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GPS maps
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California Wilderness

Choose the Right Forest
click above

National Forests MapsIf you want to get 'off the beaten path' & away from the crowds, you will need to be well equipped. One thing you will need to successfully get way away from the masses & RV parks is a good map. A detailed map that lists most dirt roads is advisable for backcountry road travel. Some of these good atlas Californiasame maps also detail the areas hiking trails & backpacking camp spots. Large map books are convenient but sometimes aren't as thorough as the standard NFS issued maps. Most maps these days, have longitude & latitude grids for use with your GPS system .


BenchMark Map is a must have!

tom harrison maps

Forest Atlases

the basics

How to Read a Map & Signage

The Interstate System
Interstate signs
One & Two Digit Signs

Three Digit Signs

Even # are east-west routers
Odd # are north-south routers
Business Loop
Business Spur
First digit even# = route through or around city
First digit odd# = spur into a city

common signs and abbreviations:

Interstate = "I"
Highway = Hwy.
State Routes = SR or CA

Note: Mile Markers (a.k.a. post miles) for the most part go like this...
Even-numbered routes usually increase from west to east.
Odd-numbered routes, from south to north.
However, there are exceptions. For individual routes & their direction, see CAL TRANS (Dept. of Transportation) useful Current Highway Conditions
state highway U.S. Route routes dirt roads
forest roads 

scenic drivesDirt Roads are usually represented by light gray lines, thin double lines or even dashed double lines. Make sure you follow your desired route through to the end to make sure it doesn't extend to a dead end or result in a locked gate. Contact the local ranger or BLM office to find out about gate closures. Or even possible road closures. Familiarize yourself with Backroads / Forest Service Roads (usually dirt roads) if you are planning on heading into the mountains, deserts or back country areas. You may even want to check road conditions before you head out on your adventure. During summer months you are most likely to experience open roads without adverse conditions.

National Forest Service Maps are extremely helpful when venturing off pavement to dirt roads. Most really good primitive camping areas are located on these dirt side roads. Get off the beaten path & find that perfect meadow, waterfall or creek side spot.

map books & state atlasesCA Maps

Online Map Sources:

  • National Forest Maps
  • California Wilderness Maps
  • California OHV Trail Maps
  • Recreation Maps for California
  • California Maps

    Large Map Books of back country regions are becoming ever popular. Book maps, such as Thomas Brothers California, DeLorme or Benchmark cover the entire state! Your best bet for super detailed coverage is still the area BLM map or Forest Service NFS USDA maps.

    Tom Harrison Maps are some of the best maps available & they are tear-resistant plus waterproof, so they'll last.

    GPS caching

    Trip Routing

    Planning your road trip & what route you will take before you leave is advised. Re-routing & assessing the situation along the way at a dinner stop or roadside bathroom break is also helpful.

    New technology producing great stuff: Global Positioning Systems are almost a necessity for logging that perfect trailhead, exact hiking route or that perfect backwoods campsite.

    map sources

  • Google Maps
  • Map Quest

  • Get Driving Directions & Make your Own Map

    Maps online are only for reference and convenience! Make sure you have another map or two for cross referencing. Do not depend on digital cell phone service in the boonies. Real maps, paper topo maps have accurate details, easy to read (anytime), recommended for backcountry routes & forests back roads.

    planning routes

    map softwaretopo &

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