Apps Join Paper Maps To Help Utah Backcountry Navigation | KUER 90.1

Apps Join Paper Maps To Help Utah Backcountry Navigation

Apr 13, 2017

If you’re hitting the trails anytime soon, maps can help guide you, and federal land agencies have posted dozens of them online that you can take wherever you go.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office is offering 50, free smartphone maps that cover everything from Jeep routes to disc golf and backpack tracks. They’re interactive, so they’ll show how far you’ve climbed up Temple Mountain near Price or down into Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Screenshot of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Fish and Owl Canyon loop map on the Avenza Map application for iPhone.

“These maps are really polished; they’re very graphic; they really only contain the relevant in formation,” says Kimberly Finch, spokesperson for the BLM’s Utah state office. “And so as a user, you can really look at the map, get a good sense of what’s available and how to navigate through the particular area that the map is featuring.”

Stephanie Cooper of the Great Basin Institute helped the BLM make the maps user-friendly. She says they rely on satellites and geo-referencing apps, not wi-fi.

“I’ll be hiking along, and I’ll pull out my phone, thinking, ‘Oh, man. When am I gonna get there?’,” she says. “And it’s been super-nice to look at where my position is on the map and be like, ‘Okay, I have this much more to go’.”

Cooper says they’re pretty reliable except in slot canyons, where GPS signals don’t reach. They can be printed at home, too.

And, for the people who like those big paper maps and bound guidebooks, there’s still the bookstore at the Utah Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Salt Lake City.

“There’s a lot of people that still come in for maps and want paper,” says Andy Cvar, who works at the store, “because not a lot of people trust GPS, battery power.”

The U.S. Geological Survey has plotted nearly fifteen hundred of those 7.5-minute quadrangle maps for Utah.

And Cvar can print out whatever one you request.