USGS Maps Will Help You Explore the Great Outdoors
As we approach summer, President Trump has designated the month of June as “Great Outdoors Month” and USGS maps are the perfect resource as you head outside and explore. Updated US Topo maps and other mapping products now make the planning and navigation of your next outing easier. Recent partnerships with other federal, state, and non-governmental organizations have allowed the USGS to feature additional trails and major recreation points of interest on our digital topographic maps.
Collecting Trail Data From Partners
The USGS has become an aggregator of national trails and recreational features. The National Geospatial Program (NGP) at the USGS has been seeking and leveraging partnerships with other agencies and organizations by making their data available through USGS mapping products and services. These contributions and collaborative efforts have resulted in the addition of more than 210,000 miles of government maintained trails to the Nation’s topographic base maps. The Federal input includes:
- 124,183 miles of trails nationally from the U.S. Forest Service
- 18,328 miles of trails nationally from the National Park Service
- 2,105 miles of trails throughout the U.S. from the Fish and Wildlife Service
- 4,011 miles of trails, mostly in the Rocky Mountain states, from the Bureau of Land Management (Note: more BLM trails are currently being loaded, we will send out an update when complete).
- 109 miles of trails from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Also, 20 states have contributed their trail data:
|Alaska||Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation||679|
|Arkansas||Arkansas GIS Office||460|
|California||California State Parks GIS||2,040|
|Colorado||Colorado Parks and Wildlife||6,947|
|Connecticut||Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection||1,671|
|Florida||In the process of preparing Florida state trails|
|Iowa||Iowa Department of Natural Resources||2,653|
|Idaho||Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation||735|
|Indiana||Indiana Department of Natural Resources/Division of Outdoor Recreation||3,925|
|Kentucky||Kentucky Department of Parks||1,136|
|Michigan||Michigan Department of Natural Resources||8,626|
|Missouri||Missouri Department of Natural Resources||1,084|
|North Dakota||North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department||220|
|Nebraska||Nebraska Game and Parks Commission||1,222|
|New Jersey||New Jersey State Park Service||1,043|
|Ohio||Ohio Department of Natural Resources||1,587|
|Tennessee||Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation||1,089|
|Texas||Texas Parks and Wildlife Department||1,309|
|Utah||Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC)||2,352|
|Washington||Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission||1,169|
|West Virginia||West Virginia GIS Technical Center||3,838|
As the collection, formatting, and distribution of this data continues, more cooperation with Federal, state, and local agencies is expected to increase – and greatly add to a national database.
National Scenic Trails
There are 11 major trail systems that have been designated as a National Scenic Trail. The USGS NGP has formed partnerships with many diverse governmental and non-governmental agencies to obtain all relevant data and portray those labeled trail segments on US Topo maps as they are revised.
National Scenic Trails that have been added to USGS map products:
- the Appalachian National Scenic Trail – 2,020 miles
- the Ice Age National Scenic Trail – 694 miles,
- the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail – 1,227 miles,
- the North Country National Scenic Trail – 2,654 miles,
- the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail – 2,527 miles,
- the Arizona National Scenic Trail – 781 miles,
- the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail – 81 miles,
- the New England National Scenic Trail - 223 miles,
- the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail - 3,167 miles,
- the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail – 824 miles,
- and the Florida National Scenic Trail – 1,125 miles
The total distance of these trail segments now available on US Topo maps is more than 15,320 miles. The US Topo mapping program is working hard to continually update those data as well as update other trails as new information is provided.
The National Geospatial Program has incorporated new technologies and processes that will allow the updated maps to feature not just conventional trails but also major recognized water and snow routes. This new data will be supplied by the NPS and USFS.
How to View and Download the Trail and Recreational Information:
There are two primary services to view, download, and in some cases, manipulate the trail and recreational points of interest information, as well as other base map layers:
US Topo maps: These maps are modeled on the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle maps of the period 1947-1992, but now generated from a continuously updated national geographic information databases on a repeating cycle. The maps are available for download from the USGS Store and presented in traditional map, quadrangle display with collars and other information. This format benefits non-specialist map users, as well as applications that need traditional maps. The US Topo map improvement program has finished its third, three-year cycle of revising and updating digital US Topo quadrangles.
The National Map Viewer and Download Platform: NGP’s most current topographic base map data and products can be visualized and downloaded using this capability. Users can access data from all eight primary data themes of The National Map, and associated products, such as US Topo maps, Historical Topographic Maps, and Map Indices. This viewer is largely meant for experienced GIS users.
If you would like to compare historic maps to current topographic maps, you can download scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s. These can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection or TopoView.
For more assistance in locating, working with and downloading US Topo and Historical maps, a short tutorial can be found at: https://www.usgs.gov/media/videos/lesson-9a-accessing-us-topo-and-historical-usgs-topographic-maps.
So, before you set out to go hiking, camping, wildlife viewing or engaging in other recreation activities, don’t forget to check out all of the USGS mapping services and products that are available license free and at no cost.