This page describes the best Canadian Rockies trail maps. While the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide provides maps with total or partial coverage for most of the trails described, and or eBooks have a map for each trail, they are only designed to give you a general idea of trail location, course and surrounding topography. These maps are adequate for short walks and most day hikes, but it’s always nice to have a more detailed Canadian Rockies trail map along to identify natural features and to help dispel confusion. A good topographic map also provides an overview of trail systems, which allows you to customize your itinerary. And these maps are a necessity when heading into more remote regions.
Canadian Government Topographic Maps. All areas in the mountain parks are covered by National Topographic System (NTS) 1:50,000 scale maps (approximately 2 cm = 1 km). These sheets are printed on water repellant paper and provide a high degree of topographic detail; they are extremely useful for both navigation and the identification of natural features. Unfortunately, it takes over 40 of these maps to cover the mountain parks, and even shorter trails can sometimes run over two or three sheets. Additionally, the series is not reliable for current trail and backcountry campground locations (most haven’t been updated in a decade or more).
Gem Trek Maps. A number of privately produced topographic maps covering sections of the mountain parks have been published in recent years, but the most comprehensive and up-to-date are produced by Gem Trek Publishing (www.gemtrek.com). (Parks Canada has used details from these maps for their trailhead kiosks.) While the Gem Trek series does not currently cover more remote areas of Banff and Jasper National Parks, it does include all the popular hiking areas in our hiking books. The scale of these waterproof, relief-coloured topographic maps varies from 1:35,000 to 1:100,000, and contour intervals range from 25 metres to 50 metres. These maps are more accurate than government maps for locations of trails, backcountry campsites, lodges, huts and other cultural features; they provide point-to-point distances and are up-dated with each printing.
National Geographic Maps. The best overview maps of the four contiguous Mountain Parks and Waterton-Glacier National Parks. Excellent maps for planning major backpacking trips into the more remote backcountry regions. See Hiking Blog National Geographic Maps, June 14, 2015.
While many of these maps can be found at retail outlets in the Canadian Rockies, Calgary’s Map Town is a handy one-stop online shop.