UPDATE: This product has been discontinued. Read my review of Garmin’s new nationwide Topo US 24K maps.
One of the frustrating things about backcountry use of GPS is having to live with "as the crow flies" routing. That’s not so bad when you’re off-trail, but on trail, I’d prefer my GPS tell me that its five trail miles to the destination rather than three "as the crow flies" miles. The crow can fly, but I can’t.
On one of my last outings, I had a chance to try out Garmin’s US TOPO 24K which shows contour intervals closer to USGS 1:24,000 scale maps than their USA TOPO (1:100K) product, hence the name. During one outing, I happened to be on the dividing line between these two coverages, as captured in the screen shot to the left.
Clearly, this enhanced level of detail is desirable, but having routable trails excites me just as much. I couldn’t trick my GPS into capturing a screen shot of a route, but the image to the right comes from the MapSource desktop. You can see that the software routed along the highway and a trail, but that it had to do "line of sight" routing where one trail was not on the map. It was really nice to know just how far I had to go to the next junction.
The formal name of this product is US TOPO 24K – National Parks, and you can purchase it for the eastern, central or western U.S. But as I discovered on this trip, it covers more than just national parks. The images shown here were not captured in national parks, but in the San Bernardino National Forest.
You can go to Garmin’s coverage map for the east, central and west package to see what areas are covered, and to see which Garmin receivers are compatible with this software. For a detailed look, check out Garmin’s MapSource Map Viewer, which allows you to see exactly what will appear on your GPS screen for any given area, for any of their products.
Find the best prices on Garmin US Topo 24K at these merchants: