The first item on the updated 10 Essentials list is navigation, yet many hikers explore new trails without bringing a map. Luckily, National Geographic just made it easy to make sure you have a map for every hike with their free printable PDF USGS Topo Map site. USGS Topo Maps have long been available for free online, but it was hard to find the map you needed, and they were a pain to print because they weren't sized to print on a standard printer. National Geographic just solved both of these complaints with their new easy to navigate website. And as an added bonus they have upgraded each USGS map with hill shading, to help adventurers better visualize the terrain they will be hiking in.
Simply visit www.natgeomaps.com/trail-maps/pdf-quads and if you know the area you want to hike in you can use the search bar to find maps in that area. Or if you aren't sure where you want to hike you can explore the available maps by clicking to zoom on the state you are interested in.
Once you find the map you need you can download it for viewing digitally or printing. The 1st page (example below) is an overview of the 4 printable quads and other contextual information about the map, such as which quads surround the map you are viewing and declination for adjusting your compass.
Pages 2-5 are the detailed quads in 4 pages (example below) that have been formatted to fit your home printer. We like to print these maps on waterproof paper to protect them from the frequent Pacific Northwest rain. You can print the maps double-sided to save paper, but printing one-sided will allow you to layout the 4 pages and study the full area as you plan your hike.
Keep in mind these free USGS Topo Maps from National Geographic won't always show every hiking trail or the detailed trail distance information that you would find on a Green Trails Map. But if you are a hiker that likes to explore the backcountry or need a free map to round out your 10 Essentials then be sure to visit www.natgeomaps.com/trail-maps/pdf-quads.
Austin lives in the Pacific Northwest where he enjoys hiking and backpacking in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.
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