Sun, May 20, 2018
How to Buy Topographic Maps
The following is a response e-mailed to the person who submitted this to our Q&A page:
Thanks for the question.
Since I don't know where you are located geographically, I'm making the assumption that you are at least in the US. If not, all bets are off ... let me know and I'll see if there is anything else I can do.
There are a number of sources for topo maps. If you're looking for paper copies of U.S.G.S. maps, you might begin your search at http://rockyweb.cr.usgs.gov/acis-bin/querypartner.cgi. This is a fairly complete list of "official" USGS map dealers by state. You can likely find a dealer near you, and walk out with a map in a matter of minutes (most of my originals came from either Eastern Mountain Sports or the Kittery Trading Post). There are only two things to keep in mind: first, not all dealers stock all maps, so if you're not in New England, you might not be able to get a Mt. Washington map locally (though they can order them if you don't want to bother). Second, since everyone wants a Mt. Washington quad, dealers are often sold out.
An alternative, if you have the time, is to order maps directly from the USGS. Within the last 6 months or so they have gotten their e-commerce website running, so many maps are available via the web. Start your search at http://topomaps.usgs.gov/. FYI, the Mt. Washington 7.5' x 15' 1:24,000 map is the Mt. Washington quad, # TNH0115.
A third option is to complete the order form available on-line from the USGS and then mail or fax your order. I am attaching a copy of the form to this e-mail. It is an HTML file, so save it, open it locally with your web browser, print it, and you're on your way. [file name: map_order.html] There are a couple of 800 numbers listed that you can call for help. The form is also available in a .pdf format on their site.
There are other topo maps as well. Perhaps the best map to show hiking trails is the map published by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) that comes along with their White Mountain Guide. The scale is larger than a 1:24,000 USGS quad, but all of the hiking trails are represented and they are more up-to-date. On the USGS map, only the major trails are shown, and they are often inaccurate, since trails are constantly re-routed due to storm damage and for maintenance reasons, and USGS maps are often updated only once every 10 to 20 years. If you don't have a copy of the AMC White Mountain Guide, you should buy one. The new 26th edition was released last year, and the maps were improved. Go back to our site, click on the books page, and you can order it from Amazon.com at a very good price. If you are interested in just the map, you can contact the AMC at 5 Joy Street, Boston, MA 02108.
Finally, there are some software programs that you can get that have topos on CD-ROM. There are many titles out there, but I use a program called Topo!, by Wildflower productions. You can find them at http://www.topo.com/. This program is absolutely indispensable. The New Hampshire edition has everything you want (all of the maps on the site were generated with it). If you'd like, e-mail me back and I can whip up a Mt. Washington map for you and e-mail it over (you'll need a color printer). Just be advised that a printable copy will likely be over 2 MB in size, so it may take a while to download.
One last word of advice: there are atlases available that supposedly have all the topo maps for a state (DeLorme makes one). These are useful only for driving, and tend to be horribly inaccurate when trying to follow a trail, if they show trails at all. I'd avoid them.
Good luck and happy hiking.
Thanks for visiting Hike-NH.com.
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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy