American Southwest: Books and Maps

A trip to
American Southwest can be optimized in both time and money with some planning before your trip. This means that chances are you'll need to buy a book and/or map to complement all the free literature out there to aid in your trip planning and navigation to the region. Below are books and maps that we've used. We've also included other books in the literature that may help you find what you need. The list is by no means complete, but hopefully it is enough to get you going on your quest to inform yourself on your travels.


Hiking Zion & Bryce Canyon National Park (Falcon Guide): Falcon Guides are hiking books really geared towards hikers wishing to do stuff beyond the typical auto-touring attractions. They have pretty decent maps and a good milestone summary of most of their hikes along with elevation profiles and GPS coordinates (in some cases). It's all in black and white, but all in all their books are pretty solid. In the case of this book, it was pretty much our source for most of the day hikes we've done in both Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Hiking Grand Staircase - Escalante & the Glen Canyon Region (Falcon Guide): We pretty much used this book as our bible for hiking the rugged Grand Staircase National Monument - some of which included river crossings, hiking in washes, and hard-to-follow slickrock. Like I've said previously about Falcon Guides, they're pretty solid, especially for the American Southwest, and this title is no exception.

Exploring Canyonlands & Arches National Parks (Falcon Guide): We really didn't make a whole lot of use of this book since I bought it primarily for the long hiking of the Needles District (which we never got around to doing so far). In any case, the version we bought was outdated since the Salt Creek Road to Angel Arch is now closed to vehicles as is now as 26-mile round trip hike. I recently found out that they have since come out with a newer version of the book (actually titled "Hiking Canyonlands & Arches National Parks") so perhaps that addressed the outdated issue. Can't say much more about this title though.

Hiking Grand Canyon National Park (Falcon Guide): It has always been a challenge and a dream of mine to backpack into the depths of the Grand Canyon in the hopes of finding waterfalls, natural arches/bridges, and some quality time with nature. I bought this book for that very reason, but I have yet to really put it to use except for some armchair daydreaming about what it's like to do the South Kaibab Trail or Thunder Creek/Tapeats Creek Trail or the Clear Creek Trail. Grueling I'm sure, but they're just pipe dreams until I finally get a chance to utilize this book and do a weeklong roughing-it backpack trip. Until then, I can't say a whole lot more about this book.

Scenic Driving Utah (Falcon Guide): We spontaneously purchased this book from an outfitter in Escalante, UT, but this book has gotten extremely limited use. That's probably more to do with the fact that we got pretty familiar with most of the roadside attractions in Utah by this time though there are certainly more the book covers that we have yet to visit. So perhaps after such excursions are done, we can't really say much more about this title.

Utah Handbook (Moon): We also bought this book rather spontaneously during our Grand Circle trip back in 2001, but it was so text heavy that we really didn't use it during our trip. I think it's more of a valuable tool for pre-trip planning, but might be a bit hard to follow during the trip unless you put stickies in the book as bookmarks. Moon has since come out with a much more up-to-date book than the one we've used so perhaps it might be more pleasing to the eye and user-friendly in this version.

The Utah Guide (Fulcrum Publishing): This is a comprehensive book covering the state of Utah, but it's all text and very few pictures and maps. We bought it spontaneously while in Moab, UT, but in all honesty, it wasn't all that useful to us. Perhaps it would be decent for pre-trip planning or last-minute scrambling to find accommodations as they do cover lodging and dining as well as rentals and tours - kinda like what Lonely Planet would do. Except LP goes further in talking about activities, providing detailed maps, etc.

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Topo! Utah (National Geographic): The National Geographic Topo! series are no-nonsense raster-based topographic maps at an incredible 1:24k scale (i.e. you can see walking trails, campsites, bathrooms, and other specific buildings) for the entire state. The one we got for Utah got pretty extensive use since there are many unpaved roads in the state as well as details of some hikes.

But I still have a major gripe with the Topo! series' poor interface. You actually need to purchase supplemental patches to get added functionality including the ever-so-important live GPS navigation. In all honesty, I think Topo! maps are excellent for hiking and backpacking, but they're terrible for road navigation or even trip logging.

Topo! Arizona (National Geographic): Pretty similar to the Utah map except it's for the neighboring state of Arizona. We were especially interested in the Grand Canyon and surrounding regions of Northern Arizona so we certainly got our money's worth whenever navigating or pre-trip planning the region. I love the detail in the maps, but I have the software and interfacing, which other vendors like Garmin Mapsource (though they have some issues themselves), Memory Map, etc. do so much better.

Trails Illustrated Zion National Park (National Geographic): We've made extensive use of this paper map, especially when out on the trail such as the Zion Subway, Zion Narrows, and the shorter Zion Canyon hikes. Trails Illustrated is usually pretty rock solid with their 1:24k scale and pretty durable material. Definitely useful when hiking since it's not easy to get a digital scheme working when out in the field hiking

Trails Illustrated Bryce Canyon National Park (National Geographic): This map got some use as we did some extensive hiking amongst the hoodoos combining various trails such as the Navajo-Peekaboo-Queen's Garden-Sunset Trail. We also used it to do the Fairyland Loop and also used it to do the short hike at Mossy Cave.

Trails Illustrated Canyons of the Escalante (National Geographic): You definitely get your money's worth with this map as it covers the expanse of the Grand Staircase National Monument - including deep into the Hole-in-the-Rock Road as well as the northern sections like Calf Creek Canyon. We used this map quite extensively on the rugged hikes done in this region in conjunction with the guidebooks. I still look at this map when daydreaming about future hikes or planning ahead on an excursion.

Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon National Park (National Geographic): We made use of this paper map while doing the Havasupai excursion. But it's also valid for more rugged backpacking endeavors in the National Park itself. It has all the 1:24k scale detail you come to expect from this excellent paper map series.

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