An NPMaps Exclusive!

I found a bit of time for a fun update: I am pleased to present my first ever exclusive! That’s right – I’ve actually uploaded five maps that were previously unavailable anywhere online, including the official government sites. I’m the first to host them. Exciting stuff, huh? So, let’s get to it…

Glacier St Mary mapSo, which is the lucky page? Why it’s none other than Glacier National Park maps! Through secret sources (ooooooh!), I’ve been given four new trail maps for Lake McDonald, Logan Pass/St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine that are free to use and distribute. Enjoy! These are better than the ones the park includes in their free hiking handouts.

Black Canyon East Portal campground mapOh, but that’s not all – I actually have a second exclusive to share with you! This one is slightly less exciting, however; it’s just a campground map for East Portal Campground on the Black Canyon of the Gunnison maps page. So what makes it an exclusive? Well, this is a map I’ve never been able to find online; I actually got this map by visiting in person, taking a photo of the campground registration board, and digitizing it myself. (Never let it be said that I’m not dedicated.) So for now, this is the only place online you’ll be able to find this map.

Gateway National Recreation Area mapBut I haven’t just been sitting here content with only a few exclusives. Nope; enjoy the 28 maps I’ve just uploaded to the new Gateway National Recreation Area maps page. Honestly, I’ve been procrastinating on this one for a while as I knew it would take me a long time. And it did. But hey, now it’s up and I can move on to something more fun. New parks coming soon…

Um, wow. Thank you.

Creating this website was frustrating. “Come on Google, find this site! It’s really great, I promise – people will totally like it.” But over the first year of existence, I received about 20,000 total webpage views.

Over the last two days alone, I tripled that number. Wow! Thank you.

Chelsea Clinton shared my post?It’s been so much fun seeing it spread throughout social media this week, as users (Chelsea Clinton?!) have been enthusiastically sharing blog posts about this site from CityLab, Unofficial Networks, Teton Gravity Research, Mother Nature Network, the Oregonian, Mental Floss… the list goes on.

It’s been a blast. Why? It’s not really a money thing – you’ll notice I don’t have any web ads so I can keep things as simple as possible to get you to the maps quickly. I make enough money from the Amazon map referrals to cover my web hosting fees, so I’m hoping to keep things ad free unless my web hosting costs increase from all the new traffic.

Rather, it’s just fun to see my hard work appreciated; really, isn’t that all we want in life? Yes, it was frustrating to try filling (what I thought was) a need and not having anyone notice, but it’s totally worth it now that people have noticed.

Thank you for that. I hope I’ve made your national park visit a little easier and a little better.

I know I’ve been a bit slow about creating new pages over the last few weeks; honestly, summer is here and the weather is getting nice so I just haven’t spent as much time indoors. I’ve been out visiting the parks instead of just writing about them – what a concept!

So I appreciate your patience. I’ve received lots of requests by email asking me to upload maps for Local Park X and Favorite Park Y. Keep them coming! It does help me decide which pages to focus on next. But this is just a “whenever I have free time” project of mine, and I find I have less free time during the summer. More will be coming! I don’t plan on stopping until I have a page for each park.

And then I have national forests, state parks, BLM land…  You might as well just consider this site to be a work in progress for, say, the next 10 years.

New parks and lots of updates

Hot off the presses!

New pages

Alcatraz mapThe Alcatraz maps page was tricky, as I didn’t know what to call it. Technically Alcatraz is just one small part of the much larger Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so it shouldn’t really get its own page since it isn’t its own national park site. But really, who that’s looking for a map of Alcatraz will do a search for Golden Gate? So the 4 Alcatraz maps get its own page. This was a practical decision, if not technically correct.

Valley Forge mapI got a request to include more historic sites in the northeast U.S., so I added the Valley Forge maps page with 11 maps. Technically the request was for battlefields, and while Valley Forge doesn’t quite fit the bill, I had a lot of maps for it so it seemed like a good start.

Effigy Mounds regional mapI also had a visitor point out I didn’t have any Iowa parks yet. This was true. But not anymore, as Effigy Mounds maps is now in the books! 4 Effigy Mounds maps to start with for Iowa. Maybe Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will come soon to give it some company.

Women's Rights mapAnother request I received was for Women’s Rights National Historical Park. I’m pretty lacking in the historical park category – and really don’t have any urban parks yet – so here’s 3 maps for the Women’s Rights maps page.

For the rest of you who wrote in with requests: don’t worry, they’re coming too!

Page updates

Yellowstone Old Faithful mapSome old pages got new updates. My biggest overhaul was to Yellowstone maps, adding 15 new maps to bring it up to 37 total. Grand Canyon maps wasn’t left out either – I found some new maps of North Rim (and did some major page reorganization), leaving me with 22 Grand Canyon maps.

Glacier Bay terminus mapI had to give Alaska some love, so both Glacier Bay maps and Katmai maps got a couple new maps each, giving each page a total of 6 maps… so far. I hope to add more later.

Hawaii regional mapAnd a new map each to each of the following pages: Craters of the Moon maps, Mount Rushmore maps, Hawaii Volcanoes maps, and Indiana Dunes maps.

Other changes

I also had a request to add social media share buttons to my map pages to make them easier to share trip-planning information with friends. I actually tried this out when I first started my site, but ended up removing them since I felt it looked spammy and just increased page load time. But after seeing the way the Smithsonian article about my site spread through social media, I decided to give it another shot. This time, however, I put the buttons on the bottom of each page. While that might mean things get shared less since not everyone will find them, I don’t like having it on top since I want the content to come first.

A Huge Thank You

It’s been a fun week as I’ve enjoyed watching everyone discover my site for the first time thanks to this article in Smithsonian Magazine, which resulted from the my interview in National Parks Traveler. I loved seeing all the tweets and Facebook shares from those of you who finally found me. To put it into perspective, in the last four days, I received as many page views as I did in the first 15 months of my site existing! It’s great to see my work being used. Thanks to your shares and visits, this is what the Most Popular sidebar on Smithsonian looked like the following day:

Most popular stories at Smithsonian
#1 a day later and still #2 the following day

Yep; I didn’t fall off the list until today – four days after the article was first published. While small potatoes to some people, this was a pretty big deal for me as a part-time, “work on it whenever I have time” webmaster.

The Smithsonian article was especially interested in what my most popular pages were, as it linked to my earlier blog post proclaiming Bryce Canyon Maps as my most popular page. So now, I present the results to you from a new experiment; what pages were most popular to those who found my site from Smithsonian?

Most popular maps among Smithsonian visitors

  1. Bryce Canyon maps
  2. Yosemite maps 
  3. Grand Canyon maps
  4. Yellowstone maps
  5. Glacier maps
  6. Big Bend maps
  7. Zion maps
  8. Acadia maps
  9. Great Smoky Mountains maps
  10. Canyonlands maps

Any surprises there? I’m not surprised that Bryce was first, as it was specifically mentioned in Smithsonian. Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone all sound like logical top choices, too. But Canyonlands?! I’m shocked to see it that high, especially ahead of Arches. I’ve always considered it an underrated park, but apparently it’s starting to get the respect it deserves.

What’s next for the site? Maps. Lots and lots more maps. I’ve only just gotten started!

It happened: 1000 maps!

1,000 maps are now uploaded (1,006 to be exact). Honestly, I never thought I’d actually get this far. I started this site on a whim and figured I’d lose interest after a while. And that’s partly true! There was a period of about 18 months when I hardly touched this site. Yet here I am again, plugging right along, slowly but surely. You can see my renewed interest after the new year:

April 24 2016 number of maps

So what pages are new since my last update?

John Day Fossil Beds Sheep Rock mapJohn Day Fossil Beds maps: on the board with 11 maps. I had to give Crater Lake some company so Oregon had more than one page. You’ll notice though that I have yet to add on any “Related parks” links to this page or any other of the new ones below. Honestly, that part is pretty time-consuming and not a lot of fun, so it gets put on the back burner when the alternative is to add some new pages. You’ll see the related parks links pop up soon enough.

Jewel Cave layout mapJewel Cave maps rounds out the Black Hills area with 6 maps, to go along with Mount Rushmore, Badlands, and Wind Cave. Just an embarrassment of riches for western South Dakota.

Cape Lookout mapNext we have 6 for Cape Lookout maps, the next-door neighbor to Cape Hatteras. North Carolina is sitting pretty smug with their four parks uploaded so far.

Niobrara mapI felt bad for poor Nebraska, without a single page to its name so far. Niobrara maps came to Nebraska’s rescue, but with just 4 maps for now. I’ve got to show some love to some of those National Scenic Rivers in the Midwest. St. Croix – your time is coming soon.

Cape Cod Nauset Light mapNow we get into some heavy hitters! I’ve been procrastinating on Cape Cod maps for a while, as so many of the maps were locked up in PDF documents in a not-so-user-friendly format. I finally buckled down and got ‘er done. 24 maps!

Lake Mead mapAnother one I’ve long been putting off – Lake Mead maps jumps into the fray with 27 maps. A very auspicious debut! It’s going to be hard for any new page to start out with more than Lake Mead; it’s truly a force to be reckoned with, even as a rookie.

Florissant Fossil Beds mapNow some more modest pages – ones that don’t need to show off. Florissant Fossil Beds maps starts with a respectable 5, but nothing too flashy. Just the basics; a true workmanlike performance. (Clearly I’m getting tired when everything turns into sports vocabulary.)

White Sands mapAnd finally, bringing up the read, we have White Sands maps at 8 maps. New Mexico is climbing up the leaderboard with 3 parks represented on NPMaps so far!

Seems like I’ve gotta be almost done, right? Well, right now I’ve only got 93 of 411 national park units up so far. So, uh: not almost done. Although, yes, many national park units do not have maps, especially small national historic sites and newly established units. Not only that, but I’ve really covered much of the big well-visited parks that feature lots of parks; many of the remaining ones don’t have as many maps available. Sooooooooooo… I’m going to be optimistic and say I’m halfway done. The big question: can I pick up the pace? Here’s hoping I can speed things up and finish the site before 2019.

A random other behind-the-scenes note: I turned off ads on the site for now; I wasn’t too happy with some of the ones being displayed and felt like they were getting a bit overbearing. I might experiment a bit down the road with some different types or different placement; my goal is to cover hosting fees but without hurting the user experience. A couple people on reddit asked if I would be willing to accept donations, but I just feel weird about accepting money for something that ought to be free. So there will probably be an ad of some sort eventually (unless the Amazon links do well enough), but I will do my best to keep it unobtrusive.

A new first as I surpass 900 maps

Harpers Ferry Lower Town mapToday, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park gets the honored distinction of being the first historical park added to this site – eight new maps! I actually have another eight for the park coming down the pipeline, but sometimes real life gets in the way and I run out of time to do as much work as originally planned. So those will just have to wait. Edit: scratch that – I added the eight trail maps so now it’s up to sixteen.

I should clarify: there are other pages up featuring parks with a historical bent to them (Kennesaw Mountain, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, Bandelier…). It’s just that Harpers Ferry is the first of the designated “historical parks” I have up. A subtle distinction possibly only cared about by national park dorks? Absolutely!

That puts NPMaps at 85 map pages and 904 total maps now, after passing 800 not too long ago. Can I keep this momentum going?

Edit: thanks to for publishing a really nice interview with me about the site last week! I always enjoy getting a chance to talk about my project.

New feature: interactive maps!

I’m always tweaking away, trying to incrementally improve the pages I already have up rather than only focusing on adding new pages. Today was a big change: every single map page now has an interactive Google map in the sidebar!

I realize this might seem pointless; after all, anyone can just google a park and pull up its result on Google Maps. However, I know from experience that this usually isn’t too helpful for driving directions; Google seems to often choose an arbitrary point inside the park to send you to. This results in a lot of visitors blindly following directions to somewhere they don’t actually want to go.

On this site, every single interactive map is centered on a visitor center or major point of interest that you’ll actually want to go to. So go ahead and use the pop-out interactive map for directions – you’ll probably want to actually go there! I’m not going to tell you to follow it blindly, but you now have much less of a chance of getting lost.