Maps for Redlining the White Mountains

Maps for Redlining the White Mountains

One of the first things you’ll discover about redlining (hiking) all 651 trails in the AMC’s White Mountains Guide is that a lot of them are not on the AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set that the AMC sells to go with the book. Some of the trails aren’t even in the White Mountain National Forest, but it’s still customary to hike them because they’ve been mentioned in the text.

The full list of trails that you need to hike is in a spreadsheet that can be downloaded from this dropbox folder or the file tab on the Facebook Group White Mountains Redlining. While it is tempting to color all of the trails you’ve hiked with a sharpie, it’s not a practical way to keep track of the 651 trails you need to hike, or the parts of those trails, that you have to go back to finish at a later date.

Driving Directions

First and foremost, you want to buy a copy of the latest, 30th edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide. It has very accurate driving directions to get to every roadside trailhead on the Redlining list. The White Mountain Guide does not currently publish GPS coordinates for these trailheads, and even if it did, Google Maps would probably get you lost because many of them are down seasonal, gated, logging, or private roads that the Google mapping bot never visits or doesn’t list as existing. I actually own two copies of the White Mountain Guide and keep one at home for planning and one in the car for directions.

I would also recommend buying the Delorme New Hampshire Gazetteer and the Delorme Maine Gazetteer because they have good maps of all of the backcountry roads and information about campsites and other recreational opportunities that are not listed on hiking maps. Depending on where you live, it may take you 5 hours to drive to some of the far-flung trailheads in Northern New Hampshire and you may want to stay for a few days when you head up north. I recommend you keep these Gazetteers in your car too.

Trail Descriptions

The AMC White Mountain Guide has very good trail descriptions for most of the trails listed on the redlining spreadsheet. It’s worth reading these carefully before any hike you take so you avoid any nasty surprises, like finding out that the day hike you planned has many more thousand feet of elevation gain or tough water crossings that you weren’t expecting.

Paper Maps

Here are the paper maps which most Redliners accumulate as they work through the trail list:

GPS Apps w/ Maps

Many redliners like to carry GPS Phone apps when hiking in order to find trails, stay on them, and record a track for future reference. They’re particularly helpful for some of the more obscure trails you’ll encounter and in winter, when trails are covered with snow and trail blazes are buried. Map quality varies across these apps, so you can’t trust them absolutely, especially when the trail maps are crowdsourced by users.

  • Gaia GPS: Contains many different maps including USGS, Historic USGS, USFS, and other licensed maps. Overall fairly current. Annual subscription.
  • Guthooks Guide, New England Hiker: Very accurate and current because they’ve been mapped by redliners (including Arlette Laan) carrying GPS units. These maps include water source information which is very helpful on long hikes and backpacking trips. Fantastic for winter use. One time subscription fee (not annual). Priced by region.
  • Avenza Maps:  GPS-encoded version of the 2017 AMC White Mountains Mapset. $5.99 per map. One time fee. Purchase in app.

Route Planning Tools

Route planning tools can come in very handy for comparing different routes in terms of distance and elevation gain, especially when planning loops. If you’re not familiar with these tools, you might want to add them to your skillset.

  • Caltopo: Free online planning tool with a variety of free authoritative and crowdsourced maps. Good for plotting estimated mileage and elevation gain. You can also create GPS-encoded maps with it that can be imported and used by the Avenza Maps app.
  • Garmin BaseCamp: Mainly used by Garmin GPS users. Free to download. Maps cost extra.
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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. In addition, Philip volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

8 comments

  1. Hey Philip, I’m not planning on redlining, but I am working on the 4k footers, and I thought you might like to know that Caltopo has its own app now. You have to pay for a premium account to store above a certain number of maps locally, but if you are doing one trip at a time I’ve never had an issue with the amount of storage you get for free. This cuts out the step of exporting GPS maps from Caltopo and into Avenza. It works very well on Android, but I can’t comment on the iPhone version. I think this website was where I first learned of Caltopo in the first place, so thanks for that, it’s a great help.

  2. To avoid all costs, you can import the geo.pdf USGS Quadrangle topo maps into the Avenza app for free, keeping up to three maps stored on iPhone that you can use to track and record hikes therefore using Avenza free of charge. You have to search to find right Quad map and it’s best to do this uploading prior to leaving home. So, it’s a little clunky to do.

    • The cost of the maps and apps is a drop in the bucket compared to the time and money it takes to do a redline. I’m also not convinced that the USGS maps are complete or up to date. I use them a lot myself but for the topo info not trails.

  3. I like your present write up, Phil, as I do your latest get-up, but the Forest Dept first job is for their own protection (via topographical versiones), second is for development. Both requirements dont have for hiking trails, mountain climb pathways, etc. But then again, licensed hiking and development of camps brings in fees.

    • The USFS doesn’t publish USGS maps. Different agency. In fact, the USGS does not check trails or other features anymore on the maps they publish.

  4. Beware the Garmin trail data. It is garbage. It appears to have been digitized from old USGS maps and no care was taken to make sure connecting trails actually connect in the data base. Try setting up a section hike on the AT – at some point where the trail crosses a road, the routing algorithm will send you on a five mile road hike.

    • Funny, I complain about Gaia data all the time but my friends shout me down. I think the reason it sucks is because they license it from the AMC, or did so a long time ago and never updated it. It’s adequate for 3 season redlining when you can see the tread underfoot, but in winter, I use Guthook with is accurate to a few feet, it’s that good. I never use the Gaia routing algorithm, though…I like to plan my own routes. :-)

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