This page describes various ways of producing maps for backcountry navigation using online mapping tools.
- 1 Federal Government NTS map based services
- 2 Provincial Government TRIM map based services
- 3 TrailPeak
- 4 Bivouac.com
- 5 US online maps
- 6 Google Earth
Federal Government NTS map based services
These maps are images of the normal NTS mapsheets that you can print out if you want. Because they are high resolution images, there is no layer control and they are very large downloads. You can view them with any image viewer. You are on your own for lining up adjacent maps, but this should be easy enough with appropriate software since the map files are geo-referenced.
CanMatrix ftp site This site has geoTiff images for all maps in the 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 map series. The maps are indexed by their mapsheet code, so you will need to know the mapsheet code for the map you are looking for.
GeoGratis has a large selection of geospatial data and maps for free, including Scans of the NTS topo maps (the same maps you would purchase). You can search by mapsheet (eg. 92j3) and click on the map you want.
To work out which mapsheet it is you need for a specific area, use one of the following index maps
- SW BC Crop
- clickable index map for SW BC hosted by a private website
- clickable index maps on the Government Atlas of Canada site
NTS mapping information is available online through the Natural Resources Canada toporama website. The data is all there but north is in a strange direction because of the projection they use. There is also an older version of toporama that uses the same projections as the NTS maps but the interface isn't as nice and it stretches the maps horizontally.
Topozone now has clickable 1:250,000 and 1:50,000 topographical maps of Canada. These maps are based on images of the NTS map sheets. You can zoom in and out and scroll, but can't see very much a one time. Adjacent maps are properly lined up with the datum of each map taken into account.
Go to view maps and enter the address, place name or coordinates. It's fairly easy to look up the location of a mountain on Bivouac.com and enter the latitude-longitude in the topozone search box.
Earth Details provides a 3D perspective view (with optional shading) of NTS 1:50k and 1:250k maps.
Provincial Government TRIM map based services
iMapBC is a comprehensive online mapping application with numerous features, great for making your own maps. It is possible to import GPS waypoint data, mark locations, add UTM gridlines, create PDFs of maps, and lots more. For an example of what is possible see the PDF maps on the Brew Hut page under Access.
Adding UTM gridlines
- Click Layers -> Add -> Base Layers
- In the pop-up window, select the gridlines you want to add, e.g. "UTM Gridlines (1:1,000)"
- In the main window, click "Refresh Map"
To have the gridlines labelled, you need to adjust the colour scheme. Click on the multicoloured icon to the right of the UTM grid layer name in the right side menu. Then add the label field "coordinate" to the label symbolization. Adjust the colours etc. to your liking and click submit. Now the UTM coordinates appear next to the gridlines.
Other useful layers
You may wish to add contour lines (search for contours, then select the 1:20000 option) and some information on land cover. There are several vegetation options but adding the colour themed biogeoclimatic zone information (search for biogeoclimatic) maybe the easiest. You can reorder the layers so that lakes still show up in blue etc. (putting the biogeoclimatic zone as the bottom layer seems to work well). You can also change the colour theme for basically any layer. It may help to make the contours darker for instance. Adjusting the individual colours in a multi-polygon layer (eg. the biogeoclimatic data) is beyond the scope of this text.
To add elevations of important points on the map: add the layer "Elevation - Points (1:20000)," then, when in layers mode, click on the multicoloured icon to the right of the layer name in the right side menu. Adjust the "point symbolization" as you see fit, then add label field "elevation" to the "label symbolization" section and adjust. Click on submit and now the actual spot elevations appear.
Marking locations on the map
- Click Toolsets -> Markup
- To add a location where you know the coordinates (e.g. a single GPS waypoint), click the "Add Coordinates to Map" button, then enter the coordinates
- To add a point to the map by clicking on the location, use the "Add XY Location to Map" button
Importing multiple GPS waypoints
First create a spreadsheet of the waypoints using the WGS84 Datum, with an initial column numbering the waypoints, e.g.:
Save this as a .csv file, then you can import the waypoints into iMapBC as a new layer on the map:
- Click Toolsets -> Analytical
- Click the "Upload CSV" button ("a" on a page with an upload arrow)
- Select the file and click "upload"
- Select which columns in the spreadsheet are for X and Y coordinates. This is easiest if you have column headers as shown in the example table above.
- For Lat-Long data, use "source Projection" = Geographic
- Pick a name and colour for the new layer.
You can still access the old BC Basemap utility. This is similar to iMapBC but has a simpler interface.
Provincial Basemap WMS
There is a Web Map Service for the BC provincial 1:20,000 topographic data at libcwms.gov.bc.ca and a very similar one at openmaps.gov.bc.ca. This service allow maps to be embedded into external websites. Another advantage is that there is no restriction on the size of the map you can generate, so it's possible to create map images that are much larger than your screen can display. This is particularly useful if you want to print the map.
- template:BC Basemap on the VOCWiki makes generating maps easier. Since the wiki cannot display images from external websites, the template links the TOPO map as an external link.
- VOCWiki:BCMap extension on the VOCWiki allows inline imaged from the Basemap WMS server to be included in wiki pages. This is a custom extention just for the VOCWiki courtesy of Chris Michalak
- Also see Matthew Carroll's external site which has a nice PHP interface for manually generating the maps. It has essetially the same features as the wiki template.
- Another way to generate maps from this service is using the Base Map Form on bivouac.com. The maps produced by this tool are quite nice, but the primary disadvantage is a lack of UTM grid. Example: Mount Garibaldi, 3km radius. Even without a bivouac membership it is fairly easy to create a map of any location, by altering the URL from that example map - change the "BBOX" coordinates to the latitude and longitude bounds of the map you want.
maps.gov.bc.ca has links to variety of different mapping tools. These are all very similar to the iMapBC utility described above, but are generally less powerful.
One notable exception is the "Forest Recreation Sites" mapping utility, which shows many trails and logging roads that are not part of the base map, and are thus not available on iMapBC. For example, this utility can display gps tracks of some popular hiking trails such as Brandywine Meadows, Mt Gardner and the Rainbow - Madely Trail. Also, some recent logging roads are visible that are not shown elsewhere (E300 road system near Blanca Lake for example)
Base Map Online Store
The Base Map Online Store is useful for checking which TRIM maps cover a certain area.
It's possible to extract the GPS waypoint data from the google maps on TrailPeak (and then import them into iMapBC, for example). To do this (in firefox), the procedure is as follows:
- right click on the small preview map
- click "This Frame" -> "Show Only This Frame"
- view the page source (CTRL+U)
- remove the latitudes and longitudes and paste into a spreadsheet
- save as a .csv file
- import into iMapBC as described above
Bivouac.com is a members only website that has a spatial database of peaks, roads, trails, huts and trip reports. The data has been inputted manually by ordinary people. This means that the resolution of the data is much reduced (sparse waypoints along roads, no contour maps) but the data is usually very current. Bivouac is a reliable source for up to date road conditions, whereas other mapping utilities often display roads that are completely overgrown or undriveable, and do not include recent branches.
US online maps
Topozone has clickable topographical maps of the US. Go to view maps and enter the address, place name or coordinates. It's fairly easy to look up the location of a mountain on Bivouac.com and enter the latitude-longitude in the topozone search box.
You can add UTM gridlines to Google Earth by using this KML file.
BC Map Data
Google and the BC government have announced that data from the B.C.'s Integrated Land and Resource Registry (logging roads, etc.) will be integrated into Google Earth. More info to come "within a month or so".