How do we make those maps anyway? Getting Lost in Michaux State Forest July 03 2018

Here at Purple Lizard Maps, we are often asked, "How do you find all of these amazing spots in the forests?" which is usually followed up with, "So you actually go out there and find all these spots?" The quick answer is, "Pretty much, yes"; the longer answer lies below.

Michaux State Forest, Mountain Biking, Hiking, Snowmobiling

First we find an area in need of a new map. For years we've been hearing stories of recreationalists getting lost in Michaux State Forest, situated between Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and Harrisburg. 2-hour mountain bike rides turn into unplanned, 6-hour epic adventures...a quick trail run turns into an ultra many nightmare tales! So we began our research. There are plenty of trails and roads in this forest, and most of them are open to multiple forms of outdoor recreation. This happens to be just our style. The surrounding area also provides plenty of excitement: Civil War History around Gettysburg, the Fruit Belt, Iron Ore Furnaces, the Appalachian Trail, the AT Museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, a secret World War II Prisoner of War Interrogation Camp and much more.

Camp Michaux Interrogation Camp Michaux State Forest PA

After choosing the map scale and layout parameters, we begin to research every resource possible, including State and Federal Agencies such as DCNR, USGS, County and Township mapping departments (if they exist), local land managers and conservation organizations. This gives us a giant helping of information that includes some of what you see at glance in our legend: paved and dirt roads, some trails, some forest roads, hydrography (all water bodies), springs, cemeteries, and points of interest. Sorting through this information takes over a year, sometimes a few years! Oftentimes the data isn't particularly accurate - even if it from an official source, it can't necessarily be trusted. The real world is constantly changing, so we find the dirt roads aren't really dirt (or the paved roads aren't really paved), the forest boundaries are different, we find cemeteries on our research trips that aren't in the State database, and all those gates - well, gates aren't in any database so every time you see a gate on our map, we had to get there to determine if the road is open or closed! And all those trails...well, they are the crux of the effort, and we'll come to back to them later.

Appalachian Running Company Michaux State Forest PA

Eventually we print an early draft version of the map and take it to the people who know the area well. We meet with local outdoor recreation shops, like Appalachian Running Company in Chambersburg, Blue Mountain Outfitters in Marysville, and Climbnasium in Mechanicsburg.

Gettysburg Bicycle Michaux State Forest PA

We meet with local bike shops that lead rides and host events in the forest like Quick Release Bicycle Shop in Chambersburg, Gettysburg Bikes in downtown Gettysburg, Gung Ho Bikes in York, Merv's Bike Shop in Shippensburg and Freeze Thaw Cycles in State College. Even though they are State College, J-Wag, one of the founders of Freeze Thaw, grew up riding the trails in Michaux. Any business with local knowledge is one we want to meet with, including non-profits such as Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau

Quick Release Bikes

Quick Release Bicycle Shop stocks flat Michaux Lizard Maps for those who'd like to hang maps in their homes and cabins. 

Gearhouse Brewing Company Michaux State Forest PA

We also find local experts in unexpected places, such as the crew at Gearhouse Brewing who ride local trails, grow their own hops just outside of the brewery in Chambersburg, and of course brew great beer!  

Michaux State Forest PA

We also speak with local forest driving experts, like East Coast Overland Adventures and Main Line Overland! These folks know all the best forest spots accessible by vehicle.

After receiving feedback from local businesses and organizations, we take our map to local trail users. Luckily we have some friends who know trails in the forest better than anyone else, including some folks from Bicycle Times Mag, DirtRag, and PA Interscholastic Cycling League. It is here that we learn of trails from the past, race routes, local trail folklore, and of course local trail names. We are also given feedback of certain locations that locals may want to keep to themselves, rather than see on our map.

Cumberland Valley Rail Trail

Before diving into the woods, we check surrounding recreational areas that will be on the Michaux Map. The condition of the rail trail surface, parking, bathrooms, etc...

Gated Road

Once we enter the woods, the real adventure begins! We keep our senses tuned in and note everything possible. Most importantly, does our map accurately reflect the land? We note when the roads change from pavement, to gravel, to dirt. We note gates with roads or trails behind them. We note the condition of these gated roads and trails.

Big Pond Iron Furnace

We keep a lookout for interesting historical remains that may be hidden in the thick forest. 

Rocky Ridge Trail

We note trail signs, blazes, and conditions.

Trail sign

We also note if the signed trails actually exist, and if visitors would be able to find them.

Michaux Target Range Michaux State Forest PA

We look for areas that we've read or heard of, but aren't on any existing maps. For instance, we found the Michaux Target Shooting Range. 

Hammonds Rocks

We check out all of the roadside kiosks, to ensure that our information is congruent with state publications.

Pole Steeple Michaux State Forest PA

We also hike, bike, or climb to all the vistas that we can to be sure they exist and are in good condition for visitors to enjoy.

Eastern Fence Lizard

We find wildlife, like this Eastern Fence Lizard. And we find Purple Lizard Spots for our map!

Michaux State Forest

We search for trails that may have been lost or rerouted due to natural resource extraction.

Michaux State Forest Camping

We find all of the numbered DCNR permit campsites along the forest roads.

Michaux State Forest Camping

We also do some light backpacking and primitive camping, which gives us a good feel for the forest.

Michaux State Forest

We scramble around on boulders that we think climbers will enjoy, and look for chalked up climbing routes.

Michaux State Forest

Michaux State Forest is notorious for having a difficult to follow trail system. We found many paths leading into the forest without blazes or signs, and we followed a lot of them to see where they lead.

Purple Lizard Maps Nittany Mountain Works

Finally, the real magic takes place. All of our notes are compiled, sorted, and placed on our maps by our lead cartographer, Michael Hermann. Michael not only puts every physical feature on our maps; he also adds some of the most visually pleasing artistic adjustments that you'll ever see on a map.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park Michaux State Forest PA

Now that our Michaux Map is nearing completion, we visit and meet with the land managers. Of course this includes DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and DCNR State Parks, but it also includes other organizations such as Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve in Fairfield. We receive feedback on what these land managers would like to see (or not see) on our map. This was an extremely important factor for the Michaux Map, since this forest is notorious for 'visitor created' trails. Land managers may also sometimes give us future plans for the land that we may add to the map so that it is accurate for years to come.

We also get to take a break and find some great local spots that are well off the main route, like Boyer Cellars, which has acres of amazing orchards in the middle of the historic Fruit Belt just east of Michaux. Then we take our map and notes back to the office, complete final draft edits, and spend hours with a few close professionals looking over the map for any discrepancies. Once we're satisfied, the map is sent to our printer in Colorado (yep, we're made in the U.S.A.). Pre-sold maps get shipped first, then we hit the road and distribute our maps to local sponsors and dealers.

Appalachian Trail Museum Pine Grove Furnace State Park Michaux State Forest PA

Purple Lizard is dedicated to supporting local businesses and communities through outdoor recreation. Because of this, we spend a lot of effort to offer local independent businesses the opportunity to sell our maps. Our maps are a product made by and for local community members.

Michaux State Forest PA 

Now we do what you do- we take our printed Michaux Map, and our friends, to the forest to play in the woods! We generally target areas that are less-well known, and then create blog posts as a way to encourage a healthy distribution of activity throughout the forest. Are our maps perfect? Well that would be nice, but no, they are not. Mistakes are found from time to time. We encourage you to get out there and appreciate your public lands. Oh, and if you do find a mistake, please let us know about it!

Rocky Knob Vista of Lone Pine Reservoir Michaux State Forest PA

Follow some of our adventures in Michaux here:

A Tase of Michaux: Climbing, Cycling, Hiking and Cabin Camping

Camp Michaux and Sunset Rocks 

Charcoal Hearth Trail 

Visit The Nicest Shelter On The Appalachian Trail

Or Make Your Own Adventure With Our Michaux Lizard Map 

Michaux Lizard Map Michaux State Forest PA

You Can Also Use Our Adventure List to Plan A Route


 When You're Done With Michaux, Check Out Our PA Adventure Series

Or Our Entire Map Collection!



Pine Creek PA Grand Canyon Lizard Map! September 22 2016

Pine Creek and the "Pennsylvania Grand Canyon" offers one of the most diverse outdoor recreation destinations in the region.  

The Pine Creek Lizard Map features the most up to date info and accurate mile markers for the famous Pine Creek Rail trail, but it does so much more, offering your customers a fantastic guide to all the hiking and biking trails, boat launches, campsites, and beautiful back roads the Pine Creek region has to offer. Complete with detailed and easy to read cartography including topography (elevation data) and hydrography (stream corridors).  Your customers who already love Pine Creek will fall in love again as they explore new places with the Lizard Map. For those new to the area, Lizard Map will be their comprehensive outdoor recreational guide as they discover this beautiful Pennsylvania outdoor recreation playground!

We loved exploring all the outdoor recreation treasures in the Pine Creek region and meeting wonderful folks while we were busy making the Pine Creek Lizard Map over the last year.  

Now we can't wait to get it to your customers. Whether your customers enjoy cycling, mountain biking, hiking, camping, or stream wandering, the new Pine Creek Lizard map will help them explore this truly special region. 


Are your customers looking for winter escapes? January 13 2016

It's winter getaway season!

Purple Lizard's Rincon PR Map and Guide offers one of the best adventure vacation destinations anywhere.  Get a behind the scenes look at the making of the Rincon Lizard Map and Guide in this article in El Coqui, Rincon's monthly tourist magazine.  Then add some Rincon Lizard Maps to your next order and watch your customers light up at the prospect of a winter getaway to the sun and surf!

New: Athens, Zaleski, Lake Hope Lizard Map! October 26 2015

Lizard Map Release Party  
Wednesday, October 28th, 5:00 - 8:00 pm

Purple Lizard is proud to announce the release of the new Athens Ohio, Zaleski, Lake Hope Lizard Map.  Athens and the surrounding area has some of the best outdoor recreation in Ohio.  Now it has the most detailed recreational map ever produced of Athens and the surrounding area.  The map covers Athens, Hockhocking-Adena bikeway, Strouds Run, Nelsonville, Moonville, Zaleski State Forest, Lake Hope and much more.   Never been to Athens? You may want to Check out this Dirt Rag Article about riding in the area. Then, start planning your adventure today. Have friends in Ohio? Invite them to join us to celebrate!

Rincon, PR Lizard Map & Guide November 20 2014

We are excited to announce the publication of the new Rincón Lizard Map & Guide!  The Rincón Map & Guide is a beachproof and waterproof map and guide that clearly illustrates Rincón’s beaches, surf breaks, trails and roads.       

Our latest Purple Lizard Map includes detailed descriptions of the surf breaks and beaches, contour lines for both land topography and bathymetry, plus information about the community, environment and things to do in Rincón in Spanish and English. It’s a big, beautiful map at 2-foot by 3-foot, that is folded to 4x9 inches.  See what you’ve been missing on that tiny cell phone screen. The Rincón Lizard Map & Guide will help visitors and locals explore and discover all the best Rincón has to offer. 

Health Warning October 27 2014

Continued use of these maps may result in an inability to stay indoors and a sudden criticism of traffic. Your skin may become covered with dust and dirt. Mild confusion will make it difficult to relate time and distance, which may alter your definition of weather. There is a potential for all of these side effects to occur simultaneously and without warning. That's why we are warning you now.