Trail Map “Do's and Dont's"

All trail users, from casual walkers to experienced mountain bikers or hikers, should have access to a good trail map to make the most of their outdoor experience.

by Jeremy Apgar, Cartographer, New York - New Jersey Trail Conference

Trail maps have great power in their ability to safely guide trail users to amazing outdoor destinations. However, a bad trail map can make a trip unpleasant at best, or dangerous at worst. It is important to carefully consider design choices when creating a map, from broad styles down to the smallest details.

This session examines some of the design decisions that differentiate a good trail map from a bad one, from the perspective of an organization with more than 80 years of trail mapping experience in the New York Metropolitan area. Come prepared to critique and share your thoughts about trail maps, and learn some best practices for creating detailed trail maps that are easy to use.

Learning Objectives:
  • Explain the importance of carefully evaluating all design components of a trail map, from the perspectives of various potential users, to ensure key qualities of ease of use, accuracy, and attractiveness are addressed.
  • Assess poor trail map design choices and the reasons why they should be avoided when producing a trail map.
  • Assess good trail map design choices and the reasons why they need to be considered when attempting to produce a quality trail map.

About the Author

Jeremy Apgar has been the cartographer for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference for more than 10 years, creating award-winning maps to assist with all aspects of building, maintaining, and educating people about trails and the protected lands they traverse. Prior to joining the Trail Conference, Jeremy received his Master’s degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Lehigh University. While obtaining his Master’s degree, he published his research findings that utilized GIS, remote sensing imagery, and fieldwork in the Yukon Territory, Canada to learn about snowmelt and climate change in the Arctic. He resides in the woods of northwest New Jersey with his wife and two kids, and enjoys any opportunity to get out on the trails with his family.

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