Print USGS Maps for FreeIt’s
not necessary to drive to a store to purchase paper maps in order to
participate in Mountaineer events --- because USGS maps are available
Perhaps the easiest way to obtain these is via www.caltopo.com, using this process:
- Go to www.caltopo.com
upper right, enter a place name in the vicinity of where you’ll be
hiking. Pick something as unique as you can as this is a
nation-wide list of place names. So for example, something like
“Snoqualmie Pass” works better than the nearby “Snow Lake” (there are
quite a number of places called Snow Lake”).
- Optionally zoom out using the controls at upper left and then click and drag the map to put it close to where you want it.
- Now zoom in to the scale that you want your map printed at; a little practice at this will make the process more intuitive.
the far left, play with the map options to get the one you
prefer. For printed maps, either Plain Topo or Shaded Relief Topo
is likely best, but you could consider the Slope Angle Shading
option. The other options can be good to look at too, but might
be more difficult to navigate with in printed form. You can
find additional layer options at the very upper right corner.
might consider turning on the UTM grid overlay; some find this a handy
reference, particularly if using a non-mapping (coordinates only)
GPS. This is just to the left of the binoculars icon near the
to print your map, first make sure you have the map scrolled and zoomed
to what you want printed out. Click on the printer icon
towards the upper right corner. You have options here to
either print from your browser or to make a pdf. A
pdf file is a good idea if you anticipate wanting to print this map
again, or to share it with others going on your trip. The pdf
option also allows you to set a specific scale (for example, 1:24,000)
and it includes a magnetic declination diagram.
- Change your printer settings to make sure to print in high resolution (and of course, in color)
- If printing from a pdf, take care that page scaling is set to ‘none’.
you can't fit your entire trip easily on one sheet of paper, follow
this process multiple times to print out the pages that you need.
use scissors to slightly trim off whitespace margin to slightly shorten
the printed pages to fit in a gallon ziplock as an inexpensive,
If for whatever reason www.caltopo.com process doesn't work for you, try an alternate approach using www.mytopo.com. This one is also pretty easy to use.
Another (somewhat more complicated) option uses the actual USGS web site, as described here.
Finally, you could check out
-- there you get two simultaneous views, you zoom in to where you want
to be, then pick the particular view that you want, with USGS being one
option (possibly not the default).
Then you select “print” and it formats a separate browser tab with a
printable version and you use your browser controls to print it.
The various topo options are kind of interesting to compare.
The one thing that’s a bit tricky is the “shrink to fit” approach. How
you do this depends on the browser controls, so not as easy to
describe. If you don’t do that, you get ¼ as much of the map but at a
much larger scale, and with info at the top cut off (such as
With all of these options, hopefully one will work for you!