The National Park Service has a long standing cartographic tradition. With the launch of Park Tiles they bring this tradition online. Park Tiles are a beautiful, highly customized set of maps built with TileMill and hosted on MapBox.

Park Tiles combine a wide range of open data sets crafted into a modular set of layers that can be mixed and matched to meet the need at hand. This modularity facilitates map creation by a broader portion of the National Park Service team - not only by seasoned cartographers. Park Tiles are a great example of how MapBox enables an organization dealing with rich geographic data to bring a tailored top-notch cartographic experience to their audience. MapBox helps doing this in two key ways: First, by offering full control over design and data to the experienced cartographer and second by facilitating the creation of modular map layers, empowering the casual map author.

Stylistic control: design and data

Using TileMill the National Park Service NPMap team designed map layers with subtle colors tailored to their use as park guides. Features like roads, administrative boundaries and labels are kept in an orienting role, leaving enough room for a variety of overlays. To match other publications, Park Tiles use common National Park Service fonts, colors, and symbols, allowing a seamless appearance that park visitors have come to appreciate in offline publications.

Great cartography requires full access to underlying data. This allows fine grained control over visibility, stylistic control over specific features and filling in missing data. Park Tiles combine data from Natural Earth, NASA, US Geological Survey, US Census Bureau, NOAA, OpenStreetMap and internal sources. These data sets are preprocessed and then styled and rendered into tiled maps with TileMill, including not only visual information but contextual information for in-map tooltips and legends. While already featuring an impressive wealth of data, National Park Service is planning on expanding its data offerings with more detailed park information such as campsites, visitor centers and trails.

It’s particularly exciting to see the National Park Service embrace the OpenStreetMap project, already sparking interest in park mapping within the OpenStreetMap community.

OpenStreetMap / NPS

OpenStreetMap data in National Park Service maps


Hillshades from National Elevation Data (NED) from the US Geological Survey

Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier map using National Park Service pictograms - all data on this map except hillshades and park boundaries is from OpenStreetMap

Cartography for everybody: modular map layers

Park Tiles consist of a set of over a dozen map layers that can be mixed and matched to meet the need at hand. Each of these layers have been designed by the National Park Service NPMap team and uploaded to MapBox. Now any National Park Service employee with access to a MapBox account can quickly assemble a map from these layers and embed it just like a YouTube video, or use the MapBox API to create powerful interactive experiences in web applications or mobile applications.

Modular layers

Combining modular Park Tiles layers using MapBox compositing.

Explore Park Tiles

Read up on the National Park Service release post or try out the Park Tiles public preview yourself.