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Mountain Maps - The Sawatch Range
Owner Review By Bob Dorenfeld
 
April 4, 2014

Tester Bio
Name: Bob Dorenfeld

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, backpacker, amateur geographer and naturalist.  Home base for me is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I'll hike from 7000 ft (2100 m) to above treeline, with an occasional desert trip at lower altitudes.  Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) in a day is my norm, including elevation gains up to 4000 ft (1200 m).  Most of my backpack trips are two or three nights, sometimes longer, carrying 30-40 lb (14-18 kg).  My style is lightweight but not obsessively so - extras like binoculars, camera and notebook make my trips more enjoyable.

Email: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age: 56
Location: Salida, Colorado, USA
Gender: M
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)


Product Overview

Manufacturer:    Mountain Maps
Website:    Unavailable
MSRP:    US$9.95
Date Published:  2011 (1st Edition)
Map Location:  Upper Arkansas Valley, 
                             Colorado, USA
Material:  Waterproof/tearproof paper
Dimensions (Folded):  3 1/2 x 6 1/4 in
                                       (9 x 16 cm)
Dimensions (Unfolded):  12 1/2 x 25 in
                                           (32 x 64 cm)
Map scale: 1:112,000
Contour Interval:  400 ft (122 m)

 Front Folded

The complete title for this trail map is "The Sawatch Range: Leadville to Buena Vista to Monarch", and the area covered is the Sawatch mountain range along the west side of the Upper Arkansas Valley in the central part of Colorado.  Although the publisher's website printed on the map now belongs to another mapmaker outside of Colorado, this map is readily available at many retail outlets throughout Colorado, and at online retailers and non-profit trail organizations.  The map covers roads and over 65 official trails in the mountain area from the city of Leadville south to Monarch (Monarch Pass on the Continental Divide), an area about 60 mi (100 km) long and 20 mi (32 km) wide, split vertically with the north half on one side and the south half on the other.  Space is reserved for a legend and for an extensive and detailed listing of all named trails, trailheads, and campgrounds in the area.  All distances are stated in miles only.  Most of the map is in shades of green, with detail highlights in yellow, blue, magenta and gray.

Field Performance    

UnfoldedHere's a pocket-sized map that features trails, trailheads, access roads, campgrounds, prominent peaks, water courses, and topographic contours - all designed and printed in tasteful colors and very readable graphics.  The "Sawatch Range" hiker's map is great for locating where I can start a hike (or, in the winter, snowshoe) and for tracking the trail's length and estimated difficulty.  Although there are many available paper maps for the Colorado mountains, many using much larger scales than this one, the trade-off is having to carry a larger folded object and the awkwardness that ensues when it flaps in the wind while unfolded.  I'll take the Mountain Map with me when I already know the trail and don't need the terrain detail that those other maps provide.  It's also good for surveying possible hikes at home since it covers such a large area.

Since I live in a small town at the southeast end of this map, this is my backyard!  For those not familiar with the area, the Sawatch Range covered here is home not only to stretches of the Colorado Trail (CT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) (over 100 mi (160 km) of each), but to 14 of Colorado's 14ers (peaks over 14,000 ft (4267 m)).  Many beautiful lakes and streams call this area home, as well as ecological zones from piņon-sage scrub through pine, fir, spruce and high alpine meadows.  Rock climbers and mountaineers will also find this map useful to locate access routes to their destination climbs.  In the next two photos below, the map detail covers the same high mountain area as my shot of the Sawatch skyline.  The map detail image has enough resolution to allow zooming in to see all of the printed details.
Mt Harvard


Map detailI like the readability of this map: the predominately light green tones are pleasing to my eye, the light blue water features are visible without jumping out too much.  The map scale resolves to 9/16 in (1.4 cm) per mile.  Roads are depicted with solid lines in various colors, trails in dashed lines helpfully distinguished by color: red for 14er, purple for long-distance, dark green for other trails.  Trail numbers stand out via a large yellow oval.  Each trail has its mileage marked from the trailhead to either the end of the trail or to its junction with another trail or road.  National Forest and Wilderness boundaries are clearly shown.  In addition to the 400 ft (122 m) light-gray contours, topographic shading in green and gray helps emphasize relief and makes it easy to follow the trails' paths within valleys, over ridges, and to the tops of peaks.

Along the bottom edges of three sides of the map are detailed trail listings that include Trail #, Trail Name, Miles, Trailhead, Low and High Elevation, and features found on the trail:  Stream, Lake, View, Historic Ruin, and Waterfall.  There are also listings for each trailhead and for public and private campgrounds.  All of these data are indexed to the map on its grid so it can be easily located.

Legend

In use on the trail I found the Mountain Map easy to fold out either partially or completely, and likewise it's small enough to easily refold on the original creases.

As for accuracy of trail mileages and elevations, I have ground-truthed only two or three trails, but those were accurate.  But I've also compared mileages with those shown on other well-used and verified maps in my inventory, and Mountain Maps' numbers seem accurate to me.  Although the map's publisher does not list his sources specifically, topographic and other map data are publicly available, and he does state that he collected some data himself.  As far as I can tell, the "Sawatch Range" is the only map currently available from Mountain Maps at the time of this writing.

I'm happy to see a Leave No Trace statement (
placed below one of the Trail detail sections) describing best practices for hikers and other Wilderness/outdoor users so that we leave our playgrounds as undisturbed as possible, while enjoying nature and the solitude it has to offer.  More about Leave No Trace can be found at its website.

Since it was published in 2011, there has been some new trail construction, especially for the Continental Divide Trail.  Hikers planning a trip there (or on the Colorado Trail) will want to obtain newer maps and information from other sources for those new routes.



Concluding Thoughts    

I like the Mountain Map - it's an excellent intro view to the wonderfully scenic and diverse Sawatch Range of Colorado, and I think it's a good value at US$9.95.  The paper is waterproof and durable, both the folded and unfolded sizes are convenient, and the map design is very readable.  For hikes off-trail or for trails new to me I'll bring along additional maps at larger scales for greater detail, but the contour interval and relief shading on the Mountain Map are great for overview planning.  The additional trail and trailhead summaries are useful and save time for me, since otherwise I'd have to look up elevations and mileages elsewhere.


Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Central Colorado Mountains





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