Free Appalachian Trail maps are a great resource to have when planning a hike along the famous trail. You don't want to leave anything up to chance when you're undergoing a hike that can take months to complete and spans across fourteen separate states. Take a look at some of the best free maps on the internet that detail the Appalachian Trail from different angles and see which one works best for you.
About the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States, which extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. More than 2,000 miles long, it is one of the longest trails in the United States. This famous hiking trail is maintained by numerous organizations and clubs along the way.
Much of the Appalachian Trail is wilderness, although some parts do cross towns and roads. The trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It has been rumored to also be a major route through bigfoot country.
Finding Free Appalachian Trail Maps
There are several places to find various maps of the Appalachian Trail on the internet. All of these can be printed off or viewed online and used as needed.
This Massachusetts Map was released by the state of Massachusets, and not only gives you a detailed trail map of the notable features you'll see along your hike, but also some important information concerning visitor guidelines that you'll need to follow as you trek throughout this part of the trail. Some of the other features highlighted on the map include:
- State Forest
- Side Trails
- Post Offices
Definitely for the advanced technical hiker, these downloadable GPS maps from Guy Mott include both GPS files as well as Google Earth files of several sections of the Appalachian Trail. Subdivided into groups, including "tracks with shelters" and "shelters," these features make for easy navigation of the massive amounts of data presented on the website.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Map
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy interactive map uses the highly popular digital system ArcGIS to give you a detailed look at the Appalachian trail from start to finish. Given that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is the leading organization in tracking, maintaining, and promoting the trail, their GPS data is some of the most accurate available. In addition, the zoom capabilities on their map means that you can see the specific topographic conditions of the sections of the trail that you're either already on or are prepping to tackle. This map is a great resource to have in your toolkit.
National Park Service Maps
Another leading organization in terms of managing the Appalachian Trail, the National Park Service has a series of maps breaking down the trail into five different parts. These downloadable maps show the trail, as well as mountain peaks you'll travel across, and nearby cities to help you orient yourself on your adventures. Similarly, the map gives a great breakdown of any areas of the National Park System that the trail intersects through, so that you can look into camping options in the area.
Backpacker Magazine's Interactive Map
Backpacker Magazine offers one of the best interactive maps on the Web with tips, reader photos, and videos all tossed against a 3D display of the trail itself. Keep in mind that such an extensive digital feat does often require maintenance, so you'll probably want to have another map or two as backup if their maps are down at the time that you're hiking the trail.
New Jersey Trail Map
This unique blog offers a map of the Appalachian Trail as it runs through New Jersey and gives readers details about some of the short hikes that can be taken along the trail itself for people in the area who want to enjoy the beauty of the trail without having to commit to the entire thing.
Internet Access Map
If you are someone who isn't ready to go fully internet-free during your hike, or if you're a blogger or vlogger who needs to get their content about their adventures to their audience, you can check out this map that details areas on the trail which have internet access. It's perfectly OK to not be ready to take on an internet-free, months-long journey, and this map should help you feel comfortable setting out on the trail.
Information to Help You Prepare For Your Hike
Besides free Appalachian Trail maps which detail the trail itself to you, you'll want to read up on the unique situations, weather, and potential dangers that you can encounter along the trail. Several hiking sites have information that can assist both the experienced and inexperienced hiker.
White Blaze is a digital homebase for Appalachian Trail enthusiasts to impart their expertise and discuss their adventures, any upcoming changes along the trail, as well as important information for people prepping for their first hikes. You can check them out for advice on things like what gear to get, things to pack, and maps to use, as well. Additionally, their site includes testimonies from people who have already hiked the trail, which can give you a personal take on what your experience might look like.
Appalachian Trail Website
The Appalachian Trail Home Page is an older, but still useful, resource that can give hikers an insight into previous hikers' experiences, where to find maps and books on hiking a thru-trail like the Appalachian Trail, as well as a unique distance calculator. This distance calculator can give you the distance in miles between two known points on the Appalachian Trail, which could prove quite useful to you during your hikes.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is the first website you should visit if you're thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail. Considering that the organization has been in charge of conserving and overseeing the Appalachian Trail since 1925, they're the go-to resource for both seasoned and novice hikers to visit for all things hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Preparation Is Essential
Whether you're hiking the whole trail or only a part of it, free Appalachian Trail maps aren't just something you should peruse once or twice. They're absolutely a resource that you should take with you on your hike. While you should always plan your trail out before you set out to start, these maps can help you modify your route if you need to because of things like weather conditions, animal activity, and available camping space.
Spend some time before the actual hike to study the maps and plot your course. Take into account the distance between towns and checkpoints, and plan your supplies, and resupplying areas, accordingly. Preparation and research will ensure that you have a safe hike.
Get Map-py With It
While you should always put in the time to prepare for any outdoor adventure that you're thinking about undertaking, you should especially do your research when you're thinking of taking on something as extensive and daunting as the Appalachian Trail. Extending through 14 states and thousands of miles of undulating terrain, you want to make sure that you've got a clear idea of where you're going and what your route is going to look like. An easy and cost-free way of doing this is exploring these Appalachian Trail maps and seeing which one fits your needs best. After all, these maps can be the difference between finishing the trail and having to bail early.