USGS Maps Will Help You Explore the Great Outdoors

Release Date:

Updated USGS digital topographic maps feature more trails to help you explore and navigate 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:

State Source Trail Miles
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
Total   43,786

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:

Map of National Scenic Trails

Map of National Scenic Trails.  (Public domain.)

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:

Exerpt from USGS Half Dome quadrangle topographic map showing Yosemite Valley.

Exerpt from USGS Half Dome quadrangle topographic map showing Yosemite Valley. (Public domain.)

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.

National map showing trails

Updated status map of the U.S. showing Federal and State trails currently in the national trails database or in review. (Public domain.)