How To Put NatGeo “Trails Illustrated” Maps On Your Smart Phone

Hey everyone!  I want to share an exciting discovery I recently made.

As I was preparing for our next Grayson Highlands trip I was wishing that I could have the same trails of the (National Geographic) Trails Illustrated Map of Mount Rogers in a format I could use on my phone.

Downloading maps to your phone allows you to have the map when your phone doesn’t have a data connection.

After a little research I discovered that does this for both the iphone and android.

The alltrails app is free, but if you want access to the trails illustrated maps (and their other maps), that runs $29.99 a year.

Hard-copy TI (Trails Illustrated) maps run about $13 each plus shipping, so if you only down load 2 you break even.

You can down load the dozens and dozens that are available.  Once you’ve downloaded them, they’re yours to keep.

I recommend a separate micro SD card for your maps.  The Mount Rogers map is huge, covering the East boundary of the Recreation Area all the way to Damascus,  a straight line distance of over 57 miles(!) and is about 700 MB, but is the EXACT same map you purchase at the store!

The app (with membership) also allows you to down load a variety of topo maps, forest service maps, satellite maps, road maps, international maps.

If you’re going to do this, go online, get the membership, then install the app, else the app won’t know that you’ve paid up and you’ll spend hours trying to figure it out.

My “go to” app on my phone (Android) is the Back Country Navigator Pro, around $11 from the app store.  Topo maps are free to download, it’s fast, reliable, and easy to read and use.  There are also a huge variety of fee maps to download for your hike or city trip.

I create or draw my routes and points of interests such as campsites, parking, water,  over at (free) or ($30/yr), then send that data via a .gpx file to my phone.  Back Country Pro opens the file and overlays it over the topo maps I’ve downloaded and voila! I’m navigating in the trees.

The primary drawback to the smartphone map app is battery use.  I put my phone in airplane mode for the entire trip and turn it off completely, only turning it on if I want to check the maps.

I offer a map class on the meetup I’m a member of (OC Backpackers) to teach how to get, create, and use, all this for FREE, but sadly, not special maps like the TI maps.  The paper TI maps are done by National Geographic, but they sold the digital mapping to alltrails, who now sell them.


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