Philmont Scout Ranch

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Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, United States

latitude: 36.455100, longitude: -104.958052
Browse map of Philmont Scout Ranch 36°27′18.36″ N, 104°57′28.99″ W
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Philmont Scout Ranch is an area in New Mexico, United States at latitude 36°27′18.36″ North, longitude 104°57′28.99″ West.

OSM Philmont Map Use

The first and primary source for crew navigation at Philmont is a compass and a Philmont produced topographic map. OSM maps containing Philmont data should only be used as a secondary navigation tool - preferably only by Crew Advisors. Crew Leader youth and the daily crew navigator (or "naviguesser") should stick with the basic map and compass. With that said, the Philmont data on OSM is excellent for use as a planning tool prior to a Philmont expedition.

Crew Advisors using OSM data downloaded to a GPS device should only used to verify their hunch that the crew has gone off course. Rather than telling the crew they've gone astray, it is best for the advisor to instead question the crew about the day's trek and let them figure it out.

  1. What direction are we supposed to be hiking today?
  2. What direction does the sun rise (or set)?
  3. Should the upslope be to our right or left?
  4. How long should it take us to reach our first landmark (e.g. trail fork, camp, stream, etc.)?
  5. How long have we been hiking?

OSM Philmont Map Status

Trails, Tracks, Roads

As of December 2017, most of the trails, tracks, and roads at Philmont have been added to OSM. Some of these are based on GPS track data and some on tracing of Bing imagery. However, not all of the conventions below were in place when most trail data was added to OSM.

Water Features

Water features such as lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands have for the most part been added. Adding rivers and streams are underway.


All campsites current as of 2017 have been added using UTM coordinate data available on the Philmont web site. Please do not move or otherwise alter the position of campsites.

Populated Areas

Populated areas include Base Camp, the Philmont Training Center, and Philmont Administration area. As of December 2017, most of these areas have been mapped using Bing imagery available at the time. As of December 2017, new Bing imagery is available and currently shows that much has been going on in demolition and building at Philmont. But even this is not up-to-date as construction ongoing in 2017 is not shown in the latest Bing imagery including the demolition of the Seaton Museum and construction of the new museum.

Adjoining Philmont Use Properties

The Elliot Barker Wildlife Area, Colin Nesbitt Wildlife Area, Chase Ranch, Kimberlin Ponil Ranch, Vermejo Park Ranch Heck Tract, Vermejo Park Ranch Greenwood Tract, and Carson National Forest Valle Vidal Unit are adjoining properties which Philmont has permissive use. Property boundaries and camps/trails in use for the 2017 itineraries have been added. Other features in these areas are not as extensive as Philmont proper so please feel free to map them.

Tiger Cleanup

Tiger cleanup has been completed for Philmont Scout Ranch and surrounding areas except for the Carson National Forest.

Conventions for Mapping Philmont on OSM

The following conventions use OSM conventions closely aligned with the Philmont published maps.

GPS Tracks versus Imagery/USGS Map Tracing

The preferred method of data collection is a GPS unit in the field. But this is not always possible and tracing imagery or USGS maps is a good alternative. However, please be sure to align the map with a known feature. A single point is OK but it is much easier and better to align the imagery or map to a GPS track.

VERY IMPORTANT - Map alignment to a single point for all of Philmont is insufficient. Any alignment is only good locally to a few hundred yards in steep terrains to a mile or more in the low flat lands. Most of the current trails have been entered using GPS tracks. Please do not go moving trails about because they do not line up with the imagery. The imagery is most likely out of alignment. When working on large areas the map will need to be realigned many times - particularly areas around Baldy Mountain.

Trails and Roads

There are lots of trails but very few improved roads on Philmont. Most roads are considered tracks Philmont uses three distinctly defined tracks styles where OSM has only one track rendering style.

Philmont Map OSM Tags
Trail (dotted line) The highway=path and surface=ground should be used for all trails. Optional tags is foot=yes. Please tag any trails (or tracks) open to burro packing with horse=yes. Name trails with endpoints at camps "CampOne - CampTwo Trail" using a dash vice the word "to" as every trail goes both ways. Rename any that have the "to" left with a dash. If a trail can quickly diverge to many different camp (has one or more forks in between and/or intersects with roads), simply name the with the name of the closest trail.
Highway US 64 is tagged highway=primary. State road 21 is tagged highway=secondary. Both are tagged surface=asphalt and lanes=2.
Improved Roads Improved roads are generally the dirt/gravel roads suitable for a Philmont bus up to a turnaround where crews are dropped off and picked up. Use highway=service. If you know the surface then use the surface tag accordingly.
4WD Road Four wheel drive (4WD) roads are mainly used to resupply camps. Some itineraries use 4WD roads for short distances when no foot trail exists. Tag all 4WD roads with highway=track. Append 4WD road names with "(4WD)" as in name="Fire Road (4WD)" and simply name unnamed 4WD roads with name=4WD.
Restricted Use Only / Emergency For unknown reason between the 2016 and 2017 map release, Philmont relabeled "Restricted Use Only" roads as "Emergency" roads. It is not clear why since many of these roads are still included in itineraries (e.g. hike to Backache Springs camp in the 2017 itinerary #25). Labeling the roads "emergency" implies hikers are only for use in emergencies whereas "restricted use" seems understood to apply to vehicles. Let's stay with "restricted use." Tag restricted/emergency roads with highway=track. Append named emergency roads with "(RSTD)" as in name="Fire Road (RSTD)" and simply name unnamed restricted/emergency roads with name="Restricted Use".
Out of Service Out of service roads are unused for vehicle traffic and are mostly returning to a natural state. Some itineraries use out of service roads where no foot trail exists. Tag out of service roads with highway=track. Append named out of service roads with "(OoS)" as in name="Fire Road (OoS)" and simply name unnamed out of service roads with name="Out of Service".
Bridges Map bridges as you would normally in OSM. On trails, only map permanent bridges. Boards and logs over streams do not count as permanent structures. Set the tags bridge=yes and layer=1.

DO NOT USE access=private. The primary reason to not use access=private or access=permissive is most tile renderers render private and permissive roads and trails almost grayed out making them hard to see on screens and printed maps. With 40,000 hikers each year Philmont is hardly private and while trail use does require permission, tagging each trail such is simply unnecessary. There are plenty of No Trespassing signs around Philmont making that clear.

Trail and Road Junctions

Please break tracks and roads at junctions to make selection of track/road segments easier when creating Routes.


Routes are created for itineraries. Philmont itineraries change each year and thus have to be updated yearly. If you are looking for routes to download to a GPS device, download the GPX itinerary file from GPS File Depot.


There are two types of camp at Philmont - staffed camps and trail (unstaffed) camps. Philmont maps use a cabin symbol for staffed camps and a tent for trail camps. To replicate this in OSM, use tourism=wilderness_hut for staffed camps and tourism=camp_site for trail camps.

Water Features

When adding water features by tracing Bing imagery, please be sure to align nearby features to known points. Lakes and other bodies of water are often easy to map using imagery. Rivers and streams in open areas are also often easy to trace. Streams under tree cover are impossible to accurately trace. In these case, use a USGS topographic map underlay to trace.

Philmont Map OSM Tags
Springs natural=spring
Improved Water Sources Wells use man_made=water_well. For windmills use man_made=watermill.
Stream waterway=stream - Be sure the water in the way heads downhill. If a stream is named on the Philmont or a USGS map please use the name tag to name the stream. If the stream is not named on the map but the valley or canyon the stream is in is named, apply the valley or canyon name to the stream.
Intermittent Stream waterway=stream and intermittent=yes - Again, make sure when there is water in the stream that it runs downhill. If a stream is named on the Philmont or a USGS map please use the name tag to name the stream. If the stream is not named on the map but the valley or canyon the stream is in is named, apply the valley or canyon name to the stream.
Streams crossings For trails and tracks, simply intersect the stream and trail at a common point. DO NOT USE ford=yes as that just clutters the map (particular on trails following streams). If there is a constructed foot bridge, tag the segment over the water with bridge=yes, foot=yes, and surface=wood as appropriate. Tag bridges crossing roads using normal OSM conventions.
Lakes, ponds, and natural basins Draw a way around the high water mark and tag the way with natural=water. If the water feature is intermittent add intermittent=yes. Add a name tag for named water features. A natural basin is a low spot where water collects but never drains such as Devil's Wash Basin.
Reservoirs Draw a way around the high water mark and tag the way with man_made=reservoir and reservoir_type=water_storage. If the frequently goes dry add intermittent=yes. Add a name tag for named reservoirs.
Basins A basin in OSM terms is a man made retention ponds to filter runoff from roads and other improved areas (and hence not usually found in the backcountry). Use landuse=basin and basin=retention.


Map buildings by outlining the building and tagging building=yes. Please further refine the building with the name, type, and any other relevant information as you would normally tag a building in OSM. Tag Red Roof Inns with building=yes, amenity=toilets, toilets:disposal=pitlatrine, and unisex=yes. Please do not bother tagging backcountry latrines (with no structures) as these tend to migrate locations from year-to-year as pits are filled and new ones are dug.

Using GPS Tracks

By far the most accurate way to map trails is using GPS tracks. Please use these when possible and please upload public tracks to OSM so others can use them and NOT redo trails already mapped to accurate tracks. Tag uploaded tracks with "Philmont Scout Ranch." It is easy to pull OSM tracks when downloading OSM data into JOSM by clicking the "Raw GPS data" checkbox in the download window. Use your best judgement before using some oft these tracks as they are of poor quality (double check using imagery to make sure they are at least close). Preference would be to not perform any automatic smoothing on the GPS track as it tends to cut out some switchbacks and straighten out curves. Instead, compensate for variations when tracing the track into OSM (e.g. GPS errors, obvious diversions from the trail for nature calls, etc.).

Note that Philmont has started publishing GPS track data to their website GIS page. However a lot of it is of low quality so be careful if you use it for mapping. GIS data available as of December 2017 has already been considered and the data already in OSM is far more complete and accurate than the Philmont data.

Using Open Topo Map

Open Topo Map is perhaps one of the best rendered topographical maps on the Internet. It is now available as an imagery layer in the JOSM editor. While not much use for adding features (any features on it are already in OSM), it is good for validation that added features have been reasonably placed (streams in valleys vice on ridges, etc.). It is also good for comparison against the Philmont topographical maps.

Using Imagery

As of December, 2017, there are two useful imagery sets available in JOSM. There is the Bing imagery which was updated in 2017 and is the most up-to-date. There is also the ESRI World Imagery which is of higher resolution but much older than the Bing imagery. Properly aligned, use the Bing imagery for building locations and the ESRI imagery for ground level trails, roads, etc. For buildings, it is sometime easier to trace the building using the higher resolution ESRI and then switch to Bing to align the location. Note there is quite a bit of shift of building rooflines between the Bing and ESRI imagery so please use the Bing imagery to locate all buildings - particularly when there are many buildings clustered together such as in base camp.

If you use JOSM for editing, use bookmarks to save imagery offsets so you can easily reuse the same offset when revisiting areas. Also, install the Imagery Offset Database ("imagery_offset_db") plug-in. The plug-in allows publishing saved offsets to the online plug-in database allowing other mappers to use your offset when editing the same areas. Use the name of the closest camp or major identifiable feature when creating and publishing offsets. For the benefit of those who are not using JOSM, please help maintain the list below.

Location Imagery Set Offset Date Aligned Mapper
Philmont Base Camp Bing 7.57; -0.26 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Philmont Base Camp ESRI 7.18; -1.27 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Tooth of Time ESRI -0.88; 3.50 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Cimarroncito ESRI 1.43; -0.45 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Cimarroncito Bing 0.70; 3.92 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Head of Dean ESRI 0.76; 2.31 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Head of Dean Bing 1.22; 5.34 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Anasazi Camp Bing 4.36; 4.00 Dec, 2017 fortchagos
Anasazi Camp ESRI 1.79; 2.68 Dec, 2017 fortchagos

On the Accuracy of Image Traces

Alignment of Bing imagery to a GPS track and a photo taken along that track. Projection lines of the left and right borders and the computed centerline projection are shown intersecting with the GPS track well within a 10' in diameter error circle.

As anyone experienced working on OSM input should know, any imagery used for trace mapping needs to be aligned to a known point. The projection of a two-dimensional picture on a three dimensional surface - particularly one as varied as the earth surface - is extremely complex. Once an image is aligned using a known point, the accuracy of the map is local with error growing the further the difference from the known point. On relative flat plains where the image was taken nearly straight overhead the imagery position can remain fairly accurate relatively far from the known point. In mountainous terrain such as Philmont, the accuracy is quite short. In the example below, I'll show where imagery aligned spot on at base camp has drifted considerably along the Tooth of Time ridge.

The Bing satellite image (taken in 2017) has been aligned using both a GPS track recorded on 2017 and to a photo taken while walking along this track. Objects at the photo edges were used to project lines that intersect very near the GPS track corresponding to the location the photo was taken. Objects used on the left projection are the edge of nearest building's sidewalk and roof apex of building behind. Objects used on the right projection are the bottom most tent in the center of the imagery and the corner of red roofed shelter behind the tent. The bisection of these projection lines was used to calculate the centerline corresponding to the center of the photo taken.

Note the centerline of the image cuts between the trail sign on the left and the mud puddle on the right with the footpath by the tents being to the right of the centerline and the centerline hitting just to the left of the face of the building in the center background.

Accuracy of the projection and photo location are confirmed by the calculated centerline being between the trail sign on the left and mud puddle on the right of the photo centerline, the footpath near the top of the row of tents, and the projection line hitting just left of the center of the building on the right edge of the imagery. The zig taken to the left right before the photo was taken makes perfect since as the zag was taken to best show the arrival of the hikers in relation to the trail sign. Based on the edge of the grass to the road the project position is probably two to three feet to the right.

Other Resources

Philmont Scout Ranch

The Philmont Scout Ranch web site is the go-to source for information Philmont especially for crews planning Philmont treks.

The Philmont Spatial Data page contains a link to a download of spatial data provided by the Philmont GIS department. They only provide a Google Earth KMZ formatted file for which there are plenty of converters available on the Internet for converting KMZ to the GPX format common to most handheld GPS devices. Note the Philmont provided spatial data is generally not useful for auto-routing software as the tracks are not connected. However, they do provide routes for each trek itinerary.

The Philmont topographical maps are available for purchase from the Tooth of Time Traders.

GPS File Depot

User mhinch has maintained a downloadable collection of Philmont trails for several years. See the Philmont Scout Ranch Trails Map on GPS File Depot.

USA OSM Topo Routable

This USA OSM Topo Routable site provides downloadable topographic maps based on OSM data and formatted for Garmin GPS devices. The maps are provided in six sections - download the Mountain section to include Philmont. Note it can be difficult to use the autoroute function on a GPS device as the availability of trails and autoroute created may not be the route recommended by your itinerary. Save autoroute for emergencies or when near your campsite but always in conjunction with the Philmont topographical maps.

Garmin BaseCamp

Garmin BaseCamp is a free download from Garmin intended for use with your Garmin GPS device. Garmin, of course, wants you to purchase their topographical maps. However, other maps formatted for download to Garmin GPS devices (such as the USA OSM Topo Routable maps above) can be loaded into BaseCamp and use to create routes. Once created, the map and routes can be downloaded to Garmin devices using BaseCamp. After returning home, you can download your Philmont tracks and export to GPX format for upload to OSM to contribute to maintenance of the Philmont map in OSM. See the BaseCamp website for information on how to use BaseCamp.


The OSM Philmont Scout Ranch mapping project has no affiliation with Philmont Scout Ranch.

As always, the OSM disclaimer and copyright apply.