Mapping sites other than Google Maps

For the longest time, I have been a loyal GMaps user. Tons and tons of custom maps, for research and planning of trips, for sharing to other people, etc.

Recently I saw somebody mention CalTopo and I checked it out.

I don’t know who or what is behind this site, but it’s awesome. All the awesome layers you can throw a stick at, and you can do all sorts of markups to the maps. Loads of topo detail also. I’ve used it for several of the spots I go to or are planning on going to.


Following is an interview from just over one year ago from the creator of CalTopo. Long read, but interesting. In the article it also lists quite a number of other map options too - though it seems the author is certainly most favorable to CalTopo.

By the way, who’s willing to put money down that @dwalker has some insane knowledge of maps too? I’m glad that @dwalker hangs out here, it would be a less knowledgeable place without him. If I remember correctly too, I think that @anon85570673 may also be a map guru as well (though I do not know on either of those - they are just guesses).

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Very cool. I’ve just been using USGS maps and Google Earth/Maps. I need to give CalTopo a try

Geez. I almost did not notice that. Thanks for the vote, but I’m not that knowledgeable, . Nor that bright - just ask my friends or family. And sure don’t want to appear to be a mr knowitall. I’m pretty much old school. I like printed maps, a compass and protractor.

I recommend MyTopo. About $15, options for waterproof paper, or having UTM grid lines printed on them.

I particularly like it that I can order maps in different scales, 1:24k or 1:25k or other scale.

I am not limited to ordering only maps that fit the usgs map quads. I can order a standard size map that spans two or more standard usgs maps. Take this map for example. It spans 4 standard maps.

Clover Lick / Seneca Lake

Or this map that also spans several standard maps. In this case an area basically south west of the map above.

CL / SL 2

Map Sales - where large is small:

And if you’re a printed map guy, Map Tools, makes great navigational accessories.

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On IOS or Android the GAIA app is the best.

On desktop: Try ACME, or my favourite Caltopo

Any vintage USGS map can be downloaded as a PDF from here:

Natgeo also makes USGS maps avialble for free via here:


I think USFS has a nice site for downloading quads of their lands as well. I have several nice PDFs of national forests.

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Thanks for the tips @anon85570673.

@Chris_Lynch That’s true, I just wish I could print them bigger.

I have found Brian Steven’s video on how to download usgs maps useful, because he also shows how to print only part of the map to scale if you don’t need the entire map.

How to Get Free Topo Maps - Map and Compass Skills - Video 1
[starts two minutes into the video where the actual computer steps are shown]

June 2017 update to QuickStart guide:


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Thanks David! That’s great.

CalTopo is pretty awesome. I’ve created a test map to track your GPS with your phone offline and it definitely works.

The App: Avenza Maps is free for both Android and iOS - With dropbox, it’s really easy to import in order to track your location along the maps and routes you make, when offline.

Gaia GPS is supposed to be a good app, but I like free.

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I use caltopo quite a bit. Another one is GISsurfer General Purpose Web Map and GIS Viewer | Surf GIS DATA

For mobile I think its the best and worth supporting.

If I’m importing my own maps, what features does it have that make it worth the money?

I’m all for supporting great developers. That being said, $20 for an app plus additional annual fees for Pro features is not something that would be, personally, the first thing I chose.

Besides, call me old fashioned, but I love paper (or related type) maps when I’m out. I still carry a traditional compass with me and like having something that doesn’t rely on batteries. But that’s just me. I am glad to know it exists though. Most of the reviews seem great.

Considering I’m considering spending over 20$ for a fishing magazine just for the pictures Gaia has made itself indispensable and an excellent value, especially for the Open Hiking layer which gets me topo maps for China, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, etc…I don’t pay for the pro version.


Point well taken. Thank you. That may well convince me.

How is GaiaGPS with tracking time, speed, elevation changes and exporting your hike data back onto something like CalTopo in order to visualize your hike? These are the features I’m looking for. Unfortunately Europe and Asia are out of my reach at this point in my life, so topos and maps for that just aren’t a selling point for me.

Some interesting observations on the decline in topographic mapping details today in the USA.
Seems the USGS could afford to do a better job when people were only paid $1/day.

They seem to do a better job in the UK, where people can buy OS (ordinance survey , government) Maps or Harvey (private company) Maps. However, their advantage now days is that they have a lot less area to map.

I forget which one it is but when you purchase a paper map a digital map is included in the price.

Since this thread came back up, I thought I’d mention that I’ve been using Avenza for a few months and I’m very happy with it as well.

Avenza, as Chris mentioned above is a great app for using PDF maps in

There’s an app for IOS, Android and Windows. Once a map is created in caltopo and it’s printed as a PDF, it can then be loaded into the app and used for offline navigation using the smartphone’s gps. It works. There is a three map limit in the free version but upgrades are available.