About the Study Guide

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Whenever you're in a remote or unfamiliar area, a topographic map and compass are a must.

Topographic maps are created from aerial photographs and reveal the contours of the land, including hills, ridges, and valleys, as well as lakes, rivers, creeks, trails, and roads.

  • Contour lines show the elevation of the ground.
  • Contour intervals reveal how much vertical distance there is between each contour line—closely spaced contour lines indicate very steep slopes.
  • Contour lines that are sharply tapered indicate an uphill direction.
  • Rounded contour lines typically indicate a downhill direction.
Topographic map

Topographic maps are available at many outdoor stores or may be obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey at www.usgs.gov. Or contact the USGS by calling toll-free 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747).

National Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) show forest road networks and restrictions. They are available from the U.S. Forest Service at www.fs.fed.us.