Trail Maps and Other Supplemental Maps for Idaho’s Mountains
Many hikers prefer to stay on trails/roads to maximize their enjoyment of Idaho’s outdoors, to avoid bushwhacking, and to minimize their chances of getting lost. Unfortunately, Idaho has a paucity of trail maps when compared to other Western States. There are a plethora of Idaho trail/road maps that you may not be aware of. Those supplemental maps are the focus of this essay.
Let’s review the most obvious sources of outdoors trail/road information:
1. National Forest (and Wilderness Area) Maps. These maps are updated every 5-10 years but can have inaccuracies due to a combination of the infrequency of updating and incompleteness in the updating process. NF maps are still a good starting point and many are available in a waterproof/tearproof form. NF maps show both NF roads and trails. These maps typically cost $14/each and can be purchased at a local NF office or online at the National Forest Store. NF maps often cover adjoining areas of BLM land and can be almost as useful as BLM maps in that regard. Depending upon how long the approach is from a county road or paved highway to the NF boundary, you might not find the local BLM map necessary.
2. Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs). These maps are FREE and are available at local NF offices all across Idaho. MVUMs are updated annually and show the most current set of roads that are being maintained by the NFS. MVUMs do NOT show hiking/horse trails. MVUMs are in paper form and can be easily torn or otherwise damaged. MVUMs are very basic maps and do NOT show contour lines or relief in any way, so they can be difficult to use unless done so in combination with NFS maps.
3. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Maps. Idaho has an extensive amount of BLM land that covers non-forested areas of lower elevation. BLM maps are available at local BLM offices but there are only 12 such offices in the entire State of Idaho. You can call the appropriate BLM office, however, and order them by phone and have them mailed to you. BLM maps typically cost $4/each. BLM maps are useful in showing private/public property boundaries. Unfortunately, most BLM maps lack road numbers and the road routes are somewhat difficult to see on the map. The general condition of the roads is also not shown (e.g., paved, gravel, improved dirt, 4WD).
4. USGS Topographical Maps. These maps typically have the greatest detail (e.g., contour lines, natural features like small lakes/ponds) and show both trails and NF roads. However, these maps are often woefully outdated and may be as much as 30-40 years old. Interestingly, sometimes the old roads shown on USGS topo maps are useful for hiking nowadays. These old roads are NOT shown on the more recent NF maps since the roads are no longer maintained by the Forest Service. USGS topo maps are probably best used in combination with a current NF map for the area.
5. National Geographic/Trails Illustrated Maps. Unlike most other Western States, Idaho has only ONE Trails Illustrated Map: the Logan/Bear River Range map. Trails Illustrated maps are generally quite useful because they are updated every 5-10 years with a good degree of meticulousness. TI maps cost about $16/each and are available at sporting goods stores and online.
6. AdventureMaps. AdventureMaps has two excellent trail maps that cover the Sun Valley Area (including the Smoky Mountains, Boulder Mountains, and the Pioneer Mountains as well as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area) and the Sawtooth/White Cloud Mountains Area (including the Sawtooth Wilderness, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Sawtooth Valley, Stanley Basin, and Cape Horn Area). These maps are updated every 5-10 years and are very useful. They are waterproof/tearproof and easy to use. AdventureMaps cost about $16/each and are available at local sporting good stores and online.
Here are some useful supplemental trail/road maps that you may not be aware of:
1. NF “Sheet” Maps. These large, color single-page maps (11″ X 17″ in size) are available at some, but not all, local NF offices. These map sheets do a great job of covering the BLM roads that adjoin Forest Service land. These sheets are easier to read and use than BLM maps. I have used them in the Upper Pahsimeroi Valley, the Salmon River gorge (from Challis to Salmon), and the Lemhi Valley. They are free for the asking at NF offices such as the offices in Leadore, ID and Salmon, ID. Not all NF offices have these maps. They are kept in a large binder and are free for the asking. The helpful NF employee must make a color copy of the specific sheet(s) that you are interested in, so be on your best behavior. The sheet maps show the BLM and NF roads/trails much better than the standard NF and BLM maps do.
2. NF Trail Maps. These maps are supplements to the standard National Forest Service maps. Here is a link to one for the Danskin Mountains OHV Trails.
3. BLM Travel Maps and Trail Maps. These maps are typically FREE for the asking. A complete list of the Idaho BLM Travels Maps is found at this link:
Here are a few of the BLM Travel Maps and Trail Maps for Idaho:
a. Recreation in Idaho: Campgrounds, Sites, and Destinations (this booklet covers the entire State of Idaho and provides an excellent overview of BLM land, BLM campgrounds, and BLM offices across the State of Idaho)
b. St. Anthony Sand Dunes Special Recreation Management Area (Eastern Idaho)
c. The Chinese Peak—Blackrock Trail System Map (Pocatello)
d. Bear Lake & Soda Hills Travel Map (Southeast Idaho)
e. Curlew/Deep Creek Travel Map (SW of Pocatello)
f. Murphy Subregion Travel Map (Owyhee Mountains)
g. The Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway Guide (a 48-page booklet)
h. The Wilson Creek Trail System (Owyhee Mountains)
4. NFS/BLM supplemental maps. Sometimes, the NFS and BLM jointly produce a useful supplemental map such as the “Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Addition” Map.
5. National Monument/National Reserve trail maps. If you plan to do any hiking in either the Craters of the Moon National Monument or in the City of Rocks National Reserve, you can find helpful trail maps online at these links:
6. Alan Crockett hiking/biking trail maps. These maps are available for FREE (in a PDF format) on the Idaho Alpine Club website. There are a series of maps that cover these NF ranger districts: Palisades-Teton Ranger District, Dubois Ranger District, Westside Ranger District. These maps are particularly useful in showing new trails that are not yet shown on the most recent NF maps. In addition, there are trail maps for Menan Butte, the Warm River Springs Area, and the Targhee Creek Area.
Here are the specific instructions for finding and downloading the Alan Crockett maps from the Idaho Alpine Club website:
• Go to www.idahoalpineclub.org
• Scroll down to the bottom of the Home Page
• Click on “HERE” [the full sentence is “These maps in PDF are available HERE”)
• Under the Club Archives header on the left margin of the web page that pops up, click on “Local Trail Maps” (or “Local Biking Maps” if you wish to see mountain biking trails)
• You have three Ranger Districts to choose from now (scroll down the page a bit to see all three of the districts): Palisades-Teton Ranger District, Dubois Ranger District, and Westside Ranger District. If you scroll farther down the page, you will find three additional choices (Menan Butte, Warm River Springs, and Targhee Creek).
• Under the specific Ranger District that you are interested in, you see a list of trail maps. Click on the map you wish to see. You may need to bring up several maps to find the one that is most useful to you, because the titles of the maps are a bit unclear/strange. A color PDF file emerges with the trail map you selected. Print out the map on a color printer. For folks in the Idaho Falls/Rexburg area, the Menan Butte trail map is particularly useful.
7. Local city trail maps. Here are a few city area maps that you may find useful:
Boise: The Ridge-to-Rivers.org website has a free interactive trail map available at this link: RidgeToRivers Map.
Pocatello: Free map of the hiking/biking trails on the West Side of Pocatello (“City Creek Management Area: Trail System Guide”). The map is FREE and is available at the Visitor’s Center as well as online in a PDF format.
Coeur d’Alene: Idaho State Parks & Recreation offers free trail maps online at this link: Coeur d’Alene Trail Maps. Click on the MAP tab (on the left side of the web page) to see a list of specific trails in the Coeur d’Alene area and a series of trail maps covering the area. Here is a link to the overview map for the Coeur d’Alene area: Coeur d’Alene Overview Map.
While Idaho does not have as extensive a list of supplemental maps as several other Western States, there are a number of supplemental resources available to Idaho outdoors lovers to make use of. Hopefully, we have covered most of these additional trail/road map resources in this essay.
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