Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Best Sources For Free Topo Maps Of The Northeast

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095

    Best Sources For Free Topo Maps Of The Northeast

    I replaced my lost GPS unit referenced in a previous post so now I am revisiting the topic of downloading free maps versus purchasing Garmin's very expensive maps. It has been about 5 years since I asked this question and my memory is cloudy on the topic. From what I remember I attempted some downloads but had some issues and ultimately just went with Garmin.

    I expect a lot has changed in the past 5 years so I figured I'd research again. I assume many of you use free resources to get maps for use and may also be doing things differently now. In making a recommendation please keep in mind the following:

    1) I am not particularly tech savvy. I'm looking for as simple a way as possible to download a decent map, get it in my GPS, load it and use it.
    2) Pretty much all my hiking is in NY and New England as of right now so map sources that specialize in quality maps of this area would be ideal.

    Appreciate any advice on the topic. Thanks in advance.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  2. #2
    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    358
    You may want to revisit this post from a while ago: http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...l=1#post431067

  3. #3
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095
    Quote Originally Posted by iAmKrzys View Post
    You may want to revisit this post from a while ago: http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...l=1#post431067
    I did go back through this. More about GPS features and use than maps. Apparently Garmin GPS's now allow you to make your own maps from Google Earth but it seemed like a very tedious process looking over the directions. From my initial research it looks like GPSFileDepot is still the "de facto" map source it was 5 years ago when I initially researched, and it does not appear to have changed much.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Lewiston, and Biddeford Maine
    Posts
    541
    Doesn't caltopo have a way to download maps?

  5. #5
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095
    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    Doesn't caltopo have a way to download maps?
    Funny you say that. I just spent the past 30 minutes experimenting with that and KMZ files. The process on CalTop is way easier than using Google Earth as outlined in the Garmin documentation, although the free version has some size limitations. If this works as advertised I will just do this and forget preloaded maps altogether. I already use CalTopo for all my paper map printing and planning so this will just consolidate everything nicely.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  6. #6
    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Верхоянский хребет
    Posts
    989
    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    Doesn't caltopo have a way to download maps?
    Slightly on-topic and also off-topic -- Caltopo has an excellent capability for creating objects that automatically snap to/follow routes (trails, roads) on whatever map is being viewed. One can then export this "object" as a GPX file (and other formats), and load onto a GPS unit. This is particularly helpful for using in out-of-the-way U.S. National Forests and backcountry wilderness areas -- as well as national forests in, say, France or Spain -- where route-finding may be difficult or available official analogue maps may be outdated. The resultant GPS track is great to have as a back-up track to follow when on-the-trail conditions get confusing.

    We've used this in areas of the Dixie National Forest in Utah where the only maps available were 10 years old and seriously outdated and trails were infrequently used or maintained, had no/limited signage, and no blazing but a rare old axe blaze or obscure cairn. We've also used this in the Pyrenees where most (if any) detailed guides, online or offline, were in French or Spanish (in neither are we proficient) and we simply wanted to chart a route and get mileage and elevation gain, as well as distance for roadwalks to trailheads.

    It's a great resource.
    Last edited by Barkingcat; 07-19-2018 at 09:34 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member bignslow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    CNY Avatar: Cirque de Gavarnie
    Posts
    404
    https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/ny
    https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/nh - See New England Topo for all of New England

    You'll need Garmin Mapsource software (you can get it for free from their website with some searching) then you download and install these GPS maps which then are visible in mapsource. From there you need to build and download to your device.

    This is how I've gotten all my maps (throughout the USA and Europe) onto my 60CSx

    Concur with other advice about using OSM (open street map) sources for data as well, though I don't know how to get that into a garmin, I use Thunderforest OSM in Backcountry Navigator Pro (Android) and download for offline use.
    Warning: BigNSlow may not actually be all that slow

  8. #8
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095
    Quote Originally Posted by bignslow View Post
    https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/ny
    https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/nh - See New England Topo for all of New England

    You'll need Garmin Mapsource software (you can get it for free from their website with some searching) then you download and install these GPS maps which then are visible in mapsource. From there you need to build and download to your device.

    This is how I've gotten all my maps (throughout the USA and Europe) onto my 60CSx

    Concur with other advice about using OSM (open street map) sources for data as well, though I don't know how to get that into a garmin, I use Thunderforest OSM in Backcountry Navigator Pro (Android) and download for offline use.
    That is what I was playing around on. Apparently this is still the best source for maps. I was having a hell of a time getting anything I downloaded to load which was the frustration that led to my post for what's out there. This morning, with a clearer head and a cup of coffee, I realized I was making a jack ass mistake: I was loading the map files in the \GARMIN directory on my GPS, not my computer. I randomly noticed this when one of the installers defaulted to the C:\GARMIN directory unlike the others which were using an old \386 directory so I was navigating to \GARMIN on my GPS, not the PC. Once I started throwing the files into C:\GARMIN the BaseCamp software was finding them and I was successfully loading them to my GPS. Duh. Did I mention I'm not very tech savvy?

    I guess all the custom ways to generate maps and KMZ files now in applications is "the latest thing" I was asking about and why GPSFileDepot's maps (which seem to have all been created 7-10 years ago) are still the front runner as a source. I'm certainly going to devote some time to that process in CalTopo because that seems to make the most sense. The level of customization you can add with the layers and tools and the ability to pick your map scale are very user friendly.

    P.S. bignslow: I don't believe I have Garmin Mapsource software unless it has somehow been incorporated directly into Base Camp. I downloaded the map installers, installed in C:\GARMIN and then just used the "Install A Map" menu choice to complete. Maybe it is incorporated into the installers for the maps I happened to choose? No idea. All I know is I'm glad I have some FREE maps to work with.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  9. #9
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095
    Quote Originally Posted by Barkingcat View Post
    Slightly on-topic and also off-topic -- Caltopo has an excellent capability for creating objects that automatically snap to/follow routes (trails, roads) on whatever map is being viewed. One can then export this "object" as a GPX file (and other formats), and load onto a GPS unit. This is particularly helpful for using in out-of-the-way U.S. National Forests and backcountry wilderness areas -- as well as national forests in, say, France or Spain -- where route-finding may be difficult or available official analogue maps may be outdated. The resultant GPS track is great to have as a back-up track to follow when on-the-trail conditions get confusing.

    We've used this in areas of the Dixie National Forest in Utah where the only maps available were 10 years old and seriously outdated and trails were infrequently used or maintained, had no/limited signage, and no blazing but a rare old axe blaze or obscure cairn. We've also used this in the Pyrenees where most (if any) detailed guides, online or offline, were in French or Spanish (in neither are we proficient) and we simply wanted to chart a route and get mileage and elevation gain, as well as distance for roadwalks to trailheads.

    It's a great resource.
    I can't say enough good things about CalTopo. Love that site. I really should inquire about the paid version. The free version is incredible enough. I wonder what else you get by buying it/subscribing to it. Has anyone here done that?
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  10. #10
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Bedford, MA; Avatar: eggs anyone?
    Posts
    10,658
    Last time I looked at the GPSFileDepot maps, they were 100k scale. I use the 25K Garmin Topos (much more detailed) and if I want a more accurate trail track*, I load a GPS track for the trail into my GPS.
    * These maps have the trails from the USGS topos.

    USFS GPS tracks for the WMNF can be found at http://trailsnh.com/GPS/WMNF-2008-trails-GPX-files.zip

    Doug

  11. #11
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095
    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Last time I looked at the GPSFileDepot maps, they were 100k scale. I use the 25K Garmin Topos (much more detailed) and if I want a more accurate trail track*, I load a GPS track for the trail into my GPS.
    * These maps have the trails from the USGS topos.

    USFS GPS tracks for the WMNF can be found at http://trailsnh.com/GPS/WMNF-2008-trails-GPX-files.zip

    Doug
    I didn't notice the resolution on the ones I downloaded but they had 40' contours so they're not bad. That whole KMZ file creation produces some pretty awesome maps though. I made a few off CalTopo for my neighborhood, Baxter for next week, etc and they have great detail. The ability to combine layers, upload my GPX tracks to them, etc makes it very useful. I'm pretty sure Garmin won't be getting my money for their maps anymore.
    Last edited by DayTrip; 07-20-2018 at 05:08 AM. Reason: grammar
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  12. #12
    Senior Member wardsgirl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Somewhere in NH
    Posts
    692
    I think I'll want to refer back to this thread in the future for all this information that is way over my head at the moment.

    I have had my GPS that was first mentioned back in this thread. Two years later, I've still never attached it to a computer, although it's on its second set of batteries. I literally only turn it on to answer the question, "How much further?" That amounts to a few times each trip, and I hike nearly every weekend. I still love it and I do not miss not understanding its higher capabilities.

    It would be fun to gather with GPS owners in a place with good wifi to experiment with these map options. They sound inexpensive and awesome!
    AMC Adopt-A-Trail Program Region Leader: Pemigewasset 1993-2005 Southern Presidentials 2005-2017

  13. #13
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Bedford, MA; Avatar: eggs anyone?
    Posts
    10,658
    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I didn't notice the resolution on the ones I downloaded but they had 40' contours so they're not bad. That whole KMZ file creation produces some pretty awesome maps though. I made a few off CalTopo for my neighborhood, Baxter for next week, etc and they have great detail. The ability to combine layers, upload my GPX tracks to them, etc makes it very useful. I'm pretty sure Garmin won't be getting my money for their maps anymore.
    Check out the source data for the maps of interest--many of the free ones were generated from USGS 100K scale DEM data or SRTM (30 or 90 meter resolution). One can interpolate such data to produce close-spaced contours, but if they are based on coarser data they don't add any additional information and may be misleading in the field.

    One way to tell the difference is to look at the contours crossing a small stream valley on a steep slope--high (spacial) resolution contours will show sharp corners as they cross the stream, low resolution contours will show a smoothed version.

    DEM=Digital Elevation Map
    SRTM=Shuttle Radar Topography Mission

    Doug

  14. #14
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Woodstock, CT
    Posts
    2,095
    Quote Originally Posted by wardsgirl View Post
    I think I'll want to refer back to this thread in the future for all this information that is way over my head at the moment.

    I have had my GPS that was first mentioned back in this thread. Two years later, I've still never attached it to a computer, although it's on its second set of batteries. I literally only turn it on to answer the question, "How much further?" That amounts to a few times each trip, and I hike nearly every weekend. I still love it and I do not miss not understanding its higher capabilities.

    It would be fun to gather with GPS owners in a place with good wifi to experiment with these map options. They sound inexpensive and awesome!
    It's not too bad. I'm far from a tech expert and I've been able to figure out a lot of useful stuff but I'm no power user. I'm sure they do a ton of stuff I don't comprehend. But for what I do (record tracks for stats, waypoints for navigation, checking elevation, etc) you can get up to speed relatively easily. Plug it into your computer and mess around! What's the worst that could happen if you aren't using it anyway.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •