It can be a challenge.
I’m frequently asked to give recommendations for the best hiking guidebooks
to get trail information from. I rarely have an answer.
The problem is that many guidebooks and websites haven’t been updated in years, and many have erroneous information. There are plenty that are good, too, but the problem then is figuring out which is which. So, what do you do to get good trail information?
Typically, some of the best information comes from “official” sources — local national forest websites or city, county and national parks websites. These agencies usually offer printed information at their offices, or through local outdoors equipment retailers, too. Government agencies do the best job of keeping information current and up-to-date with raw data, since they have the responsibility of maintaining the trails and parks under their jurisdiction.
Guidebooks and trail-oriented websites typically give you a user’s point-of-view of trails and usually only offer information on the most popular — you’ve probably done those trails already. Without updates or new editions, the information in guidebooks can become stale after a few years. And as for trail-oriented websites, many just publish whatever information they get from anyone out there without any vetting, leading to inaccurate information.
I recently came across a couple of examples: One website lists the trail for a local peak as being on private property and advising the hiker to get permission from a local resort to access it. In reality, the peak and the entire length of the trail leading to it, is on public lands. Another page gives the wrong directions for a popular trail, leading the unbeknownst hiker in a loop back to the trailhead instead of to the intended destination.
Local trail and friends groups are also good sources of accurate trails and park information, and many provide timely updates regarding trail closures and the openings of new trails, usually far faster than most other sites. The members and leaders of trail and friends groups are active hikers, runners and cyclists, and have detailed knowledge of their parks and trails. And local outdoors equipment stores are typically staffed with avid outdoors enthusiasts and the staff at the stores are usually happy to answer any questions and provide information, along with selling maps and recommending guide books.
Speaking of maps, some of the best information comes from good, detailed maps, and they’re especially good for finding trails that you may not otherwise find of even know about. The Pikes Peak Atlas
is a very detailed map of the Pikes Peak region, and a “must have” in my opinion. (However, it hasn’t been updated for several years.) And the locally produced Pocket Pals
series of maps are easy to read, and offer detailed information for the areas they cover. Learn how to use and read a map and a compass in conjunction with a map, neither will do you much good if you don’t know how to use them.
(You can always use my hiking advice and trail information
So how are you to find good trail information? My method is to check several sources, and from there I can usually get an accurate picture of the trail I’m looking at.
Bob Falcone is a firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and small business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the board president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org