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How do USDA Forest Service maps differ from USGS topographic maps?

USDA Forest Service Visitor Maps are at a smaller scale (they show a larger area but less detail) than standard 7.5-minute (1:24,000-scale) USGS topographic maps. Unlike USGS topographic maps, Forest Service Visitor maps typically do not show elevation contours. U.S. Forest Service Visitor Maps include recreational information about camping, fishing, biking, and other outdoor activities.They might also show points of interest, area travel restrictions, visitor safety tips, local plant and wildlife, visitor centers, and ranger stations. None of those features are included on a USGS topographic map.

Forest Service Atlases and Wilderness Maps are topographic maps (like USGS topographic maps) at a scale of 1:63,360, meaning that one inch on the map represents 63,360 inches (one mile) on the ground. The standard scale for USGS topographic maps is 1:24,000, meaning that one inch on the map represents 24,000 inches (about 0.4 miles) on the ground. So standard USGS maps show a smaller area with more detail.

Forest Service FS Topo Maps are intended for internal Forest Service use, though they are available to the public. FS Topo maps are very similar to USGS US Topo maps. The primary difference is that FS Topos show Forest Service administrative boundaries and proclaimed boundaries (like private inholdings).

On average, the Forest Service maps are updated every 2-7 years. US Topo maps (published by the USGS since 2009) are updated every 3 years.

Order paper copies of Forest Service maps through the online USGS Store. Enter the name of the forest in the Keyword Search window or select Maps>U.S. Forest Service Visitor Maps. Download free digital Forest Service maps from the USDA Forest Service Maps website.  

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