New Contour Lines in Google Maps

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:

View Larger Map

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.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Now we just need a switch to optionally change the contour heights from feet to metres… 🙂

  2. Hmmm… Seems this layer does not show with Bernard’s network link:

  3. I would love to see this kind of view in Google Earth…

  4. It would be great to see this in Google earth along with the ability to switch off the photography when required. I would love the ability to see a vertical long section route planner option within google maps.

  5. yoyos_geb says

    Why not they add this feature to Google Earth? Besides, it would be better if contour lines included in satellite view.

  6. Y’see. I asked if this was possible on the GE forums a year or so ago and was basically slated for asking, as “3D modelling was better than contours for showing elevation.”
    *rolls eyes*
    Some people…

  7. Would like to see it used in combination with a higher standard of universal resolution for the entire globe.

  8. Fantastic, I will love if they manage to do the same thing with Water textures, like depth of potential dive sites, etc. BRilliant

  9. What is the original digital data source used for the contours? Is it in vector format?

  10. Adding contour lines to Google Earth so that they could be viewed without having to connect online would be of great help in a classroom setting. Not all computers in a school have internet access.

  11. Bharat Singh says

    Elevation of Ground does not shown in Google Earth in my computer. what is promlem?

  12. How do you see contours of finer values? Currently it shows something like 20m … I wish it would show 5m or 10m.

  13. I baffles me that topo was not a layer in GE from the very first. Every serious earth scientist, civil engineer, etc. relies on very accurate topology and while 3D is nice, it is visual, not measurement. Any hiker, boater etc. also needs height/depth measurements that are as precise as possible if the map they are using is to be of any value to them. Keep refining 3D but please put in as accurate as possible contour lines as a layer with variable transparency.

  14. I just downloaded Google Earth to help plan flights since the Google maps terrain feature is just amazing for what it is. I wholeheartedly agree with nick above and am terribly disappointed that there is not a contour layer. Between that and missing lakes, the utility I might have had from Google Earth is a fleeting dream.

  15. The complainers on this blog crack me up… You get something awesome for free, and then whine about it. You must be British.
    If you don’t like GE, go use the ‘competing’ Apple or MS products… Oh, right… there aren’t any.
    No, I do not work for Google.

  16. Abhay Shukla says

    How I can find area of a polygon on Google Earth Map.

  17. I see 300-m contour lines but what are the lighter greys lines…are they contours also?

  18. Dear sir
    How to plot my X,Y,Z co ordinates in new contour line in google maps

  19. for drainage design how can I have contour lines @ 0.50m interval in different areas of Bangladesh to start drainage study?

  20. Is it limited to USA or Asian countries contours also can be seen?

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.