DeLorme topo maps: Essential for the outdoor traveler.

Since posting my article on dispersed camping a few days ago I’ve had quite a few questions on HOW one goes about finding places to camp on public land. Today I’m prepared to answer that question in the form of a gushing review of the DeLorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer series.

I’ll admit, when I started my review of these priceless books-of-maps, I couldn’t figure out why they went to the trouble of calling them “Atlas and Gazetteers”.  So fancy-schmancy… what was the point?  Being ever the resourceful one, I decided to find the answer.  I called Olivia.

“I dunno”  she informed me.  “Look it up.”

So I did.

Atlas: /’atles/  A book of maps or charts.
Gazetteer: /gazi’ti(Ə)r/   A geographical directory of places containing information on things like mountains, waterways, camping areas, historic markers, state and national parks, roads etc.


Put them together and that’s exactly what we have here:  A book of amazingly detailed, large-format topographic and informative maps.

Because Atlas and Gazetteer is too long to keep saying I will here-to-fore refer to these publications as A&G.

I’ve been a fan of this A&G series for a very very (very) long time.  It’s amazing how often we use these them. They go everywhere with us, they even have a permanent spot in the back of the van underneath the mat so that if we’re out of the house, so are they.

They provide information on camping, hiking trails, cities, and most importantly, back roads! And they have a version for all 50 states.

How do I use them?  Well, let’s take some hypothetical situations that (strangely) mirror real ones that may or may not actually happen on a regular basis. Here is a small portion from this sample page. (note the A, B, C correlations to the map).

Hypothetical A.  You’re traveling and it’s getting late, because your husband stopped at sixty-seven rest stops and pull-offs to look for some odd 6 legged critter for his latest scientific study.  You need to stop for the night. You get out your map, locate your present position, and find the closest little triangular shape to you–a.k.a. a campground, Domingo Springs.

Hypothetical B. On second thought, upon pulling through said campground and seeing that the cost for sleeping on the ground there for the next seven hours costs the same amount as some motel rooms you’ve stayed in, you aren’t sure you want to stay after all.  So you look for the nearest forest service road. Ahhh, look at all the little roads coming off FR 29N14. There has got to be a suitable pull-off along the side roads.

Hypothetical C. You wake from your night of sleeping on an unused logging road in the middle of nowhere and are yearning for a trail to hike. Oh look, here’s one! Oooh, it even goes by a lake and up into Lassen Volcanic National Park. Perfect!

Whatever hypothetical travelling situation you find yourself in, these maps are sure to help.  They’ve kept me off of private property, steered me towards obscure wonders across the west, and saved me buckets of money I might have spent in crowded campgrounds.

They come highly recommended. By me. And Olivia.

You can get them from sporting goods stores, Walmartish type stores (in the magazine section) or for the best price, check them out on Amazon.

16 Comments so far

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  1. JanS

    I love those gazetteers. I have at least five different states. They are not quite as useful in Washington State because there isn’t much BLM land here, although there are plenty of national forests.

    Another reason to have one in the car at all times: when there is an accident that shuts down a major highway, it’s nice to be able to quickly search for another route to take.

    Most sporting goods stores carry them for your state.

  2. I think we have one for every western state and the Utah one stays in my car. LOVE them! We will be using it tomorrow as we dispersal camp around Boulder Mountain, Utah.

    Oh, and isn’t Lassen a wonderful place?

    • Boulder MT is one of the best places on Earth. I miss living in Escalante so bad it hurts! And yes, didn’t spend enough time in Lassen that’s for sure! Hope your trip went well!!

      • When did you live in Escalante? Such a small cute town. Our trip was great. Thanks!

  3. Yes. I’ve used my A&Gs a lot and LOVE them. Now when spending any good chunk of time in or passing through a state we make a point to get that state’s A&G.

    • Kristal – Great use of the new terminology. Long live the A&G :)

  4. Superb post. We’ve churned through several gazetteers over time, they’re very handy and, like Melissa, found the best place to keep them is in the car. I find I like the black “Road and Recreation Atlas” a little better than these Delorme’s. Just opinion. And for getting down and dirty with a specific National Forest or Park, it’s hard to beat the National Geographic “Trails Illustrated” folding maps.

    • Cristina

      Mark, why do you like those better? I am looking into purchasing something like this. Outdoormom, great post!!

      • Cristina

        oops! I meant Outside mom :)

        • Cristina – Haha, no worries, I sometimes think my blog is called outdoormom as well, because it would have been had that domain not been taken :).

          I’ve actually used both but I liked DeLorme better for no other reason than it’s just what I’ve gotten use to. When I was doing a lot of field work around the Western US (for a Consulting Firm) I had the DeLorme for some states and the Road and Recreation Atlas for others. It drove me nuts to use the Road and Recreation because I’d spent the previous 2 years doing field work for the USDA using only the DeLorme maps. They look different so I couldn’t find what I was looking for as fast.

          They were both GREAT maps… unless you were my brain.

          But yes, Mark, why do you like those better? I’d be interested to know!

      • Ah, good questions. The DeLorme was the only one I’d ever used, too, but once had to buy the Colorado Road and Recreation while on a trip because it was the only choice. I didn’t like it at first because I was just so used to the look of the DeLorme. That changed, though. Turns out I’ve experienced much better/accurate forest roads, back roads and Jeep trails in the Road and Recreation versions. I find they have better inclusions of trailheads, campgrounds and other things like ruins and arches, too. A small thing, but the Road and Recreation also includes a regional highway map covering several states on one page, which is pretty cool for general road tripping; I can use the Utah Road and Recreation atlas for planning a highway route to Moab (for example) from home in Arizona, with possible alternatives and then use the detailed landscape maps when I get there to find backroads in Canyonlands or Arches or whatever. When I road trip, I’m sort of a “what’s a new way home I’ve never taken?” kind of guy. So that’s useful to me.

        Aside from the maps, the Road and Recreations have a dang good section in the front dedicated to recreation guidance. It’s probably easy to skip over because you’re used to flipping straight to the map you need. But this section has a load of info for things to see and do for a given region of the state you’re in; interesting towns, natural wonders, put-ins, campgrounds, historic sites, wildlife areas, etc. with phone numbers to the administering management office.

        In short, the Road and Recreation has proven itself in my travels. The DeLorme is still good.

        • Cristina

          Thanks Mark, that is some really good information! :)

        • Thanks Mark! I might have to give those another try.

    • Mark – Ya, why do you like those better? I’ve used both, and I recall them being similar, just looking different. I like the DeLorme better just because I’ve used it more so it’s easier for me to navigate. But I’d be interested to know what you see on the Road and Recreation Atlas.

      Also, yes!, the Trails Illustrated series is awesome! And much more durable than buying individual sheets of topo maps.

  5. […] up camp wherever you want, which is technically known as ‘dispersed camping‘. I have topo maps of just about every state in the west for the sole purpose of knowing exactly where to find Forest […]


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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