I use NG Topo for printing out maps and then for exporting the WPs for the trail to my Garmin 60CSX. This is a good way to go since I can navigate directly to the TH if I don't exactly know the roads to get there.
I also have NWTrails, City Navigator and NW topo maps on my GPS. NWTrails is an overlay and the trails can be seen over the base map, CN or the topo maps. Both CN and NG topo are expensive (about $100) while NWTrails and the topo are free and available from GPSFileDepot.
Basically what RickZman said is kind of what I do.
One thing I like about the Garmin 24K topo card is it also does street routing so if you plug in a trailhead waypoint it will generally guide you there in the car. No need to have two sets of maps for the GPS. The downside of course is the Garmin card cost about $100 (maybe cheaper on line, I bought mine when they first came out from Garmin directly).
I say generally because sometimes it gets confused on the forest service roads, so you have to at least have an idea of where you are trying to get.
An real example is that when trying to navigate to the 8 mile lake trailhead it wants you to turn into the campground before the actual 8 mile creek road you are supposed to turn to.
NW trails is nice to beta routes/put in waypoints beforehand then send to your GPS. I have found these trails in NW trails are not always 100% accurate either but a good starting point.
There are some trails indicated in the Garmin 24K card but not all and it is easier to plan on the computer anyway.
To some extent I have found the Garmin 24K will sometimes try and route you on a trail it contains, but that works spotty at best so I don't really use it.
Since you have a non mapping GPS I'd go with NG Topo. It allows you to mark waypoints, etc, and then put them into your GPS. Then you can print a map with the waypoints to bring with you.
I have both of the products you mention and use NGtopo all the time because I find it easier to create maps with text and annotation which I carry with me. I'm also used to looking at USGS maps and NGtopo is easier on my eyes.
The NG topo will only be as updated as the maps were when they were scanned. I think FS roads are updated more recently with one of the NG map programs and I'm not sure that is included with the state series topo.
In any case, given the winters recently, you are better off checking with the FS about roads rather than relying on either map source.
As for trails IMO both routes are a toss up. I've seen inaccuracies in both cases. As mentioned either above, or elsewhere, there are trails you can load onto the GPS, but without a mapping GPS it's not that useful.
I use a Garmin Nüvi to get to the trailhead so I'm aware of the pitfalls (e.g. all forest roads are not equal)...
On the trail I carry a Garmin eTrex H. Might load waypoints on rare occasions, but its main job is to record tracklogs.
So what I'm looking for is software that allows me to print custom maps that are at least as good as the USGS 7' maps that can be downloaded and that allows trails (e.g. from NW Trails or previous trips) to be superimposed.
Looks like both NG TOPO and Garmin MapSource (either with TOPO! US 24k or the free NW Topo maps) might work (except that NW Topo doesn't seem to be complete yet).
Would be great if someone could post a screenshot of a familiar region as it appears in all three maps. I'm less concerned about outdated trails than missing or outdated geographical features (e.g. lakes, streams, tree lines).
NW trails has little if any detail which makes sense since it is normally used as an overlay anyway.
It is really only good to show you where the trails likely go give or take a little.
Some trails are spot on, some I find have sections that don't quite match up with my tracks (a section of Crystal Peak and Marmot Pass come to mind
off the top of my head).
I don't know if that is due to questionable tracks submitted or trail rerouting, Probably some combination of both.
Since I most often use the 24k card I usually use NW trails in mapsource to trace a track manually using the NW trails line which I can then load to my GPS if I want.
Washington Topo is a nice free map of Washington. GPSfiledepot has a bunch of free maps of various states. For instance Washington Maps.
Many of these can be installed and viewed in Mapsource or loaded
to a at least Garmin GPS units that can take maps. I don't know about other brands.
I tend to trust my own tracks logs from the Garmin 60CSx. I always record my routes, which are mostly trail hikes.
I've intended to put up waypoints and share tracks but it's somewhat time consuming to do right so I haven't so much yet.
Older GPS's without the newer chipsets had/have problems sometimes tracking in heavy tree cover or ravines etc.
I know that from experience with the Vista Cx. I also had transporter problems with the Vista HCx.
While it tracked better the transporter effect is that it would suddenly think I was
anywhere from a few hundred feet to a half mile away from my actual location. That is one thing but
it would never correct but would keep tracking from there. After returning 3 different Vista HCx units I ditched it for the 60CSx.
I still have a Vista Cx but rarely use it as it fails too often in heavy tree cover for hiking. It works ok on the bike but
now the routing maps I have are tied to the 60CSx (thanks Garmin ).
The 24k Topo card you can't use on the computer so it is kind of hard to get a screen shot. The garmin web site used to let you look at the maps online.
I think they now sell a version that comes on DVD that you can use on your computer and now contains multiple states (Washington, California, Oregon
The National Geographic Topos are basically the USGS maps so it's nice that you can print out any section of the state
you want. I usually do screen captures into a photo editor vs using the features in the program to print.
That way you don't get the extra garbage and can size it/piece it together however you want.
You can also create your route in Google Maps, then export waypoints to your GPS. When you are done, export them back and publish to Google to create a map that can be embedded in a trip report like this:
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