Nearly every USGS topo map ever made, for free!
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been producing detailed topographic maps for more than 125 years. Today they are nearly all digitized and free to download through the USGS Map Store, an incredible treasure trove for both map junkies and casual hikers alike.
Locating your desired map is straightforward with the USGS Map Locator and Downloader, which allows you to zoom in or search for your area of interest. It then gets mildly confusing (though easy once you figure it out) to download the actual map.
To do so, find your desired location and select the type of map you wish to download (usually the 7.5-minute versions, which provide the most detail). An overlay grid appears, with each box labeled with the specific name of each map.
Next mark a point within your desired map by first selecting the button next to "Mark Points" and then clicking anywhere within the area of interest. This adds a reddish 'paddle' to the map. (If you searched by name, a paddle will automatically appear over the location.) Clicking on it then brings up a list of all the maps available for download for this location, from most recent to historic.
Current maps, such as the one at top showing Ralph Stover Park. are downloaded as PDF files. These vector graphic files withstand great enlargement, and the user can click on and off various map feature layers as desired. Be sure to use the free Adobe Reader to access this feature. Advanced users can even load these files into programs such as Adobe illustrator and edit and modify them.
Older maps, such as the 1893 Mt. Washington quadrangle shown at bottom, have been scanned and saved as PDF files of raster images, and while they cannot have layers selected or be edited, they are of exceedingly good quality.
Files are downloaded as zip files, which need to be opened. The file size is typically around 24 Mb for a modern 7.5 minute map, and around 8 Mb for historic maps.
Maps are selected by clicking on a zoom-able US map and selecting the map size and date desired. Sizes include 7.5, 15 and 30 minute quadrangles, plus special maps.
If you ever went to a good map store and looked at the topo index sheets, or at the computer map packages, and wished you could have everything, now you can, for free!
© Copyright 2007-2017 All Rights Reserved. The Appalachian Mountain Club - Delaware Valley Chapter.