This post may contain affiliate links.

Backcountry Navigation and Planning: Gazetteers

In my last post, I wrote that you need a New York Gazetteer in order to find the trail heads in the Catskills. It dawned on me today that many people don’t have a clue what a Gazetteer is anymore. So let me explain.

A Gazetteer is a set of very detailed topographic maps used for backcountry navigation that lists among other things back roads, recreation  sites, and GPS grids. DeLorme, the map company, publishes a Gazetteer for each state in the US. Each one typically lists:

  • Back roads, dirt roads and trails
  • Remote lakes and streams
  • Boat Ramps
  • Public lands for recreation
  • Land use / land cover – forests, wetlands, agriculture
  • Hiking Trails and Trailheads
  • Campgrounds
  • Prime hunting and fishing spots
  • Bicycle Routes
  • Excursions/Scenic Routes
  • Historic Sites/Museums

Plus, all of these locations are shown on color topographic maps provided at a scale of 1:150,000.

I spend about 60 days a year in the backcountry, backpacking and whitewater kayaking, and I rely heavily on the maps in Gazetteers for finding new places to go and for figuring out how to get there. I keep a Gazetteer for every state in New England in my car, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and I use them extensively for trip planning. I haven’t found anything that can compare to them in terms of detail.

You can buy Delorme Gazetteers at bookstores like for under $15 a state. They’re worth it.


  1. Surprisingly useful, even in the days of GPS and google maps. They do propagate some of the errors seen in rural Al and northern GA, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *