Discovering and Downloading USGS Topographic Maps

On a nice summer day, you may be thinking about going for a hike or exploring areas for your research. Whether you are looking for current or historical topographic maps, there are a number of options to discover and download this maps for free. Included below are examples of how to locate printer friendly, historic, and Connecticut focused USGS Topographic Quadrangle maps.

Printer-Friendly USGS Topographic Maps

Recently National Geographic released a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic map PDF Quad interface which allows users to search for a location and then obtain printer friendly topographic maps for that area in PDF format. Included below is an overview of the process for searching and downloading your own topographic map which will print on an 8.5″ by 11″ paper as a multi-page map.

  1. Go to and scroll down to the interactive map.
  2. In the search bar at the top right corner of the interactive map, search for a town, quadrangle, or place. search_national_geo_quad_PDF
  3. The map will zoom to your area of interest. If you do not see any red pins on the map, zoom out the map by clicking the minus (-) sign on the left side of the map. pins_maps_national_geographic_quad_PDF
  4. Click the red pin closest to your location of interest, this pin represents the center of the topographic quadrangle which covers the area. The pin will display a preview quadrangle map. Click on the quadrangle map image. map_preview_national_geographic_quad_PDF
  5. This will download a PDF map of the quadrangle map which includes a total of 5 pages, the first being an overview quadrangle map, the next 4 maps which include a section of each quadrangle. These maps are designed to be printed on 8.5″ by 11″ paper and include scale, latitude, longitude, along with all the other details included on a USGS topographic map. If you want to know more about the different symbols on the map, check out the USGS Topographic Map Symbols legend.

Historical Topographic Maps from USGS

The USGS also offers a national index of digitized historical topographic maps called topoView which allows you to search by location for historical topographic maps and to download the maps in JPEG, KMZ, GeoPDF, and GeoTIFF format. While these maps may not be as printer-friendly as the PDF Quads from National Geographic, the topoView interface provides nationwide access to historical topographic maps at a range of scales. Included below is a quick overview of how to use the topoView interface:

  1. Go to and click on Get Maps.topoView_interface
  2. From the topoView browser, search for a location and hit enter. This will zoom the map to area of interest. From the map scales menu (along the right side of the map screen) select the map scale you are interested in viewing or select Show All to see all the scales available. topoView_mapscales
  3. Click on the orange map pin to bring up the map preview and download menu which will appear in the bottom left corner of the map. This will provide the option to download the map in JPEG, KMZ (Google Earth friendly format), GeoPDF, and GeoTIFF formats. If there is more than one map available, just to the right of the preview map will be a link with the number of maps available. In the sample below there are 13 historical maps to choose from for Hartford North, Connecticut.topoView_map_preview

Connecticut Historical Topographic Maps from MAGIC

If you are interested in more topographic maps for Connecticut, MAGIC offers a number of digitized topographic quadrangle maps which can be accessed via MAGIC’s website with a majority of this historic topographic maps available via the topoView application. Included below is a quick outline of how to locate and download topographic maps for areas in Connecticut from MAGIC’s website:

  1. Got to and from the interactive Connecticut USGS Topographic Maps Mash-up interface, search for town (ex. Hartford, Connecticut).
  2. The map will zoom to the area of interest which will show a pin and an outline of the topographic quadrangle(s) nearby. Multiple scales of topographic maps may be available for your area and you can select which scale you want from the Toggle menu along the top right corner of the interactive map interface. More detailed maps will be at 1:24k scale while more general maps will be available at higher scales up to 1:125k.magic_topographic_maps_interface
  3. Click the topographic quadrangle outline which covers your area and a pop-up menu will appear. Select the map of interest and click the View and Download link.magic_topographic_maps_interface_popup
  4. This will take you to MAGIC’s Flickr page where you can download the map as a JPEG (down area in right corner of map view window) or as a full-quality TIFF image (link is located below image). magic_topographic_maps_flickr

Three separate interfaces, each providing access to USGS topographic maps and providing access to current and/or historical quadrangle maps. Enjoy exploring each interface!