The Norwegian directorate for nature management publishes a map of wilderness showing how far away a particular area is from heavy technical interventions, such as roads, electricity lines, hydro lakes, etc. This provides a quick overview as to where one can get far into the wilderness. I like it a lot.

Is anyone aware of similar maps for any other countries or regions?


2 Answers 2


The USGS Fort Collins Science Center published the following map of the conterminous United States in 2005:

Wilderness map

It has been published as a factsheet with a PDF (that can be zoomed for more detail):

Watts, R.D., R.W. Compton, J.H. McCammon, C.L. Rich, and S.M. Wright. 2005. Distance to the nearest road in the conterminous United States: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2005-3011. 2 p..

See also this reddit post.

There is also a project for a global roadless areas map that can be viewed in Google Maps (Windows & Mac only) and perhaps Google Earth.

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    Note that this map derives from the Census Bureau's TIGER dataset. TIGER is reasonably good in urban areas; in rural areas, the quality ranges from "mediocre" to "utter bullshit". I've encountered "roads" that were actually field boundaries, dry (or not-so-dry) streambeds, sets of forest clearings that, if you squint at them, look vaguely road-like, and even "roads" that are are completely disconnected from reality.
    – Mark
    Apr 27, 2016 at 1:26
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    @Mark Thank you for this caveat. Also, being 8 km from several major interstate highways in open terrain is quite different than being 2 km from an inaccessible 4WD road with some major obstacles in-between.
    – gerrit
    Apr 27, 2016 at 9:38
  • gerrit, I'm unable to access the PDF factsheet. I'm not sure if it's my browser, country of origin, or some other reason, but I'm getting a message that says I don't have authorization to access the page. It looks linteresting, so if you have the time and desire to change it, I'd appreciate it. If not, no worries! Thanks! Dec 17, 2017 at 22:19
  • @Sue I'm also getting access denied now, and I don't have an offline copy :(
    – gerrit
    Dec 18, 2017 at 10:35

That's actually a very difficult question to answer, since there's a lot of ambiguity about what's a "road," etc. Some geographers in Alaska tried to tackle a similar question here, in an Alaska Dispatch article.

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    Übercool would be an interactive map where one can toggle categories and the map would fill areas with colours based on the distance to those structures. Should be possible to build based on OpenStreetMap!
    – gerrit
    Sep 10, 2012 at 8:20

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