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National Geographic Now Offering USGS Maps For Free

Many of us remember the days when paper USGS topo maps sold for as much as $12 a sheet. That’s assuming you could even find them. When they were eventually made available digitally, they still weren’t cheap and printing them off on a standard printer was a complete headache. All of that is behind us now.

The map mavens at National Geographic recently launched a new web-based service which offers all of the 1:24,000 quads in the USGS inventory for the low, low price of––free. Even better, they created a new system which allows users to easily print their desired map sections with the click of a button, and on a standard printer.

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Locating the quads you need is as simple as using your computer mouse to drill down into the online map guide. As your focus narrows on a particular area, the site even gives prompts if that region is also covered with one of National Geographic’s folding recreational maps, which I think are the best in the business.

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When your target quad is selected and printed, the system automatically prints five individual maps. The first is the area key showing the quad as it sits within neighboring map segments. The other four detail the information in the quad in four quarters. National Geographic went a step beyond and added hill shading for easier reading of the chart’s topography.

As much as I love GPS units, phone apps, and other whiz-bang navigational tools, the paper map is still the adventurer’s first choice. I print my quads on National Geographic’s Adventure Paper, which is virtually indestructible. Easy and free. What’s not to love about that?


Visit their website and start printing: National Geographic Maps




Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.