Maps for Recreation in the Colville National Forest

by Anne Ott

Want to hike, bike, or drive on roads and trails in the Colville National Forest? Recreation is the #1 activity on our public lands in NE Washington, and having accurate maps is key to staying safe and legal, since not all roads and trails are open to all types of recreation!

The Forest Service produces 2 types of paper maps: the Travel Map showing all kinds of roads and trails for every form of recreation, and the official motorized recreation map called the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). These maps are available at local USFS Offices in Republic, Colville, Kettle Falls, Sullivan Lake, and Newport, and are also available online from the USFS’ website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/colville/home.

Do you prefer to use websites or mapping apps on your phone or tablet? There are many websites that claim they’re providing accurate information, but many are crowd-sourced information, which means they aren’t necessarily legal routes! How do you know if you’re trespassing on private property, on a closed hiking trail, or on a road that’s not legal for your vehicle? This is where mapping apps become key components of a safe and legal outing in the National Forest. Of the many available mapping apps, the most popular and accurate are: Avenza, Gaia, and OnX. You should always use the MVUM or Travel Map, however, to double-check your mapping app’s accuracy for your chosen route. Make it a habit to carry the paper map as a back-up navigation system when you travel in the National Forest!
Mapping apps are a great help when visiting the Colville NF, as they turn your smartphone or tablet into a GPS that shows your location and allow you to track your route – download your maps prior to visiting the forest, then all you need is a satellite signal to operate these mapping apps. The free app, Avenza, is a great resource nationwide, since you can simply download the app (“PDF Maps”) from your App Store and then download the free USFS maps for the regions of any National Forest that you wish to visit. This ensures you’ll always have a current MVUM or Travel Map to guide your travels in the forest!

Another popular app is OnX, whose apps include “Hunt” and “Offroad” versions – the Hunt version includes property ownership and the local MVUM, and the Offroad version shows local roads and trails with MVUM information; both apps work nationally for mapping but are relatively expensive to download. Gaia is another popular mapping app but is also fairly expensive to download; it does include local non-motorized trails and MVUM information. The best thing about using the OnX or Gaia apps, though, is that they show local and state roads and trails that are open for recreation, whereas the National Forest maps don’t show information about private or other public lands.

Online information on mapping apps can be found at http://www.avenza.com, http://www.gaiagps.com, and http://onxmaps.com . Using the best available mapping and GPS technology can greatly enhance your recreation experience in the Colville National Forest!

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