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Free printable USGS topo maps


It’s not at all intuitive how you use the main map to get the topo map you’re looking for. Mostly, zoom in, zoom in, and zoom in again until you see the little red rectangles for the quad you’re interested in. Select said quad map; save or open. Then zoom in, zoom in, and zoom in again on the quad map to see good things like logging roads and trails.



  1. Alchemist
    Alchemist March 24, 2017 6:19 am

    I just zoomed in on an area with which I am very familiar. The map was wildly inaccurate. For example, several miles of land was shown as being underwater. This land actually rises a couple hundred feet above the water.

    /smartass mode on
    Do not use these maps for anything but decoration. Placemats, perhaps.
    /smartass mode off

    Take care,

  2. Claire
    Claire March 24, 2017 7:06 am

    I found the maps in my area to be mostly accurate, right down to logging roads. However, I’d still use them only if I already roughly knew the area and/or had done research on where I wanted to go. For instance, the maps don’t (and can’t) show what roads or trails have been closed, altered, or subjected to fees and limitations since it was made.

    I didn’t find anything as wildly inaccurate as you found re the terrain. That’s bizarre! But definitely, USGS maps shouldn’t be used as an ONLY resource. Just as ONE resource.

    I just think it’s cool that maps that used to cost $$$ and have to be kept in giant tubes are now so easy and free to get.

  3. Comrade X
    Comrade X March 24, 2017 8:54 am

    “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” TJ

    Don’t mean I can’t use something as a reference point, in my area the map wasn’t perfect for sure but was a good reference in as with “everything” it’s up to me to fill in the gaps.

  4. John
    John March 24, 2017 4:03 pm

    USGS topo maps access point – another option.

    Get Maps | topoView – National Geologic Map Database – USGS

    Compass in hand, I used the printed versions of a fair number of these from late ’60s -mid ’80s. Mostly made from aerial photos from maybe late ’40s up to around 1980 they have shown to be very good on elevations. Structures, roads, etc., even waterways have of course not remained static over the years!

    Still my choice for going wondering into the wild…

  5. John
    John March 25, 2017 12:35 am

    Oroville Dam being in previous news – here is a topo of the “Big Bend Mtn. quadrangle” done in 1948. It is a scale 1:62500 map or; a “15 minute map” . 121 degrees 15 minutes west longitude to 121 degrees 30 minutes; and 39 degrees 30 minutes north latitude to 39 degrees 45 minutes:

    I can download it or, In my browser I can click for zoom in and in lower left you can see where the Feather River enters the map about four miles east of Oroville. Just after the bend to the northeast, up against Kelly Ridge, is where the Oroville dam was built up to about the 900 foot level. The dam wasn’t there in 1948 but if you look at the larger scaled map that was updated ~1980 and search that, you can see how the South and Middle forks of the Feather River are now much wider, as the “cork” that makes the big “battery” hydro plant work, has somewhat constipated the river energy machine. 🙂

  6. John
    John March 25, 2017 12:46 am

    I’m not seeing the click option to follow a comment thread for updates any more.
    A change, my folly, or do I need to do some WordPress com thing?

  7. Claire
    Claire March 25, 2017 8:28 am

    John. Hm. I don’t know what happened to the “click to follow” option. I have a guess, though, and I’ll look into it or ask HWFIW to do so.

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