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Trail Planning Resources - websites, apps, devices

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While in Maine, I have been using


It is free, as in free - no registration, no fees, simple-get-you-started, accurate directions/parking and fees (if any).  Map quality is limited, i,e, topography, so you will likely need another map source. Current weather is linked but not necessarily trail conditions. It has a "earn a badge section" for those so motivated. :)  Below is the Virtuous Volunteer patch, alas poor Pacman, ...a fellow of infinite jest...

Virtuous Volunteer

Other sites that I have used

New England Trail (NET, mostly CT and MA) information. Note MA has 3 major North-South trails:  Appalachian Trail (AT), New England Trail (NET), and Mid-State Trail (some sections too urban).



Plenty more resources out there, please post yours.

How many trail miles will Scouts maintain and hike this summer? 

My $0.02,




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I rely heavily on CalTopo.com. The ability to customize maps or aerial photos, coupled with a layer of existing trails, makes it a go-to when I need to generate a .pdf for our troop.

Not sure if it’s shareable, but here’s a link to one that I train our scouts on https://caltopo.com/m/D202. I’ve added markers for insertion points, geocaches, campsites, and distance radii.

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Google Earth with USGS topo data overlay. 


You can toggle back and forth and get an exact satellite image of the area as well...plotting waypoints and treks is easy...gives you exact distances and elevation profiles on tracks and trails plotted.

In Google Earth, you can also go back in time on the satellite shots for some excellent older satellite photos, shot at various times through the year, to make out features better.

I also use a UTM grid overlay for those badges needing UTM discussions.


Free except for the cost of printing.

Map data is a bit dated, but I have used this for years with great results.

All lines are True or Grid North, so Scouts have to know the local variation (declination).


Coupled with a locally produced Forest Service, NPS, State Park (etc.) trail map, and you have a very thrifty navigation solution for Scouts.



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21 hours ago, DuctTape said:

Caltopo is good. I also use the USGS collection. I especially like the older maps as one of my hobbies is to explore long forgotten trails.


3 hours ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

Oooohhh, just looked at CalTopo...very nice.  I might be switching ;)


13 minutes ago, Sentinel947 said:

Second for CalTopo

Or, as the text from a scout alumnus said, "Oh wow. This website might be the best thing in existence" (Yes, I've kept that in my flip phone for years.)

42 minutes ago, MattR said:

I've used Google earth to set up compass courses. Getting a USGS overlay would really help for hiking trails.

And @MattR, that is precisely where CALTOPO says, "Hold my beer." The ability to add overlays -- or remove all overlays to create a blank map with only your controls -- is priceless. What's really nice is that from the same map you can make print to .pdf's at different scales. You can only save so many maps on their site, but you can download the .pdf's of the one's you like before they expire.

A scouter can do a lot with the free subscription -- enough to tailor it to most, if not all, troop activity. I've started a community map of all Eagle projects. I put my brother onto it, and he's mapping hemlocks for his conservation district. I shared it with a Life scout so that he can map out a watershed restoration project.

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3 hours ago, qwazse said:

And @MattR, that is precisely where CALTOPO says, "Hold my beer."

It's a GIS. That would have explained a lot to me.

I think the scouts could enjoy it. I went and found a hike I did yesterday. Now I know how long the hike is. I might have figure out the elevations next.

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