The Northwest Trails Project!
What Is the Northwest Trails Project?
In short, the Northwest Trails Project is a community effort to record and collect GPS data for trails in the Pacific Northwest and use that data to create a publicly-available custom mapset that can be uploaded to any map-enabled Garmin GPS.
Collecting and recording trail data for use on GPS is a labor of love that I have been working on for years. I always would upload tracks to my GPS to help navigate the routes that I wanted to follow, but there are problems with using the data this way. For one, no GPS can accommodate more than a few tracks at a time. Thus, you need to know beforehand what route you want to take and, if you are talking about even a modestly sized network of trails, you have to decide which trails to cull in order for things to fit into your receiver. That's when I started thinking about custom maps for my receiver.
With custom maps like Northwest Trails, there is no longer a need to limit the number of trails loaded on the GPS (the maps use only a portion of map memory rather than a limited number of dedicated slots like tracks do). I set out making these maps for my own use and before too long realized that a lot of other people could probably use them, too. That's why I started this project.
Northwest Trails is made to be "transparent", which means that when loaded with other Mapsource products or the GPSr base map the trails can be viewed at the same time as data overlaying the other maps. Northwest Trails can also be loaded directly to the GPSr on its own. Custom type definitions are used to help distinguish trail types and make them easier to see on the map than the default trail lines. These custom types include:
- Trails: red dotted lines
- Paved trails: maroon dotted lines
- Unpaved roads: maroon dashed lines
- Minor trails (game traces, etc.): thin maroon dotted lines
The mapset currently covers the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska along with some data for British Columbia. The intent is, over time, for the coverage to expand to include thorough coverage of all trails located in the Pacific Northwest.
How Do I Get Started?
First, visit the Northwest Trails web page and download the latest version of the mapset from there. Once you have downloaded it, unzip the file and then execute the mapset installer. This program will install the map files and register the mapset with MapSource. Within MapSource a new mapset product entitled "Northwest Trails" will be available in the Product drop down selection list (or from the View | Switch to Product menu option).
The Northwest Trails mapset should overlay any other mapset present on your GPS unit. It is important to note that when you upload maps to your receiver, the existing mapset on the unit will be deleted. This means that if you want Northwest Trails to overlay City Navigator maps, for example, you will need to upload the chosen City Navigator maps along with Northwest Trails all at once. To switch between mapsets (if more than one has been loaded to your GPS) simply toggle the hide/show settings for the desired mapsets on your receiver.
How Good Is the Data?
The accuracy of the data used to create Northwest Trails varies greatly. Areas close to where I live that I have spent months working on, such as Tiger Mountain, Cougar Mountain, Soaring Eagle Park, etc., are quite good. Of course GPS reception can vary, collection methods can differ among individuals, etc. In addition, in order to help "flesh out" the data, I incorporated GIS data from various sources including the National Forest Service, various county agencies, and even maps that I found online. In general, you should use the maps cautiously and expect that the data to be off for any given trail.
Now I need to give the customary disclaimer: These maps are to be used for reference purposes only. The author(s) are not responsible for any inaccuracies and no responsibility is assumed for damages or other liabilities due to the accuracy, availability, use or misuse of the data presented. Installation and use of these maps is at your own risk!
This Is Great! How Can I Help?
The core of Northwest Trails is the data. The real heart of that data is tracks recorded out in the field with GPS. Since data of this accuracy is hard to come by from government and other agencies, and I cannot possibly get out there and hike all of the trails of the Northwest (although I'd like ot try!), that's where you come in! Any track data you can supply is needed and most appreciated, and will be integrated into the Northwest Trails mapset for everyone to use. This does not just mean major hiking trails, but any other data that you think would be helpful to our geocaching and hiking community: neighborhood paved trails, logging roads that don't appear on Garmin's maps, etc.
If you would like to collect and submit your track data to the project, please follow these pointers so that your effort can be as useful as possible:
- Before you start recording track data, access the Setup menu for your GPS receiver and adjust the recording frequency and quality set of your track recording to the best available. On my unit I generally set the recording method to "Auto" and the recording interval to "Most Often".
- Turn on the GPS receiver and allow it to have a clear view of the sky for at least 15 minutes before you begin recording. This allows the unit to connect with as many satellites as possible, which increases accuracy and helps it to maintain satellite lock.
- Hold or place the receiver in a location where it can best receive satellite signals as you travel. Be aware of where the antenna is located and the best orientation of the GPSr for signal strength. Patch antennas like those on the eTrex models work best when oriented horizontally, while quad helix antennas like those on the 60 series receivers tend to work best when pointed straight up.
- Avoid saving the track to the unit's internal memory before downloading. That reduces the number of points in the data and subsequently reduces the precision of the track.
- Send me the track log with the name of the trail(s) recorded and information on the type of trail (e.g. paved trail, dirt trail, unpaved road, etc.). GPX is the preferred format, but I can convert most formats.
- Also send along any waypoints along the route like trailheads, attractions, or summits.
- Publicly available and free to use
- Easy to obtain
- Accurate and fully classified (for example, trails should have names and surface attributes, etc.)
This post has been edited by Moun10Bike: 13 May 2008 - 10:58 AM