The New Easy Way to Print Topographic Maps for Free
Now you've got one less excuse not to venture into the wilderness. National Geographic just launched a website that lets you find and print a PDF of any U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quad map across the entire country.
Yes, you could get USGS topographic maps before, but they were in large, cumbersome PDFs that were difficult to find and even harder to print. National Geographic's site gives you a handy GPS map to zone in on your target area. Then you simply select the quad you want.
Quads, or quadrangles, generally refer to USGS maps that cover 7.5 arc minutes (one minute of arc is equal to one-sixtieth of a degree). Basically each quad covers an area between 49 and 70 square miles. Most of the country has been divided up into quads by the USGS and mapped topographically, though some parts of the nation, like Alaska, have yet to be charted in such detail.
The National Geographic website gives you five sheets for each quad-one that shows you the position of the entire area and its surroundings, and then four that cut the quad up into quarters for easy printing on standard 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper. Nat Geo even added a little design flair to the maps by shading the hillsides to further represent the topography.
It's never been so easy to go get lost in the woods.