The trail-less wilderness of Denali sprawls over an area equal to the state of Massachusetts. Its taigas and tundras rise up into North America’s tallest peak. In this most wild of places, only one road wends its way through the park, and trails have no place.
Last week, I noticed a picture of Denali on Instagram from a Gaia GPS user, and I wondered why she hadn’t posted tracks to gaiagps.com too, so I reached out. I learned that she refrained from sharing because “The Denali Backcountry Office” asks people to keep their GPS data offline. The Office issues permits for the park, and also works to preserve its wild beauty and maintain an experience of solitude for visitors.
Though Denali is exceptional in size, it is just one of many National Parks with opportunities to get off-trail; Glacier, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone to name a few.
Gaia GPS Off-Trail
Many Gaia GPS users break off-trail, either because the terrain demands it, the snow allows it, or just for fun. It can mean finding an off-trail waterfall, skiing into a powdery bowl, or even quickening a journey when you find yourself short on resources or energy.
Gaia GPS enables off-trail adventures in ways a paper map cannot – giving users a precise view of where they stand on the map. If you want to plan a trip literally off a beaten track, there’s no better software. Keep reading for a few tips based on our experiences, as well as those of other Gaia GPS users, about exploring off-trail with the app.
Tips for exploring off-trail:
- Download maps for offline use. Research the area you plan to explore and download enough maps to cover any unintentional detours.
- Experiment with changing the map source to figure out which layer(s) work best for your trip.
- Download multiple maps, both for exploration and safety. You might choose USGS Topo + OpenHikingMap + Satellite, so you can cross-reference maps, and have richer info in the field.
- Use GaiaGPS.com to map out some potential routes and study the landscape.
- This will give you a good idea of what to expect in the area you plan to trek through, such as distance between waypoints and elevation data.
- You can also download maps based on the routes you planned.
During and after your trip:
- Prepare for long days and diminishing battery: Read these tips on how to conserve battery using Gaia GPS.
- Carrying a backup battery or backpack-able solar unit is also a good idea (GoalZero is my personal favorite).
- Always bring a paper map and compass too, or at least a secondary GPS-enabled device. And practice using your map and compass – if you haven’t, they will be of little use in the field.
- Take pictures and plot waypoints.
- Publish your tracks on gaiagps.com (unless of course you hiked in Denali).
As always, feel free to contact us for any questions you may have while planning your adventures: firstname.lastname@example.org