National Geographic publishes a thirteen map Appalachian Trail Illustrated map set of waterproof paper maps that cover the length of the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Maine’s Mt Katahdin.
Available as a complete set or in separate 200-250 mile sections of trail ($14.95 each), they’re cleverly packaged in booklet form instead of huge fold out maps, a format that is more compact and far easier to manage than the large waterproof maps published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).
Here’s a list of the available trail sections:
Each map booklet also contain a list of official campsites and shelters for that section, emergency phone numbers, an elevation profile, and educational content about Leave No Trace. Hikers intent on saving weight can pull the booklets, which are bound with staples, apart and just carry the maps without the other information if they prefer.
The maps themselves are overview quality, drawn on a 1:63,360 scale where 1 inch = 1 mile, with a superimposed UTM grid, easy to read sub-segment mileage between all road crossings, and include trail junctions, the location of springs, and points of interest. Many side trails and roads are shown on the maps, which are good for day hikers and section hikers looking to get on the trail and off at different locations.
The map data in the National Geographic maps is based on GIS route information provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), in addition to other online sources and guidebooks.
If you’re an ATC member, you can get a discount on the National Geographic maps in their online store, which are listed side by side with the maps and guidebooks of the Appalachian Trail that the ATC publishes with the regional clubs that maintain the trail. While the ATC doesn’t have any plans to stop making and selling the maps and guidebooks they currently publish, it wouldn’t surprise me if National Geographic’s map sales soon eclipsed them because they’re more condensed, up to date, and easier to use.
Disclosure: National Geographic provided Philip Werner with an Appalachian Trail map set for this review.