Saturday, April 05, 2014


I thought I'd share what maps I use most often for my off-road adventures.  I get ideas for destinations mostly from friends and 4wd trail books.  And of course, when googling those places, I always find other places while reading the many blogs I discover.  Then I plan my trip, finding routes that let me drive new roads and see new sites.  Primarily, I use two sets of maps, then I view the routes in Google Earth, almost always finding even more places to visit on the trip.

My main maps are from Benchmark Maps.  I use the atlas versions for California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, since that's where I like to explore.  These are great maps.  I like that they include a variety of dirt roads and trails, and indicate their relative use-level by using different thickness of dashed and solid red lines.  For example, a well used dirt road appears as a thick dashed red line.  Those are mostly graded dirt roads.  However, a very thin solid red line is a less used trail.  Many of those in the Mojave desert have been closed to vehicles by the BLM or Park Service.  A very thin dashed red line is even less used and probably overgrown with vegetation (translation: you'll likely get some scratches on the side of your vehicle).

These maps show campgrounds, boat ramps, railroads, mines, landmarks, powerlines, and a lot more.  National forests, monuments and parks are labeled and their borders are shown, as are their visitor centers (NPS, USFS, Multi-Agency).  Wilderness areas are labeled, but the borders are not shown.  Military bases and their borders are shown (a big deal in my area where many bases sit on very large tracts of land for training purposes).  Land ownership is also indicated.  I don't know how accurate that is.  I mostly use that for confirming I'm on BLM land when I want to do some dispersed camping.  Many locked gates that block roads are also shown.  That's a handy feature.

Another set of maps I've recently begun using is from the CTUC (California Trail Users Coalition).  Their maps are aimed at OHV and 4wd users and show a lot of trails.  I buy mine at the Jawbone Canyon OHV Visitors Center and at the multi-agency visitor center on the south end of Lone Pine.  These maps have an advantage of labeling the trails with the actual BLM route number.  That's helpful. 

I recently stumbled upon this collection of BLM maps for the western Mojave Desert.  They are labeled as TMA (Travel Management Area) maps.    The key map is shown below.  I can't find similar maps for the eastern Mojave.  Maybe other BLM field office web sites have decent maps for your area.

There are tons of map resources out there and I'm always looking for new ones to use.  I welcome any comments with suggestions.

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