Before ever going on a hiking trail you should pick up a map of the area the trail is on. Maps will help you determine which way the trail goes and if it is near a body of water and/or the elevation of the land. Any map is a plus; the best option is a topographic map of the area with the trail marked on it. If this is not available to you then a map of the trail at least should be an option, check local hiking books for a map of the trail or do a search on-line. There are many hiking websites and lots of them have trail information.
How To Read A Map
Here are some main points to help you decipher your topographic map. Maps may differ from different publishers or in different countries.
- Read your map's legend this will help tell you the particular attributes of the map you have and what the symbols mean.
- The blue areas on the map usually indicate water such as a lake, stream, river or ocean (if along the coast).
- The contour lines are usually in brown and represent connected points of equal elevation.
- Closely spaced contour lines indicated a quick change in elevation, such as a falls, cliff, or sharp slope.
- Widespread lines mean a gradual change in elevation over a greater distance.
- Contour lines closed with a "V" shape in a valley or stream point upstream or uphill.
- The contour interval is the distance between contour lines and varies from map to map. A large contour interval makes it harder to determine the landscape and a small interval makes it easier.