2022 Updated CalTopo Philmont Planning Map

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Home Forums Scouting Philmont 2022 Updated CalTopo Philmont Planning Map

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    Gerry H
    BPL Member


    Locale: USA Mid-Atlantic

    I had spare time and felt there was an audience for a solid Philmont digital planning map. So, at CalTopo I have a pubically-shared map:

    It has the new 2021 and 2022 camps that are listed on The primary data source was the current (labelled 2021) edition of the Ranch GIS Department KMZ file. The “full” 2021 GIS KMZ file includes MANY DATA POINTS such as the camp roads, 99% of the trails, trails labelled “Under Construction”, camp locations, the turnarounds/trailheads, and numerous peaks marked.

    I merged the new/changed data into my 2020 edition of the CalpTopo map. I dropped the GIS roads layer, added several peaks, and the CHQ road entrances. I retained camps that are closed for historical interest (and I am too lazy to delete them).


    Against my better judgement I included the VERY overly-detailed PSR GIS trail routes, but made them not visible by default. I did take the step of manually splitting the GIS trails into North, Fire Zone, and South sub-folders as an attempt to improve rendering performance. The PSR trail data is VERY disorganized, split into HUNDREDS of odd little pieces, and has ZERO labels. The GIS trail data really is more trouble than it is worth compared to the “more than good enough” trails from Open Street Map.

    CalTopo has a good Open Street Map layer/option that includes most Philmont trails. The trails in OSM are named/labelled by what camps they connect. CalTopo also has an autotrace (called auto-route) function that can draw a custom (and exportable) line along OSM routes. One “gotcha” to watch out for is that the CalTopo auto-route will pick whatever route is shortest, including fire roads and so-called “staff trails” that the ranch does not “encourage” campers to use. The routing behavior can be over-ruled by clicking on “good trails” at junctions along the way. There is a brief explanation of the function here:

    With the Itinerary Guide, and the OSM or TF Outdoor base map, you could get a very good map for any trek. In the samples I looked at the PSR GIS trail and the OSM trail differ within one or two tenths of a mile. I had great success using to find out what sub-routes connect camps if you search for camps by name.

    I retained my version of the boundaries for the surrounding land that PSR uses, based on a mix of the old 2019 GIS file and Open Street Map. I include a down-sampled copy of the PSR-provided perimeter for the 2018 Ute Park Fire “Semi No-Go Zone”.

    CalTopo can export a GPX and KML files. I don’t have anything that reads/needs GPX files, so I have no idea if they are “too big”. CalTopo can also export KML files for people stuck using Google Maps. I have worked with KML. Without deleting all the trail data, the exported KML file is VERY LARGE and Google Maps will choke on it. You will need to split things up yourself.

    If you aren’t familiar with CalTopo, read through recent (January 2022) posts at the CalTopo blog at:

    I MIGHT be able to provide LIMITED help via posts here at BackpackingLite. If you have no idea what any of these files and acronyms mean, you need to find the basics for yourself. I simply do NOT have the time to teach a detailed How-To guide. Nor do I have time to export data for individual itineraries. Sorry, but I have family AND a Troop AND my 2022 Philmont crew to prepare.


    On the trail at Philmont, Scouts should ONLY USE PHILMONT-PRINTED MAPS AND COMPASS for navigation. This file is provided for planning purposes only and might not match the latest documents published by Philmont Scout Ranch. If try you use this as a primary navigation tool at Philmont, you are a fool and consider yourself warned not to do that. Seriously – don’t do it.

    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Brad P


    Yes, thank you!!

    Derek H
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    This is great.  I have a Caltopo account and make my own maps to download to Gaia for my phone to navigate in the field.  Am I able to copy this map and customize it for our trek 12-11?  Can you point me toward info on how to do it?  I want to be respectful of your time as I know this took a ton of work already.

    Gerry H
    BPL Member


    Locale: USA Mid-Atlantic

    Of course you can add your itinerary- but you will need to save a copy to you CalTopo account. For learning CalTopo, their documentation is very good these days. Terms to look up are auto-routing, adding  lines, folders (for organizing markers and lines). I advise the first thing to do is make your own copy of the starter map. Then make a copy of that and work on that one. There’s not much in the way of “undo” on CalTopo.

    I would at least turn off display of the camps in the half of PSR you aren’t traveling in. Once you are confident you won’t need them, you can even delete that folder. You should do similar with Mountain peaks and turnarounds that aren’t applicable to your trek. Boundaries and zones  are also good to pare down to what you actually need.

    As for base layers to use, I switch between the default Topo builder and Open Street Map. Topo builder is based on OSM, but is very crowded with information in places. Both layers show 99% of PSR trails and camps, and can be used with auto-route to draw lines on the trails you want to use. You have to zoom in fairly close on those layers to read camp names.

    A word of warning on auto-route and PSR – auto-route will use “roads” (fire or jeep) instead of trails if that way is shorter. At PSR, you should avoid roads if a trail is parallel or nearby. The roads are for trucks, and are usually steep compared to the trail.

    I’ll follow this thread if you have questions.

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