When I was preparing for my hike of the CDT in 2001, I got frustrated by the lack of good, detailed, inexpensive, CDT-specific maps. So, I created my own. Now, I make them available for anyone to print their own copies.
The maps are digital images, intended to be viewed on a computer screen, or printed on 8.5×11 sheets of paper. All it takes to create a complete hard-copy set is:
- Access to a computer
- A standard color ink-jet or color laser printer
- ~147-294 sheets of paper (depends if you print double-sided, and if you print all the maps)
- A couple ink cartridges (if you use an ink-jet)
The maps are based on the USGS 7.5 minute (1:24,000 scale) topographic quads (spliced together, so the seams of the USGS maps aren’t an issue). The individual maps are set-up to be printed at 7in x 10in on an 8.5in x 11in sheet of paper, which puts the prints at a scale of about 1:60,000, or 1mile per inch. All of the information from the 1:24,000 original maps is there, it’s just shrunk into small fonts and tiny lines. Some people have printed the maps on 11in x 17in sheets of paper. This will make some of the fine detail a bit easier to read. Though, I rather like the 8.5in x 11in size – folded in fourths, they fit perfectly in a pocket (and they’re a bit lighter for all you lightweight folks).
I’ve drawn the trail with a red line & a bunch of alternate routes in purple. I’ve added a bunch of notes to the maps based on feedback I’ve received from dozens of hikers through the years. I hope the maps will get better and better with each passing year. If you have any comments or notes you think should be added to the maps, let me know. It’s easy for me to edit the master copies.
Getting your own copy
The maps are available to download. In an effort to be kind to my server bandwidth, I don’t have the download links published, but just e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the links. The download is about 2GB.
If you don’t have a good internet connection/bandwidth, I can send you a DVD-ROM. I’ve been sending physical discs for years, so it’s really no big deal for me to send one – just send me your mailing address.
The maps are free of charge. I know a lot of CDT hikers are under serious budget constraints, and I get a lot of intangable rewards for doing this. But if you like, I do appreciate anything you can send back to me to cover my expenses & encourage me to continue to do this. This hasn’t been the most profitable activity in my life, but I have had some fun doing it. If you want to send me paypal, you can use paypal.com to send something to: email@example.com. Or just e-mail me for my mailing address.
About the Updates
I generally update the entire set of maps over the winter, and try to be done by the end of February. If you want the current year’s maps, just ask for it. If you want to be notified when the next update is available, send me an e-mail and I’ll add you to the list.
I do not keep a log of exactly what’s changed on each map each year. Sorry about this, it’d just be too much work to deal with. I update the maps in a bit of a haphazard fashion based on numerous (sometimes conflicting) inputs, so it’s just too much to track. If you have a set of maps from 1 year prior, you’ll probably be OK. Even a couple years back, and you’ll probably be OK, but you might miss-out on some new routes and details.
About the 2017 update
There are a bunch of minor updates in 2017 (mostly some maps in New Mexico, and in a few other places). One big update in 2016 was that the maps are now downloadable, in .pdf format, and available on the PDF Maps mobile app. There’s more about that below.
The Map Files
- The map files are in .pdf format for easy printing. You can also download the maps to your mobile device with the PDF Maps app – more about that below.
- Each .pdf file contains from 4-15 maps, completing a logical section of the trail. There are a total of 38 sections plus an overview, so 39 .pdf files..
- Nearly all of the maps are based on the USGS 1:24,000 or 7.5 minute map data. A few maps in New Mexico are based on 1:100,000 USGS data. Those maps are labeled as such, and it should be obvious when you look at them.
- When printed on 8.5in x 11in paper, the maps have a scale of about 1mile/inch, or roughly 1:60,000 (all the 1:24,000 data will still be there, it’ll just be shrunk into fine print). A lot of people prefer to print on 11in x 17in paper, which makes it easier to read some of the small details.
- The maps are numbered north to south generally. Some of the maps have “letters” as well: (i.e. WY28a). These are instances where alternate routes required extra maps. Some of these maps provide coverage of small “missing areas” between some maps, or they are “zoomed-in” detail sections of some of the
- 1:100,000-base maps. It should be easy to figure out what’s what when you’re out on the trail.
- The red lines show what I can best describe as “the main route”. Usually it’s the designated CDT route, and usually it’s the route I prefer. In a few cases, it’s neither of those things. Away, it’s a continuous route. If you find a map with two red lines… just hike either one (do not hike in a circle… unless you want to hike in a circle).
- The purple lines show alternate routes. Usually, I’ve included notes to describe or criticize the alternate routes.
- There are a some maps with grey lines. These are roads or trails that were not clearly visible on the USGS maps, but I wanted to show them for reference. I have only done this in very selected instances. There are plenty of roads & trails crossing the CDT not marked on the maps. These are often described in the notes.
- Any dashed line indicates that there is no tread on the ground in that section (so, it’s cross-country). Keep in mind that many parts of the CDT have occasional cairns or signposts or very faint tread or nothing at all… I apologize if they’re not consistently marked on the maps. If you hike the trail, hopefully you’ll understand why it’s very difficult to decide if a particular route is technically cross-country or not.
- The mileages on the maps show the estimated distance between any two “stars”. I added the mileages to make it easier to plan your day. I measured the mileages by “rolling” the distances on a printed set of maps with an electronic distance measuring tool (and in some places, just eye-balling it). It’s kind of difficult to get an accurate measure when there are lots of twists and turns in the trail… especially at a scale of ~1:60,000! So, the mileages might be a little “off”… usually short if anything (but consistently short I hope). I can almost guarantee that my mileages won’t exactly match-up with mileages in the guidebooks or other maps. But in the end, they should help you out. There are some places without mileages marked – it’s just a lot of work to keep all these updated… You get to have fun “eyeballing it” in those places!
- The numbered notes should be self-explanatory. The numbers are generally “very near” to whatever I’m referring.
- In most places, I’ve indicated for which hiking direction the notes are intended. If a note doesn’t specify, assume it’s intended to make sense primarily for southbound hikers (because I hiked the trail N->S, and some of the notes are from my original hike)… or more often, either direction.
- I’ve made some notes regarding road numbers and private property in many places, but not “everywhere”.
- The map labels in the upper left hand corner of each map are there to help you keep the maps organized in case you print a set. All the labels are in the NW corner of the map. All writing on the maps is such that geographic north is “straight up”.
- The missing areas, or “white spaces” on the edges of many maps are there to save ink in the event that you want to print a set. I’ve tried not to erase anything vital.
- The maps have been pretty extensively overhauled year after year after year for the past 15 years. Special thanks to everyone who has given me feedback – there are too many of you to list. The maps work because of YOU!
Avenza Maps App (PDF Maps).
- The maps are now available for download with the Avenza Maps app (formerly called PDF Maps). Just search for “pdf maps” on the iTunes App store, or Google Play (sorry no Windows Phone support yet).
- The app is free, and the maps are free.
- After installing and launching the app, search for the maps in the store included with the app. Search for CDT or my name: Jonathan Ley. There should be a total of 38 map bundles – one bundle for each section of the trail. The overview .pdf file isn’t included, since you can just use google maps, etc for that.
- After you install each section/bundle, I recommend changing the options for that folder to a “Collection”. This will give you a neat visual way to switch between adjacent maps.
- To learn more about the PDF Maps app, see their website at www.pdf-maps.com
Using the Compass Rose
- The Compass Rose can be used to determine your location using a paper map plus a stand-alone GPS unit.
- Click here for more information about using the Compass Rose with the maps.
Printing the maps
- Color laser printers have gotten a lot better in the past couple years, and in my opinion are now the best choice for printing the maps. These printers might cost more up-front, but the color toner lasts for thousands of prints (saving you money in the long run). Color laser prints are also much more durable wrt/ wetness, and you can probably get-away with slightly cheaper paper. The laser printer ink might flake-off at folds in the paper, but the maps should hold up well enough for the amount of time you need them. If you’re going through 2/day, they don’t need to last long.
- Most people use ink-jet printers to print the maps. If you do this, I recommend using good ink-jet paper. There are a variety of brands, but the point is – don’t skimp. The advantage of using good paper is that the fine detailed writing in the maps will be clear. With normal paper, the ink will “bleed” just a little, which blurs details… no matter how good your printer is. There is a LOT of fine detail on these maps. You can find high resolution paper at any office supply or computer store.
- High resolution paper also holds up reasonably well when it gets wet. Inkjet ink will bleed profusely on regular paper with the slightest moisture. This is a very important consideration out on the trail.
- Waterproof paper is now available, but it is expensive and usually not biodegradable. On a typical hike you’ll go through about 2 maps a day. I wouldn’t bother with the waterproof paper unless you intend to keep the maps for a long time, use them again, or pass them along to future hikers.
- The where’s and how’s of printing will depend on your printer and printer set-up & the software you use to print. In order to see the detail on the images, you will need a printer that prints at least 300dpi. Nearly every ink-jet printer sold in the last 6 years will print at this resolution. Color laser printers sold in the last 2-3 years should be ok too. If you have an old or extremely low-end ink-jet that cannot print at 300dpi, the printouts will not be clear.
- Tip: If you want to print double-sided & don’t have a duplexer, try printing odd-numbered maps first, then run the paper through again & print the even maps. You’ll get a few 1-sided maps at the end of some sections, but it’ll save a lot of paper.
- I don’t recommend using black-and-white laser printers. There is a lot of information on the maps that can only be seen in color.
- Some people have taken the maps to their local copy-shop to have them printed. This can work fine, but is usually quite costly. The results you’ll get won’t be any better than home-printing. If you’re just not comfortable with computers and printing, etc… Printing the maps is a great way to learn!… or ask a friend, neighbor or family member. Surely someone you know would be willing to help!
- Another option: Some former hikers are now selling prints of the maps. These are a great option for a lot of people. Just google “prints of CDT maps from Jonathan Ley”, and you should get some results.