Why was the PDF file format selected for US Topo maps?

US Topo maps are intended to serve map users who are not GIS specialists. The priority design objectives were to create a traditional topographic map as a digital document that could be displayed on a typical computer without specialized software and printed at map scale without specialized software or expertise. We believe PDF is the only format in common use that satisfies these requirements. PDF is also the only commonly used format that can carry raster data, vector data, and formatted text annotation.

All dates of USGS topographic maps (both Historical topographic maps and US Topo maps) can also be freely downloaded in GeoTIFF, JPG, and KMZ formats using TopoView.

Learn more:

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 8

How do I find, download, or order topographic maps?

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been the primary civilian mapping agency of the United States since 1879. The best known USGS maps are the 1:24,000-scale topographic maps, also known as 7.5-minute quadrangles. Download all dates and scales of USGS topographic maps free of charge from the following applications or order paper copies of all...

What does "georeferenced" mean?

Georeferencing means that the internal coordinate system of a digital map or aerial photo can be related to a ground system of geographic coordinates. A georeferenced digital map or image has been tied to a known Earth coordinate system, so users can determine where every point on the map or aerial photo is located on the Earth's surface. The...

How can I find the source and vintage of each US Topo data layer?

The credit legend in the lower left-hand corner of the collar on a US Topo map includes a short summary of data sources and data currency. More detailed source information is in an XML metadata file attached to each GeoPDF file. This file contains series-level, quad-level, and layer-level metadata, but US Topo does not preserve or track feature-...

What is GeoMark and do USGS topographic maps have it?

Almost all historical topographic maps and all US Topo maps produced before June of 2017 were georeferenced using software from the company TerraGo. Those maps are all GeoMark enabled. GeoMark is TerraGo's geospatial data extension to PDF markup. GeoMark allows notes and geometric objects (lines, polygons, etc.) to be added to a GeoPDF and allows...

Can I import a US Topo map into my Geographic Information System (GIS)?

Most GIS vendors do not yet provide geospatial PDF import capabilities. US Topo maps are derived from GIS data sets and are formatted as PDF for the benefit of non-specialist users. We consider the product to be primarily an output of—rather than an input to—GIS. However, we recognize the demand for symbolized maps in GIS, and we are working on a...

What is a GeoPDF®?

A GeoPDF is a georeferenced PDF file, meaning that it is a Portable Document Format (PDF) file with added information that relates the image to coordinates on a map. GeoPDF files can be used as plain PDF files but have the added capability of some limited mapping functions (turn any map layers on and off, obtain XY coordinates for a location,...

How do US Topo maps differ from historical USGS topographic maps?

Historically, USGS topographic maps were made using data from primary sources including direct field observations. Those maps were compiled, drawn, and edited by hand. By today's standards, those traditional methods are very expensive and time-consuming, and the USGS no longer has funding to make maps that way. A new USGS topographic map series...

Can I get a bulk order of USGS topographic maps in PDF format for a state or the entire country?

Yes. Bulk delivery is available for maps from the US Topo collection (produced 2009-present) and the Historical Topographic Map Collection (produced 1884-2006). In bulk delivery requests, please specify which of these two product series you want. Bulk delivery options are currently only available for maps in GeoPDF file format. Options for bulk...
Filter Total Items: 3
Date published: July 5, 2017

Finding Yourself Outdoors

Updated USGS digital topographic maps feature more trails and other recreation points of interest

Date published: August 18, 2016

Story Map - Topographic Maps for the Nation

The USGS National Geospatial Program has released an interactive Story Map giving viewers an overview of the US Topo map program

Date published: November 19, 2015

US Topo Maps Reach Milestone

With the release of new US Topo maps for Illinois and South Dakota, the USGS has completed the second, three-year cycle of revising and updating electronic US Topo quadrangles. This means that since late 2009, the USGS has published nearly every map in the conterminous U.S., twice.

Filter Total Items: 9
December 18, 2017

Lesson 9a: Accessing US Topo and Historical USGS Topographic Maps

In this lesson, we will discuss the USGS Store and how it can be used to access the US Topo and historical USGS Topographic maps. Specifically, this lesson will talk about the USGS Store, both where it’s accessed and what’s available at the store, as well as how you can locate and download free topographic maps through the store. 

December 18, 2017

Lesson 8a: US Topos Created after June 2017

In this lesson we will demonstrate how to open and manipulate data layers using Adobe Reader DC and Adobe Acrobat Pro. We will also learn how to use basic tools like panning, zooming and making measurements.

June 1, 2017

TopoView - A look at version 2.1

A tutorial by USGS scientist and topoView developer Chris Garrity demonstrating how to use topoView version 2.1. TopoView let's you access and download maps free of charge from the USGS's Historical Topographic Map Collection, published between 1884 and 2006. 

An Introduction to TopoView (version 1.0)

March 31, 2017

How to Configure the Topo TNM Style Template

This is lesson 12 - How to configure the Topo TNM Style Template. This lesson consists of a series of videos intended to introduce the user to the Topo TNM Style Template and the Topo Map Vector Data products. We will discuss the how and why they are needed and used. We will show you where to download the Template and the various products. Finally, we will provide step-by-

March 31, 2017

Downloading the Style Template and Topo Map Vector Data Products

This is lesson 12, Downloading the Style Template and Topo Map Vector Data Products. This lesson consists of a series of videos intended to introduce the user to the Topo TNM Style Template and the Topo Map Vector Data products. We will discuss the how and why they are needed and used. We will show you where to download the Template and the various products. Finally, we

Screen shot of US Topo Story Map
August 18, 2016

US Topo Story Map – Topographic Maps for the Nation

US Topo Story Map – Topographic Maps for the Nation

screen shot of mobile mapping app
April 12, 2016

screenshot of mobile mapping app

Screen shot of a mobile mapping service integrating USGS topographic data; hiking and biking trails south of Golden, Colo. Trail data in KML/GPX overlaid via AlpineQuest.

October 27, 2015

Using US Topo and Historic Topo Maps on your Mobile Device

Lesson 6a: Using USGS US Topo and Historic Topographic Maps on your Mobile Device - This video demonstrates how to download and use US Topo and Historic Topographic maps on a mobile device.

video thumbnail: US Topo
February 29, 2012

US Topo

US Topo is the next generation of topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Arranged in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format, digital US Topo maps are designed to look and feel (and perform) like the traditional paper topographic maps for which the USGS is so well known. In contrast to paper-based maps, US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages