Google has announced a new feature to the terrain relief maps they added last November to Google Maps. Now when you zoom in closer, the terrain shows contour lines to give you an even better feel for the lay of the land. These types of maps are the type most hikers use to plan their trips. Unfortunately, the degree of resolution at this point is not quite good enough for hiking, and the trails aren’t shown by default in Google Maps. But, the enhancement is a really nice feature that enhances the understanding of the terrain and it looks excellent. I just wish they would add these terrain relief maps as a layer for Google Earth. See for yourself how they look in Google Maps – here’s an example of some mountains I was just skiing in Utah:
Google Earth is a great tool for planning a hike. See a recent post by John Gardiner of Google on using GE for hiking plans. And, see an example of overlay USGS topo maps and a GPS track to illustrate a hike, and also adding photos later to the track.
Also, if you want to include better topographical contour maps onto Google Earth, there’s a tool which will overlay USGS topographical maps automatically for your current view. You can read about it here.