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Topographic Maps

A mid-trip route discussion with Buzz using our large-scale overview map

A mid-trip route discussion with Buzz using our large-scale overview map

To thru- or section-hike the Wind River High Route, I both carry and recommend three types of maps:

  • Paper overview map
  • Paper detailed maps
  • Digital maps stored on a GPS unit

This 3-map system is standard for most of my trips; read an in-depth explanation and discussion of it. The information below is specific to the High Route.

1. Paper overview map

Wind River Range Outdoor Recreation Map, by Beartooth Publishing, 5th Edition

This double-sided map covers the entire range. It measures 25.2 x 39.2 inches and is printed at a scale of 1:100,000 with 100-foot contour intervals. I prefer this map over the Earthwalk Press maps, which have too much detail for an overview map (1:48,000 scale) and which cumulatively are twice as heavy and twice as expensive as the single Beartooth map.

2. Paper detailed maps

The Wind River High Route Guide includes print-ready digital PDF’s of topographic maps for the Primary Route and all Section Hikes. These maps were produced using CalTopo and the copyright is owned by Andrew Skurka Adventures LLC. Customers have permission to print the maps for their personal use.

For a base map, the Guide’s topo maps use the USGS 7.5-minute quadrangle series, which is the gold standard for topographic maps in the US. The maps have been annotated with critical route information, and the custom print tiles are centered over the route.

When printed on 11 x 17 tabloid paper, the maps will be at their native scale of 1:24,000 and the contour interval is 40 feet. If the maps are printed on smaller paper, the topographic detail will be compressed, possibly to the point of if being illegible.

Read my map printing suggestions.

Download a map of the Dinwoody Glacier area

When printed single-sided on 24-lb 11 x 17 paper, the full mapset and databook weigh about 5 oz. If printed double-sided, the weight is halved.

When printed single-sided on 24-lb 11 x 17 paper, the full mapset and databook weigh about 5 oz. If printed double-sided, the weight is halved.

3. Digital maps stored on a GPS unit

As an emergency just-in-case backup, a GPS with pre-downloaded 7.5-minute topographic maps plus other layers (e.g. USFS topo maps, historical maps, and Landsat satellite imagery) of the intended route and adjacent areas can be very useful. In lieu of a conventional handheld GPS unit, I use my smartphone in conjunction with an app, like Gaia GPS or BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS.

Included with the Wind River Guide is a GPX file with very limited information. You’ll find waypoints for trailheads and for select high points, and a track that will help you identify the topographic map tiles you need to download onto your handheld GPS or smartphone. It does not include a track for the recommended route — that’s for you to figure out. If you want to add more waypoints to the GPX file, go for it.

A screenshot of Gaia GPS, an app that gives your smartphone the capabilities of a handheld GPS (and then some).

A screenshot of Gaia GPS, an app that gives your smartphone the capabilities of a handheld GPS (and then some).

2 Responses to Topographic Maps

  1. Ken Steinhoff July 13, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    I’m sure I’m behind in my map reading skills, but I don’t see any indication of the latitude, longitude, or UTM coordinates on your WRHR mapset. Do I need a tutorial on the USNG system to interpret the broader location of each map, or to use GPS coordinates in an emergency to locate myself on the map?

    Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka July 22, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

      What kind of GPS are you using? My assumption is that you use Gaia GPS or Backcountry Navigator, which are apps for your smartphone (and through which you can download the exact USGS tiles of the mapset), or your dedicated handheld will have some type of mapping screen, which can be correlated with the map print-out.

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