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Trail Guide Books

In my opinion, your best bet for a good quality, reliable, and thorough trail guide is from your regional hiking clubs.

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Limited Time Freebie from Backpacker Magazine

Backpacker Magazine is offering a free guidebook to some of their editors' favorite hikes in the U.S. Nice information. I'm not sure how long the offer will last, but Backpacker Magazine is worth looking into anyway. Go to the product page on Amazon.com, and you'll find a link to download the booklet as a PDF file.

Of the 23 hikes described in this 48-page booklet, "The Best Trails in America," there is not one that I'm familiar with. Still, the descriptions seem very good and useful. (And I might just have to check out the Mahoosuc Range. My White Mountains are getting a bit popular, as the booklet says.) In addition, there are a few interesting sidebars providing tips about observing nature, from wildlife to the night sky.

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Regional Hiking Club Trail Guides

Frankly, I don't have much use for trail guides anymore. For my own good reasons, I virtually always hike in places that I already know pretty well. Of course, if my plans change, I'll certainly head for Amazon.com before I hit the trail.

There are myriad trail guides to choose from. No doubt, many are good, and many are not so good. My experience has shown me that every region of the United States is covered by one or more not-for-profit hiking clubs or associations, and that these organizations put out the best, most reliable, most useful trail guides for their respective regions.

Here in the Northeast, that means none other than the Appalachian Mountain Club. Their guide, updated every couple of years, is the best way to choose a hike, and to prepare for a hike, almost anywhere in New England.

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Appalachian Trail Conference

For guides to the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia's Springer Mountain in Great Amicalola Falls State Park to Mount Katahdin in Maine's Baxter State Park, you won't find a single volume that you'd care to carry with you. However, you can use The Appalachian Trail Guide Series from Appalachian Trail Conference.

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Colorado Trail Foundation

Numerous trails throughout Colorado are described in great detail by the Colorado Trail Foundation.

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Shenandoah National Park

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club publishes many guides of many levels of hiking within comfortable driving distance of Washington, DC. One of my favorites, describing several day-hikes in Shenandoah National Park, is Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park. All of these hikes are designed to bring you back on a different trail than you set out on, and all to take less than a day.

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Keystone Trails Association

The Keystone Trails Association puts out an excellent guide, comparable to the AMC guides, called Pennsylvania Hiking Trails: A Guide to Hiking Opportunities in the Keystone State.

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