BLM's digital map series lightens the load for recreationists

Published: Apr. 26, 2017 at 10:16 AM AKDT
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If you're thinking about hitting the trails in Alaska, the Bureau of Land Management already has ten different digital maps available for use across the Last Frontier.

And soon, they'll be adding two more maps to cover Campbell Tract, which includes 730 acres that are open for non-motorized use, and the Iditarod Trail.

"They're awesome-looking maps to begin with," said Cathy Hillis, BLM Geospatial Manager. "And we've got a talented staff that does a really good job with making beautiful maps, too."

Using the Digital Public Information Map Series, or DPIMS, people can figure out where they are on the Alaska trail system by using their smart mobile devices without cell phone or internet service. It also, BLM reps said, "provides improved access to BLM-managed lands and public safety initiatives."

Rather than the latter, the maps are used with apps that instead utilize global positioning.

"I'm excited," Hillis said. "I think they're beautiful. Of course, I love maps, but I think they're a beautiful product, and that they're going to be really helpful to the public."

Hillis said it's easy to add and adjust the maps, so they've been tweaking them since the start and are always looking for feedback.


The maps are for use on GPS-enabled devices and can be displayed on any PDF reader. When the maps are viewed on a mobile map application specifically, the location of the user can be displayed on the screen in real time.

Download the BLM maps.

First, the free BLM maps should be downloaded on to your device


to being in an area that may not have data coverage. If you do not have service to download the maps, you won't be able to get to them. Visit the

to obtain the maps of your choice, which are available for areas across the United States, including Alaska.

You can also put them on your computer and transfer them to your device instead of downloading them directly to your device, but if you do the latter, message and data rates may apply.

Snag a mobile map application from the app store of your choice.

The BLM series of maps is free for everyone to use at this point, but not all map applications are the same way.

You can download map applications for various types of devices, including from the Android and Apple stores.

One of the available applications is the AVENZA Maps Mobile App, as they already have a number of BLM maps uploaded within the application. Like most, there are some free maps and some maps that are available for purchase.

Ensure Location Services is enabled for the mobile map application.

This is a setting you will have to check on your personal device. If the Location Services setting is currently off, it needs to be on in order to use the DPIMS. You can change that setting when you're done if you want.

Hit the trails!

Outside of other preparation, it's important to keep a few other things in mind when using the DPIMS.

Phone battery life, for example, can significantly decrease in areas with no cellular service because the device will constantly search for a signal. To get around this a bit better, you can set your phone to airplane mode. This setting won't interfere with GPS tracking.

However, accuracy can be diminished due to bad weather or close proximity to tall walls and slot canyons.

It's always best to know your surroundings and not solely depend on the DPIMS, though it can be a huge help whether simply for fun or for a more serious reason. However, the BLM has said previously that there is no warranty for completeness or accuracy: Always exercise caution when out and about on the trails.

Also know that because of detail and the amount of land space the BLM maps cover, it's recommended that WiFi or a cable setup is used for downloading.

Just want to print out a paper map? No problem!

If paper maps are your preference, printable versions are available so that you can use them without a mobile device.

Maps are available for various spots in Alaska.

Click the link for the map of the trail listed.

Campbell Tract (Coming soon!)

Iditarod Trail (Coming soon!)


The series covers more than 100 million acres - and counting - of BLM-managed lands.

Hillis said there are more to come, and that the group is always working on new ones.

The Campbell Tract map of the DPIMS will be available in June. The Iditarod Trail map will also be available this summer.