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Make Me a Map

posted Mar 20, 2017, 5:22 PM by Dustin Thomas
CalTopo - Heart Lake

I love maps! I enjoy using maps to help plan trips, and I love looking at maps of places I've been to reminisce. Growing up, that meant paper maps - you know: REAL maps. I still prefer paper maps over digital maps for most things, but there are some great online mapping tools out there that certainly offer some advantages too.

One of my favorite online mapping tools is They've got the usual basics nailed: zooming, panning, printing, and distance measuring tools. They also support various basemap formats including 7.5' topos; and they allow you to view realtime data from water gauges, weather stations, and SnoTel sites.

The best part of CalTopo is the ability to customize your own map and share it with others. There are tools for adding points, paths, and other more specialized things to the base map. I've found the paths to be the most useful so far - the interface makes it quick and easy to add a path that follows a series of trails without having to draw a bunch of straight lines to approximate where you want to go. When you're done customizing your map, you are provided with a simple web address you can share with people so they see can see what you've created. You will also see a list of all the maps you have created so you can jump back to them any time.

CalTopo also allows you to import data from your GPS. You can also export to your GPS as well as a to Google Earth.

Whether you are planning a trip, reviewing an old journey, or just looking for some armchair adventure, check it out: