Navigation Course

Wilderness Navigation Course

Wilderness Navigation Course - Foothills (Spring 2019)

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers course.

The Foothills Wilderness Navigation Course consists of two (2) required activities. To  receive credit, participants must complete all required components. 
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  1. Register for this course and pay the fee.
  2. Register for Workshop
  3. Register for the Field Trip

For spring 2019, Foothills will offer only a single session of the Workshop and Field Trip. 


This course is a graduation requirement for Basic Alpine Climbing, Alpine Scrambling, Backcountry Snowshoeing, and other courses that require the Basic Navigation badge which is valid for 3 years.

NOTE: This is not a beginners course.  It prepares you for the rigors of back country and off trail navigation.  If you want an Intro course, two other courses may suit you first, "Staying Found", offered by the Foothills Branch and "Introduction to Map and Compass" offered by the Seattle Branch.  Neither of these courses meet the navigation requirements for Climbing, Scrambling, Snowshoeing, etc. This one does.


Please see the Curriculum Summary / Syllabus in the Course Materials Tab for more details on the curriculum.  The sections build upon each other, and the learning goals by the end of the course are as follows:

1. Skilled in travel thru varied terrain & conditions, on and off trail.

2. Navigation tasks can be shared among the entire team.

3. Able to maintain high level of situational awareness – all team members can determine point position & return to your Camp/Trailhead

4. Skilled in using full tool set – map, altimeter, compass. 

5. Able to provide support to bewildered, abandoned, ill-equipped or overly ambitious souls


The entire course will take 16 to 24 hours to complete. Please plan accordingly.

  • The Workshop is a 3 hour weeknight activity at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  You'll do practical map and compass and exercises as well as other exercises to prepare you for the field trip.

  • The Field Trip is an all-day event. It presents both on and off-trail exercises with approximately 5 miles of hiking and 1,200' of elevation gain.  You'll tie together different ways to use your tools in your navigation toolkit.


Carpooling to the Field Trip is strongly encouraged because parking will be limited, so please specify your carpool preferences in your personal profile. You can view other students' carpool preferences by viewing the roster on the field trip activity page. (The activity page can be found after sign-up under "My Activities" when you click your name on the Mountaineers website)

Required Equipment: See the Required Equipment tab and Course Materials tab below for  the required Compass, Map and Altimeter. 

Required Reading Assignment 

  • Before the Workshop, you'll have readings from the Burns & Burns book "Wilderness Navigation", 3rd Edition. Mountaineers members get a 20% discount when ordering it online from Mountaineers Books as well as purchasing it in person at the Mountaineers Bookstore located in the Seattle Mountaineers Program Center. Please support the Mountaineers by purchasing it directly from the Mountaineers. 
  • Additional reading is available in "Freedom of the Hills."

 For More Information and Other Courses:

For more info about this course, about equivalency options, or other navigation courses, please see our Foothills Navigation Home Page and/or the Foothills Navigation Committee Page.

Badges you will earn:

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Additional badges needed to graduate


Required Equipment

10 essentials and rain gear for the field trip as well as the following:

Wilderness Navigation, 3rd edition by Burns & Burns. 

You'll need to purchase a USGS map.  The best local source is the  Mountaineers Books Online by clicking the items under Required Reading below.  The Mountaineers Bookstore at the Program Center also has the maps.  Mountaineers members get a 20% members discount when purchasing from either Mountaineers source. 

The required map is also online at USGS.GOV with the product numbers shown below.

  • USGS Baring, 1:24,000, Version 1982 (1982 Revision of a 1965 map), Product Number 105315  (Used in the Workshop)

If you download and print a USGS Map on your own plotter, be sure to select the older Index 1982 and Baring 1965 maps, not the new "2014 US Topo". 

A Romer is a tool used to measure coordinates.  In our course, we use a UTM Romer Tool, and you have two options to obtain and use one:

  1. Purchase a slot style UTM Romer from
  2. Print the UTM Corner Romers from the Course Materials tab.  And, review the Quick Guide to UTM at regarding use of the "mini corner style tool".

See the Course Materials tab for a "Mountaineers Approved" compass which you need to purchase before the Workshop. Unfortunately you can't share a map or compass with a friend of family member during the practical exercises. Some local stores might run out of the model you want so it's recommended you buy a compass well in advance. Only compasses meeting Mountaineers compass requirements will be accepted, so before purchasing a compass make sure to read our compass requirements. 

Many smart phone apps, such as the Gaia GPS App, provide sufficient altitude functionality to get you through the course. Many people prefer a wristwatch style altimeter or analog altimeter as they delve further into mountaineering.  For reviews of inexpensive (and expensive) altimeters, see the Blog Entry on How to Pick an Altimeter.

Course Materials
Compass Required Features and Evaluation

Compass requirement and suggested models for Wilderness Navigation. Content copied from: - Required Compass Features 03Jul2018ph.doc - Compass test results table 21Jun2018 bb ph.doc

Foothills - Wilderness Nav 2021 Curriculum Summary.docx



Workshop Map-2.pdf

Map - Compass Course Checklist_FH.docx

Workshop Map-1.pdf

Route Info Table.pdf