2017 hikers, please note: The PNTA is working hard on an entirely new map set for 2017. These new maps will feature the most up-to-date primary route and recommended alternates available. In addition, they will include notes to support planning and logistics that are unavailable on the current set. Finally, these maps will be available to use two ways: to print and use as a paper hard copy, and as georeferenced pdf's that can be used in cellphone apps like Avenza, which use the device's onboard gps to show your location on the maps. We expect these maps to be available in April, but it's a big project, so you'll have to stay tuned for the exact release date.
Both Ted Hitroth's maps (the set that has been distributed on pnt.org in recent years) and Li's maps have served many hikers well over the years, and we've received a lot of useful feedback on both sets. I personally carried both on my PNT thru-hike, and noted the advantages and limitations of each. I think you'll find that the new PNTA set combines and builds on the strengths of both previous sets, while addressing some of the difficulties that previous users had with one set or the other. Additionally, by creating and maintaining these maps in-house, we'll be able to update them more frequently, which I believe is very important for a trail that changes as much from season-to-season (or even week-to-week, during the fire season) as the PNT does.
The new map set shows a primary route that has been adjusted to show 2017 on-the-ground realities. There have been some important changes since last year. Like both of the previous map sets, the new set also shows alternates. There are more alternates than Ted's set, and fewer than Li's. These alternates are carefully selected with this year's users in mind. Sometimes they show Ron's "ideal" route, where it's currently hikable but not on the primary route. Sometimes they show other options which have become popular with hikers over the years, while staying true to the founding "stay high for the views" vision for the trail. Occasionally, they show temporary alternates to get around areas on the primary route that wont be hikable this season. The alternates that we've chosen not to show are the ones that might have been shown on a previous map set with a note that said something like "long paved road walk, I don't know why anyone would take this." Of course we're not actually removing roads from the map's base layer, so you'll still have all the relevant information about your surroundings, we're just not highlighting those as choices to consider. Also gone are alternates that led previous users to get into trouble with private property owners! In other words: don't worry, you're not missing much.
One of the other features that made Li's maps a popular option for users in previous years were the additional notes that were layered on each page to help with planning and route selection. Most of you will be happy to hear that we've chosen to continue with that tradition on our official set. For the 2017 season, the notes will be based on staff knowledge and the feedback of recent hikers. We have two recent PNT thru-hikers on staff at the moment, including one who hiked the PNT last year. We'll also be able to incorporate the latest trail information from our Director of Trail Operations, and our trail crew leaders and volunteers. We encourage this year's hikers to send us feedback and updates so we can continue to refine this resource in the future.
That's about all I can say for this year's version at the moment. We have even more plans for 2018!