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Does anyone know of a good way to find topographical maps for either download or purchase?

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5 Answers 5

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Google maps is free as in beer but doesn't usually show hiking trails. OpenStreetMaps is a free and open source site that works sort of like Wikipedia, and it often has good coverage of hiking trails, but the coverage may be somewhat hit-or-miss. For example, I've put in some trails for specific areas in California that are near my house or that I've visited.

The problem with both of these is that they don't provide topo maps with contour lines. Google maps does provide maps with hill shading, although IIRC they make it a hassle to print them, and you can't get features such as a UTM grid. There are some third parties that provide free topo maps in formats friendly to handheld devices, but I'm not aware of any that give global coverage. Here are some I know of, with links to a sample area in California so you can compare them.

If you just want color images of normal paper maps, then usually they can be obtained easily from national governments' web sites. Examples:

In my experience, the most practical approach is to get maps on paper, either by buying them or by downloading images and printing them out on a color printer. This has the advantage that it's cheap or free, and there is coverage of pretty much everywhere that I want to go. You can get maps with UTM grids on them, or draw in UTM grids. The UTM grid makes it possible to use them with GPS. An added advantage of the paper maps is that if your GPS unit isn't working (dead batteries, no satellites visible in the sky because you're in a deep canyon, ...), you can still use them. Yet another advantage is that they provide much higher resolution than an LCD screen at any given scale.

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Check this link out:

http://peaklist.org/misc/links_to_map_resources.html

It contains this and many more countries:

UNITED STATES
TOPOZONE.COM
If all sites could be just like topozone. Topozone has a seamless map of the US at all published USGS scales; 1:24,000, 1:100,000, and 1:250,000, and 1:63,360 for Alaska. Recent changes to topozone mean that you have to pay ($49.95 per year) for the highest degree of functionality, nonetheless, the free portion of the site is still superior to most of the other topo sites reviewed on this page.

MAPTECH.COM
MapTech shows all USGS quads, all Nautical Charts and Aeronautical Charts for US. and aerial photos

TERRASERVER.COM
Terraserver also has the USGS data, and lots of aerial photography.

University of New Hampshire Map Library
HIstoric USGS topos of all of New York and New England 1890-1950.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE MAPS ONLINE
All of the wonderful National Park maps that you get when you enter a park are now available on-line at no charge.

USGS (THEMATIC) MAPS ON DEMAND
Thousands of geologic and other thematic maps of the US and territorities available for download.

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I use www.mytopo.com to order waterproof topo maps to take camping with me.

They also have a good interactive online tool which you can use to find a specific area.

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ooh thats nice!!! I like it –  mjrider Feb 1 '12 at 18:51
    
can you expand your answer - perhaps include a little bit more information about MyTopo? like if it is free? Or what features it might have? –  studiohack Feb 2 '12 at 4:22
    
@mjrider: if you ever feel like laminating them, we laminate the maps cheaply at fedex-kinko's (they have a DIY lamination station inside the store). –  Clare Steen Feb 6 '12 at 15:43
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@ClareSteen I've done Kinko's laminated maps before and while they turn out OK, the waterproof maps that mytopo sells are much better IMO. Laminating makes the map hard to store because it's so rigid. The lamination can also come off. –  Chris Breish Feb 9 '12 at 16:44
    
@ChrisBreish: Good point. I may need to look into mytopo as I tend to feel grossly unprepared w/o a map. Thanks. :) –  Clare Steen Feb 9 '12 at 17:03

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has topographical maps arranged in the typical 7.5 minute quadrangle format, available for free viewing & download online for all of the US.

Links:

USGS Topo Maps
USGS Map Locator and Downloader

enter image description here

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4  
These are great maps, and definitely the best thing for the US. I hiked the Continental Divide Trail using just these and although occasionally out of date, there is nothing better. –  Ryley Jan 30 '12 at 18:38
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@studiohack -- I'm not crazy about them because I've gotten a couple of USGS maps with trails that were 10 years out of date where the trail literally didn't exist anymore. They just aren't kept current enough for me. –  Russell Steen Feb 2 '12 at 5:22
    
@RussellSteen Is there any alternative that is significantly better? –  gerrit Feb 5 '13 at 20:40
    
@gerrit -- Yes, I use an app that can take a GPS coordinate trails (which I can easily find for all trails in my area) and plot them on a topo that I can print)... and I should really put that in an answer. –  Russell Steen Feb 8 '13 at 19:06
    
@Russell Did you forget? –  Mr.Wizard Mar 15 at 16:06

In the UK your best bet is to use the Ordanance Survey website where you can purchase maps: http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/

I've used the getamap feature which is great at creating your own maps! Which is useful if your hike goes over several map boundaries - often the case in the Lake District!!

You can also use Bing maps which has OS map data down to 25000:1 for the UK!

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