain plenty of road information. They also give information on the direction of magnetic north. On the Grand Canyon maps, even a no flight zone is marked. All of these maps allow you to get a really close and in-depth look at the lands you want to explore.

One of the most interesting and useful parts of the maps is the additional information included around the edges. There is information about the various rules, permits and safety concerns for the area. There is contact information for National Parks, Forests and Recreation areas. In the case of Arizona, there is also tribal contact information. You can also learn about back country use, camping restrictions and how to Leave No Trace.

Image: National GeographicImage: National Geographic

Image: National Geographic

I learned to read topo maps long, long ago (thanks to orienteering with my mom), and these maps will also help me teach my kids how to read them. Even better, the kids can compare the map to the real life features they see when we hike.

National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps are available for around the $10 mark, with prices varying by map. They are available on Amazon, in the National Geographic Store, at local REI branches and at plenty of other brick and mortar stores near you. There are maps available for about 35 states and territories, with 165 titles currently available. Maps for new areas continue to be released, however, including many new ones this year, such as the Prescott National Forest near my house! But even if you don’t find a map that covers your area, chances are there is one for somewhere nearby.

Wired: These maps are made of high quality paper with much detail and information. They are beautiful to look at and useful to have.

Tired: There are still a number of well-used recreation areas in our country that aren’t covered yet.

Note: I was furnished with several of the Arizona maps for review purposes.

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