Pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) is the most common glial cell tumor arising in children. Sporadic cases are associated with KIAA1549:BRAF fusion rearrangements, while 15-20% of children develop PA in the context of the neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) inherited tumor predisposition syndrome. The unique predilection of these tumors to form within the optic pathway and brainstem (NF1-PA) and cerebellum (sporadic PA) raises the possibility that gliomagenesis requires more than biallelic inactivation of the NF1 tumor suppressor gene or expression of the KIAA1549:BRAF transcript. Several etiologic explanations include differential susceptibilities of preneoplastic neuroglial cell types in different brain regions to these glioma-causing genetic changes, contributions from non-neoplastic cells and signals in the tumor microenvironment, and genomic modifiers that confer glioma risk. As clinically-faithful rodent models of sporadic PA are currently under development, Nf1 genetically-engineered mouse (GEM) models have served as tractable systems to study the role of the cell of origin, deregulated intracellular signaling, non-neoplastic cells in the tumor microenvironment and genomic modifiers in gliomagenesis. In this report, we highlight advances in Nf1-GEM modeling and review new experimental evidence that supports the emerging concept that Nf1- and KIAA1549:BRAF-induced gliomas arise from specific cell types in particular brain locations.