New Zealand’s Great Walks

Wilderness magazine special issue

Wilderness magazine commissioned me to create a map of each of New Zealand’s Great Walks for their September 2021 special issue.

NZ has ten great walks across the country, though one of them is actually a canoe/kayak journey, and another two also allow mountain bikes.

Wilderness magazine’s request was for a map of each walk in a style similar to my 1:10,000 topographic map of Broken River ski area. I was provided with the route descriptions, which allowed me to ensure the maps showed all of the locations mentioned in the text. A pet peeve of mine is when guidebooks and route descriptions refer to places that aren’t then identified on accompanying maps. That wasn’t going to be the case with these!

In terms of the level of detail for the maps, there was never any intention of them replacing large-scale topographic maps for map-and compass navigation (though the Great Walks are so well formed and marked that this kind of navigation is never required). Rather they were to be a visual guide to the tracks, printed back-to-back with their text descriptions so readers could tear the page out and take it with them. As such, the maps would depict areas of dense vegetation (forest), sparse vegetation (scrub), open land, and water, supplemented with major roads, tracks, and rivers. As a guide, I used LINZ Topo250 maps, as well as the maps from the DOC route guides.

In addition to wanting to know what features are around, walkers also want to know how much up and down there is on a Great Walk. To depict the terrain I used a combination of single- and multi-directional hillshades. These were supplemented with contours, though I chose not to label their elevations. This was mainly due to time constraints, but also to remove unnecessary label clutter from the maps. Only relative elevation was important for these maps, rather than absolute elevation. By showing contours at evenly spaced elevations, relative steepness can be determined in combination with the hillshade. Absolute elevations values are not needed.

Topographic data was sourced from the Topo50 layers and elevation data came from the 8m national DEM, both from the LINZ Data Service. The basemap styling was all done in QGIS, with the route, symbols, and annotations added in Illustrator.

I made use of the raster styling options in QGIS to dynamically create the terrain hillshades and contours. With ten maps to create, this avoided the need to run any geoprocessing tools or create numerous datasets. I could simply take three copies of the same DEM and style them as a single-directional hillshade, a multi-directional hillshade, and contours, using blend modes to combine the layers. These styles could then easily be copied and pasted onto the DEM of each map area.

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