Hiking maps go mobile: Feds unveil digital backcountry guides for Alaska

Navigating Alaska’s backcountry has become a bit easier — or at least, more digital.

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska has started unveiling free digital maps that users can download to their smartphones and open in a third-party mobile app. The app can use GPS technology to show the user’s location on the map, even if that person is without cellphone service, said Lisa Gleason, a BLM Alaska spokeswoman.

Gleason said the federal agency released its first series of digital maps on March 27, 2017 posting them online at blm.gov/maps. The 10 maps cover about 102 million acres of BLM-managed lands and surrounding areas and have the most current geospatial data embedded, she said. The maps include the Denali Highway, the Dalton Highway and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that borders the Arctic Ocean.

By June 3, the agency plans to publish a digital map for the 730-acre Campbell Tract area in Anchorage, Gleason said. The Iditarod National Historic Trail is also a priority, she said.

BLM Alaska started working on the suite of digital maps about two years ago in response to public interest in mobile access to maps of public lands, Gleason said. She said BLM can update the digital maps more quickly than the paper versions.

“Getting updates to paper maps takes a long time and it costs a lot of money,” she said. “A digital map can be more easily updated and more easily carried.”

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