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Google Adds Contour Lines

Updated terrain maps are now more useful for hikers.

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In yet another move to map every inch of the world, Google on Wednesday announced the addition of contour lines to their terrain view, an optional layer of Google Maps. The concept, the brain child of Google Seattle Intern Iljva Kalai, was explained in a short blog post. “I was hoping to do something that would impact everyday users. I was given the same responsibility and freedom that a full-timer enjoys, and armed with this, I set out to add contour lines to Terrain Maps…” He showcased one of his favorite spots in the Adirondacks in New York.

Our view: The contour lines are clean, easy to read, astatically pleasing, and great for routefinding. Backpackers can now look at terrain maps and read the topography without having to load bandwidth-hungry 3-D mapping software, like Google Earth. (An equally kick-ass program, of course.)

We’d like to say Google made this announcement with us in mind, since the upcoming June Issue, in final passes now, tackles the intricacies of planning a trip with the aid of technology. “This is one of the best things Google has done for backpackers,” our own Map Editor Kris Wagner said. “It’s taking free digital mapping tools to the next level.”

Some of our favorite examples:

Yosemite’s Valley Floor

The Bright Angle Trail – Grand Canyon National Park

Mt. Shasta, CA

Mt. Le Conte – Great Smoky National Park


Plus: Get a refresher course on how to read topo lines in this this “how to” article.

-Tim Shisler