Are you one of those weirdos like me, who just enjoys looking at maps even if you’re not using it for any practical trip-planning purpose? This page is for you! Here I wanted to share with you some of my favorite maps I’ve encountered while putting together this site. I’ll be adding more periodically, so stay tuned!
Here’s a map I could stare at for hours. In fact, I’ve definitely studied it more than any normal human should. This Canyonlands National Park map (9.9 mb) highlights the incredible maze-like topography of Canyonlands and invites careful study for planning future visits. Indeed, I’ve looked at this map and thought, “Ooooh, I want to go THERE. And there. And there…” Download the PDF and view more on the Canyonlands maps page.
This Death Valley National Park map (3.6 mb) proves that traditional top-down brochure maps don’t have to look plain and boring. Death Valley is a park dominated by rock, sand, and dirt; it’s not a tree lover’s destination! But this map uses different colors and shading to show the incredible geologic variety: salt flats, sand dunes, and canyons. Download the PDF and view more on the Death Valley maps page.
For a park you’ve maybe never heard of, the Dry Tortugas National Park map (550 kb) sure looks great. How amazing is that blue color? It’s a nice change of pace from the typical park maps that tend to be a little more boring (though maybe easier to read). But who cares? This is a “My favorite maps” page and not “easiest to read maps.” Download the PDF and view more on the Dry Tortugas maps page.
This Haleakala National Park map (4.0 mb) is one of my all-time favorites. This map was created for an exhibit display, so you won’t actually find it in any brochures. It actually shows the entire island of Maui rather than just the lands managed by the National Park Serivce. And that’s what’s so great — it provides context beyond just a top-down map view. Download the PDF and view more on the Haleakala maps page.
I have to throw a bone to my historian friends! So here’s a favorite map from a history-focused national park. This Harpers Ferry National Historical Park map (1.3 mb) is particularly fun because it shows each of the park’s historic buildings in a 3D pop-out perspective along with natural true-to-life colors, making it easy for pedestrians to navigate compared to a traditional map. Download the PDF and view more on the Harpers Ferry maps page.
Like the Haleakala map above, this Hawaii Volcanoes National Park map (2.1 mb) finds its way into my good graces because it shows the entire island of Hawai’i (the Big Island) instead of just the park itself. But my favorite thing about it? Labels for individual lava flows with dates! This is a living, breathing map — in fact, there have been new lava flows since this was published. Download the PDF and view more on the Hawaii Volcanoes maps page.
This Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve map (1.8 mb) theoretically is meant to show the several sites that make up this dispersed park. However, I can’t help be drawn to the coastal geomorphology that results from the mighty Mississippi River meeting the Gulf of Mexico. It’s easy to see at a glance why New Orleans and Louisiana are at such risk from sea level rise. Download the PDF and view more on the Jean Lafitte maps page.
I’m not sure there are any maps that so totally make me want to get on a boat and start exploring like this Kenai Fjords National Park map (2.1 mb). Who wouldn’t want to immediately grab a paddle and begin navigating the endless maze of fjords and bays to see glaciers flowing down from the Harding Icefield? The possibilities here are endless. Download the PDF and view more on the Kenai Fjords maps page.
The Oregon Trail map (3.0 mb) is one I feel like I could look at it forever and still keep learning things. The map provides little pop-up text descriptions to explain details about points of interest, but I especially love studying how the route navigates around obstacles in America’s varied western topography. Plus, well, I can’t help but feel the nostalgia of the old computer game. Download the PDF and view more on the National Trails maps page.
Traditional overhead maps are great to show where things are, but they don’t really communicate trail difficulties well. This Timpanogos Cave National Monument map (2.3 mb) is from a trailhead sign and does an excellent job of letting visitors know exactly what’s in store for them. Feel brave enough to tackle the hike? This map Download the PDF and view more on the Timpanogos Cave maps page.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, I’m a sucker for maps from an oblique aerial perspective. Thus, I absolutely can’t resist the White Sands National Monument map (1.4 mb). But this one has a bonus! Besides the cool aerial view and vivid colors, the map also helps teach you about the area, with arrows showing the prevailing wind direction and water flow. Download the PDF and view more on the White Sands maps page.