Trailforks Printable Maps

Sep 26, 2017 at 14:01
by Todd Neumarker  
Providing users with the ability to easily create printable trail maps has been a goal of ours since we first started developing the custom topographic basemap. Using the new Trailforks Print Maps Interface, users are able to select various map layers and produce large scale maps in both screen and printer friendly output formats: JPG, PNG, GeoTiff, and PDF.

Endless Biking office posters
Endless Biking office poster

Trailforks Printable Maps
Trailforks New Printable Maps User Interface

This new feature was designed to create quality looking maps with as few steps as possible. We want trail associations to concentrate on building awesome trails, and less time worrying about making maps. Using this interface it is simple to create trailhead kiosks, signs, posters, fliers, books, fold-able maps, or even static images of virtually any size. Depending on your background, interests, and experience, map making can be a fun and exciting part of trail building. That said, in our experience, trail builders, event organizers, even municipal park and recreation staff often struggle with making trail maps. More often than not we find that trail builders would rather be out in the forest with their chainsaw rather than sitting stagnant in front of a screen. Most consider map making a necessary evil, something that is a lot of work and expense up front and is then immediately out-of-date before the final map even makes it to the plotter.

This past month I was riding Snowmass Bike Park in the Roaring Fork area of Colorado and due to construction most of Vapor Trail was closed. I only had enough time for 2 more runs before the top lift closed. Luckily my first run was the new Trail 16, which was old school rocky and rowdy fun. My second run was a complete waste. I wanted to ride all of Vapor Trail but was almost immediately dumped out to a dirt road where I lost a ton of elevation, only to find myself climbing back on the Expresso Trail. I created this sample flier size map showing the temporary closure of Vapor Trail. This map took about 3 minutes to create. Had this been on display, I would have done another run of Trail 16 before going back to ride Valhalla for the rest of the day.

Trailforks Printable Maps

I love beautiful maps created by graphics professionals, I believe they can be like works of art. But what I love more, is having a trail map that is updated with all the latest trails. The difficulty in keeping paper maps up-to-date is all of the post production details. So when your local trail association decides to add in a new trail that extends way outside your map, now the entire thing has to be re-arranged, imported into an editor, and then everything else must be shifted. In recent years, with the evolution of trail building, trail systems are changing quickly. Old rutted trails are being rerouted and engineered for sustainability. We may not all agree with each trail that gets "improved", but the fact remains that it is happening. Here in the states there has been an explosion in youth riders in large part thanks to High School Race Programs like NICA and the need for trails to practice on. To a trail builder the progress appears to be slow and labor intensive, but from a map making (and updating) perspective, it can feel like trails are change at lightening pace.

The primary goal of this interface is to get as close as we can to a professional looking print product with as minimal work and map making experience as possible. If you or someone in your trail organization is a savvy graphics person and wants to add all the post production logos, text, local sponsors, etc., this interface can provide most the heavy lifting by providing all the details of the map, with the added benefit of quick and easy updates using Trailforks to maintain your trail database. If you don't have GIS staff or cannot afford a professional map making contractor, this new feature will give you the power to create an intuitive and easy to read trail map in a few minutes that you can readily distribute.

Trailforks Printable Maps
Preset or custom output sizes and formats

In order to do a real live test of the poster theme, I used the Trailforks Print Map Interface to create a full background Kiosk Map for the City of Pleasant Grove, Utah. By choosing the PDF Vector format, I was able to load the output file into Adobe Illustrator and add a key, logos, basic trail rules and other required verbiage. And because the PDF is editable, within Illustrator I could make a few quick trail label adjustments and paste the text bubbles on top of the main map.

Trailforks Printable Maps
Kiosk Map using the Trailforks Printmap PDF Output

The current Trailforks Basemap consists of multiple layer groups, which can be selected to include in a map. We group the layers for simplicity. For example, in the map above the city wanted to display the US Forestry border, but because the zoom level was so low, elevation contour labels were unnecessary. In the layer options I simply selected "Landcover" and disabled "Contour Labels". The entire trail system is directional, so I selected to show primary direction of travel as well. Click, click, boom, instant printable trail map.

This new feature is only made possible because we are hosting our own custom basemap. When we initially announced that we were providing our own topographic background, we were asked why we did not use an off-the-shelf map product, and at the time we were a bit light on the details. Comments with regards to licensing and usage were centered around using an external map tile service online, which for all intents and purposes would have probably been a non-issue. It was the ability to freely output large static maps and then pass that ability on to our users in a distribution free environment that concerned us. Also, to make this new feature possible required full control of the map rendering pipeline, so that we could create maps of any size and output into vector formats with the ability to filter and change the map theme. In the end, the goal was to put that power into the hands of Trailforks users.

Here are the layer groups we decided to start with:

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover - Roads

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover - Roads - Dirt Roads

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover - Roads - Dirt Roads - Trails

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover - Roads - Dirt Roads - Trails - Trail Labels

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover - Roads - Dirt Roads - Trails - Names - Arrows

Trailforks Printable Maps
Terrain - Contours - Elevation - Landcover - Roads - Dirt Roads - Trails - Names - Arrows- POIs

All Layers Together
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To better illustrate the layers, we displayed each layer as they build on each other, but technically you can choose any layer combinations you want. For instance, maybe you just want the contour lines by themselves to use as a background for your website, business card or as part of a team jersey. If you select not to have the terrain background, our theme generator will change the background to be fully transparent so that if you generate a PNG file, you can use your output as an overlay image. If you generate the contour lines into a PDF, each contour line is a vector and can be readily used by a printer to create smooth lines.

Trailforks Printable Maps

Only Contour Lines Layer



EVENTS AND ROUTES
Event organizers, ride planners and tour guides have already started using this feature to create posters and fliers for their organized events. A popular race in Park City named the "Park City Point 2 Point", recently used the Trailforks Print Map Interface to create a poster of the race course. This poster was presented to riders during the race review meeting and the course was available for pre-riding through use of the Trailforks Mobile App.

Trailforks Printable Maps
Providing racers with a simple to follow map that displays a race course in the context of a complex trail system is key to putting on a quality event and arming your riders with everything they need to know to safely navigate your event.

Traiforks provides the complete event mapping package:
1. Events can be loaded into Trailforks for both pre-ride preparation and used on Race day while out on the course
2. Event Specific POI (Aid Stations, Event Parking, Warnings, etc.) can be assigned to individual ride plans
3. Standard Flyers can be printed using the new Print Map Interface.
4. Flyers can be generated in JPG format ideal for attaching to an email and sending out to event attendees and posting via social media. This also provides a simple way to warn trail users that may not be taking part in the event.
4. Event Poster for the day of the event

Park City Point 2 Point Event Poster
Trailforks Printable Maps

To create an event map like this, the map creation interface can pull in a previously created route and overlay it with directional arrows. Here is an example of the Breckenridge map above with Stage 1 of the Breck Epic course. This map contains most of the layer groups except I chose to leave off the landcover and trail arrows for a cleaner map that better emphasizes the race course.

Trailforks Printable Maps
Breck Epic Stage 1 with Aid Stations

If you look closely, you will see an aid station icon displayed on the map as well. If you are creating your own race course and need to add any "course specific" points of interest (POI), those will also be pulled into the generated map. For the map above I turned off all the standard points of interest (POI) to better emphasize the race specific aid stations and water stops. The POI markers you add to your ride route do not appear on the standard map, so you are free to add points that only exist on race day and include them in your print media. The points of interest you choose are not limited to event style points. For example, you can remove all the standard points like public parking, but add your own parking POI as part of your route. This will help direct your racers to park at event designated parking locations, or even allow you to add temporary parking that only exists on race day.

TRAIL PLANNING

Another power feature of this tool comes in the form of trail planning and maintenance. Today users can add and mark new trails as "Planned" from within Trailforks. Planned trails can be made public or hidden from view. When generating a map which is to be used for planning purposes, the planned trails are displayed in a thinner line so as not to be mistaken for completed and established trails.

Trailforks Printable Maps

Planned Trail Kent Pond View


This feature enables trail planners to take their map with them out on the trail and verify the path of a new trail. Not all new trails are built in locations with excellent cell reception. When designing trails or reviewing trail plans, having the contour lines with elevation and gradients is often important. For this reason, Trailforks area administrators can output of their planning map into the GeoTiff format. With a GeoTiff, you can load your entire map including the background terrain, land cover, buildings, roads, basically everything in the basemap can be seen on location for trail maintenance, review and planning purposes.

CREATING PRINTABLE MAPS

Designing maps for print is more difficult than it may appear on the surface. Creating a static snapshot image (JPG, PNG) of a map is easy because you can apply the same theme as all dimensions may be expressed in terms of pixels. When you move to physical printing sizes several new variables come into play. Things like typical viewing distance (usage), can drastically effect the theme at all zoom levels. Take for example two output map usages: a foldable map and a poster map. If you completely unfold a map, it is typically about the same size as a poster, but the viewing distance is more often up close. Riders out on a trail will either partially unfold the map or unfold it and squint at it only a few inches from their nose. Whereas a poster is viewed from one or more meters away, while the paper size remains the same.

The next problem is the advent of retina displays and other high resolution technologies that have pushed the average pixel width to microscopic sizes. It is now impossible to assume a standard pixel width as it translates to the real world (printed paper). The concept of Dots Per Inch (DPI) becomes an abstract sizing estimate rather than a precise print resolution. We have done many print samples, and tried to find a happy medium using various common print dimensions and free-form (user defined) output sizes. As more organizations find ways to leverage this feature, we continue to welcome feedback and fine tune our usage themes.

All of the data for each layer group is extracted directly from our databases at time of generation. We pull data from our trail database, routing database, global contour line database, and OpenStreetmap data. After the user selects each layer we dynamically filter the theme and recombine it into a new custom theme before piping it to the print renderer. In other words, we do not generate each layer separately and combine graphically. The reason we create a new theme on the fly, is that it creates a better looking and more up-to-date map. If you generate each layer individually, the map creation algorithms will not know about the other layers and there will be more inadvertent overlapping of lines and labels. In addition to this graphical detail we must change the SQL query to our database based upon user selections, route inclusion, and to query the database to only include POI markers that belong to the user’s selected route.

As a final touch, we give the trails just a touch of natural curve to soften the edges. The underlying trail data in Trailforks is never simplified and our GPS coordinate values are never rounded. We use the full precision and every point provided by user submissions. If a user desires maximum trail accuracy they often meticulously trace a trail path using our ride log averages. We don't want to delete all that work, and prefer accurate data. For maximum print quality, we advise users to make sure all the trails in the area they are going to print have been checked in our editor for overlaps, validate all the connections between trails, and re-align trails using our ridelog averages. This will create both a more beautiful and accurate map.


EXAMPLES

The printmap tool has outputted 2,237 files totalling 11.7 GB in file size.

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Photo gallery of more print map examples


80 Comments

  • + 134
 Trailforks is an amazing tool that just keeps getting better!!!!!
  • + 12
 Yeah this is great! Thank you developers and PB
  • + 0
 unfortunately i cannot say the same for my local trails
  • + 81
 Pinkbike, you're killing it with Trailforks. Thank you for providing such a fantastic resource for free, on multiple platforms. 10 years ago, I just assumed that every sport had such a fantastic website to act as a community hub for the sport. Though there isn't a total void, nothing in Motocross, skiing, or climbing comes close to providing the same combination of content, an active user base, and useful resources. I wish every sport had a pinkbike.
  • + 8
 i mean skiing has newschoolers but do you really want to go into THAT site?
  • + 8
 Remember that Trailforks is only as good as its content. It's a user generated content site that needs regular people like you and me to add, update, describe, review and photograph the trails in our area. Sure, there are trails that need (and are) hidden away from the attention of the public, that's not what I'm talking about.

The more good information and content is on trailforks, the more quality riding that can be had by more people, thus the more people that care, the more people who volunteer and advocate for trail access. I think it's a win win in most cases and thus the time I've spent myself.

Mountain biking is just so flipping rad!
  • + 52
 Nice job fellas!!
  • + 12
 Remember to pick up some real map paper to print it on....regular paper melts under sweat
  • + 13
 Expresso?? There is only one Expresso, and it sure as hell isn't in Aspen!
  • + 1
 Hahaha!
  • + 7
 This is yet again, a beautiful addition to the trailforks tool. Here's a question though, from a fella who spends many hours planning and advocating for new trails - have you pushed trailforks towards other user bases? Trail runners and hikers, in particular?

I really would like to incorporate trailforks into my own websites and similar, but the data is pure mountain biker, with little interest or concert to any trail that doesn't permit MTB, or is not very rideable, etc. I would imagine this tool could gain value and a wider user base if it was more open to various user types.

Or is the exclusion of other user groups a conscious decision to make this a MTB-specific tool?
  • + 11
 Other user bases are on our radar and all our stuff is built with this in mind. Stay tuned
  • + 2
 @radek: badass. A moto trails option would be pretty damn sweet.
  • - 2
 @radek: I love your work but please don't add moto trails, at least not in Europe. In North America you have more space for everyone, but here in Europe it takes one moto guy to annoy all hikers and bikers in the area because of the noise and the smell Frown It's really a problem here.
  • - 4
flag therealtylerdurden (Sep 28, 2017 at 20:55) (Below Threshold)
 @Slabrung: oh boo f*cking hoo. The idea is to show trails that are open to moto. Not saying to ride dirt bikes on horse/hiker/MTB trails.
  • + 8
 awesome, this will make my next map making session for my local trails WAAAAAY easier
  • + 5
 Waaaay waaaaaaaaaaaay easier
  • + 2
 Do we already have the ability to do offline maps?
  • + 1
 @Thustlewhumber: I think you could print them before, but wasn't very controlled. I used to do it manually, prick of a job and super time consuming
  • + 2
 You have to download areas in trailforks on your phone (relatively small). When you download it they are/will be offline useable. No need to do anything else special. Trailforks has definitely become my go-to app.
  • + 5
 @todd Any chance you can add the ability to control the detail/scale of the contour lines? For those of us in places with +/- 100m of elevation, there are essentially no lines on the map.
  • + 3
 That is possible, but would require a lot of processing and database storage. We store all the countour lines as vectors for all the land surface area of the world at 100m and 500m. I would have to add 10m or 20m which could potentially require 10 times the storage. Depending where you are in the world the elevation data granularity may not be good enough and you would have some line collisions. I would have to do some tests to see if it is feasible.
  • + 3
 @todd: You could maybe only offer 10 or 20m contour where it is useful by only mapping areas with 100 or 500m lines with distance over xx apart and where map data is sufficient for a reasonable output?
  • + 6
 You guys should seriously consider to open source this project so me and other MTB coders can contribute to this awesome tool.
  • + 2
 cant believe someone downvoted this
  • + 3
 TF is so awesome, from both a user/travel perspective and trail association perspective. Unmatched!

Is there any way to push an update to the TF road layer for a region, or use a different road layer (like OSM) for a printable map? The roads are changing so fast in our area. OSM shows it, but TF's basemap doesn't yet. For printable maps, up-to-date roads are key. Don't get me wrong -- you guys are killing it with TF. This is just a little glitch I'm facing with producing paper maps at the moment.
  • + 3
 Working on making updates quicker.
  • + 2
 That's absolutely superb, it will make planning and organising the 'mates race' days we do much easier. It also means i can use the work plotter to print out a decent size map of the Forest of Dean with all the trails on it to stick up in my mancave! Very impressed and keep up the good work.
  • + 3
 Few things have changed my riding experience in the last couple years as much as TF. Go anywhere, never get lost. Thanks to the developers. I still can't believe that this is free.
  • + 2
 Absolutely fantastic app - thanks to the developers and trail contributors. Me and GF just back from a 3 week biking roadtrip through CO, UT, AZ and NM and we used the app every day. From Scotland so never seen any trails or areas we visited before yet, with TrailForks, we could select trails and build routes with confidence and make the most of our riding time.
  • + 4
 Great article and hats off to the Trailforks team for continuing to create products and tools that are relevant to the MTB community. @todd, @canadaka, @brenthillier
  • + 2
 Feature suggestion: Support for trail opening and decommissioning dates in the database. As trail systems evolve, the current map will need to be updated. It would be fun to be able to look at what the trail system consisted of at a date in the past. Also, ride stats wouldn't be lost or invalid when a trail is so drastically changed that it is essentially a new trail. People returning to a region after being away for a few years would be able to get their bearings easier by viewing old trails vs new.
  • + 2
 Thanks Pinkbike and all the guys at Trailforks for coming up with such a rockin' app; it makes managing trails a lot simpler. This map output feature has been available for quite some time, no? I was just waiting for a tutorial before I get cracking Wink
  • + 3
 It has been evolving for over a year with feedback from users. We started adding links to it on the website this summer, but had never announced it until now. We've added a lot of features and made lots of tweaks since a year ago.
  • + 2
 This is my goto app, and I add/edit/improve routes and trails whenever I get the chance. I don't use it as much for checkins due to the (admittedly still beta) track recording feature having 1 bug that makes it hard to use. Namely that when I take photos on my phone while recording the track "pauses" and I have to remember to manually re-start it. This doesn't happen with my other gps apps, but when I use them I have to export the track and import them to report my rides and that doesn't always happen.

I'm definitely planning to stick with Trailforks, and hope to see this bug eventually vanquished.
  • + 3
 As someone who studied GIS/mapping as part of my degree and no longer uses that part of my degree, but still loves maps.... this is awesome!
  • + 2
 i will be printing out maps of BC zones to add to my bucket list. pull out the thumb tacks and dream of new adventures for next summer.
  • + 2
 Awesome. Huge thanks to the Trailforks team for all the amazing functionality.
  • + 2
 Is this available now? I can't seem to find a way to do it on the web site right now.
  • - 1
 please do a filter to search by trail direction (ie primary DH, DH only, etc)it would be so much easier to search trails by cutting out all the bullshit 2 way and uphill trails. then you can find the good stuff and pick your climbing/shuttle route from there
  • + 5
 you can do this on the website, goto any regions "trails" tab and a bunch of filters on the right. Can filter by bike type or direction like you say. But many trails don't have the data specified, but anyone can help add the info to trails.
www.trailforks.com/region/utah/trails
  • + 2
 Thanks for pushing the awesomeness envelope! Can't wait for the TrailForks team's next feature.
  • + 1
 I don't have enough money for printer ink. I done blew my load on bike parts.
  • + 2
 That’s awesome, great work guys. Thanks!
  • + 1
 damn now i wont be able to tell the park rangers,"I didn't know this was a hiking only trail" lol while holding my map
  • + 1
 I am playing around with it and can not find a way to put my own routes on a map. Is there a way and I am just missing it?
  • + 1
 You'll need to create a public route to do that. Personal routes won't work. But you can turn personal routes into public routes. What region are you looking at?
  • + 1
 @brenthillier: I am looking at a section of Pisgah National forest in NC that is not mapped.
  • + 1
 @Ashevillerider: So how are you getting there? I still don't see it on the Website.
  • + 2
 I plan to allow personal ride plans to be used in the print tool along with the public routes.
  • + 2
 @YellowBikesAreRad: main menu -> more -> tools -> print map tool www.trailforks.com/tools/printmap
  • + 3
 Gasp!
  • + 2
 how ya fit a map dat big in yer fanny pack?
  • + 1
 Great work! Thanks trailforks for making a great product and for continually be innovative and progressive.
  • + 1
 Great for planning rides on a road trip! Awesome feature
  • + 1
 Well played Trail Forks, I see what you did there!
  • + 1
 Anybody know of a Trailforks type app for moto trails?
  • + 1
 If there is I would like to know about it, especially if it has map-making capabilities.. Hundreds of miles of routes out where I live and no maps, paper or otherwise, to show for it. Utah friends ask me all the time about moto routes and the best I can do is give them a race route or vague suggestions of, "go down this drainage, trend south, find the ridgeline, and come back. Take food, fuel, and GPS. You'll be all right."
  • + 2
 @slimjim4: Exactly. This is the best I've found.. But far from ideal. www.riderplanet-usa.com
  • + 1
 @slimjim4: I have most moto and atv trails for Utah in my offline database, where are you looking to ride? Cherry Creek, Paiute, Little Moab. Arapeen, Markagunt Plateau, Delta/West Desert, 5-Mile Pass, St.George, Moab and all the dirt road connectors to link up multiple systems. Probably have some more, I can't remember off the top of my head.
  • + 1
 @todd: Sweet! Not for me but for my Utah friends. I live in eastern Nevada, about an hour 45 from st. george.
  • + 1
 Yes, this will be used very soon here in Nevada.
  • + 2
 awesome stuff!
  • + 2
 Simply amazing! Thanks!
  • + 1
 This tool never ceases to amaze, great work!!!
  • + 1
 Nice work!
  • + 1
 So Awesome!
  • + 1
 Awesome guys!
  • + 1
 Great!
  • - 3
 Amy Ebike specific maps available?
  • + 3
 I'm sure you know this, but just incase you dont. It says so on the app when you click on the individual trails whether e-bikes are allowed or otherwise!
  • - 2
 I hope these weren't designed as a pocket map ????
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