This article and much of our Knowledge Base now lives at the CalTopo training site. This specific page can be found here. Please go there for the most up to date information, as well as more comprehensive instructions for using CalTopo.

CalTopo can print using most map layers; Google's layers (e.g. satellite) are not available due to licensing issues.

To start, select Print to PDF or JPG from the Print menu at the top of the screen.


This will open a print page in a new browser tab.


The red rectangle is the page boundary; you can drag it using the center dot or the arrow on each corner. Add and remove pages, or change each page's orientation, using the controls at the bottom left of the screen.


Additional settings available in the left bar include:

  • Page size, including custom sizes. Pro-level accounts can choose pages sizes up to 48"x48".
  • Map scale, including custom scales. Casual users probably just care about the page boundaries and not the scale, but often advanced users benefit from being able to print maps that are exactly 1:24k or 1:50k.
  • Whether to create a PDF (useful for printing) or a JPEG (for loading into an image editor).
  • A title, which shows up at the bottom of the PDF, and also serves as a way to identify each PDF within CalTopo.
  • The ability to include UTM or USNG gridlines, and Lat/Long tick marks. As with map scale, this is probably meaningless to casual users but super important for off-trail travel.
  • Map datum. This setting only affects the UTM gridlines and Lat/Long tickmarks.
  • Whether to shade polygons, or print them with transparent fill for greater legibility.
  • The ability to print extra-large icons for large-format briefing maps that are meant to be viewed at a distance.

There are also a handful of PDF management options, which don't affect the PDF itself but control how it is stored in CalTopo.

  • The Keep For option controls how long a PDF's URL will stay around before expiring. You can always download a PDF and keep it forever, but the URL is an easy mechanism for sharing it with others or downloading it to your phone.
  • Load From allows you to load page boundaries from a previously created PDF, making it easy to produce a new map with the same dimensions and borders, but updated data or base layers.
  • Save As lets you replace an existing map that you've already printed. If you want to seamlessly update a PDF URL you've already shared with someone, set both the Load From and Save As options to that PDF.

Pro-level subscribers also have a few additional PDF features under the Customization section. You can specify custom text for the PDF's QR code, and upload images such as a profile or organization logo for each corner of the map.

Understanding the PDF

By default, multi-page PDFs will include an overview page showing the location of each page boundary.


All PDFs include a footer with some basic information. The first line on the left is the page number for multi-page PDFs, the title, or if no title is specified, the map projection. The next two lines are the datum and UTM or USNG zone, which are always displayed but only meaningful if you've chosen to print a coordinate grid.

The center is a bar showing the map scale in both miles and kilometers, with the exact scale and a real-world inch:feet representation printed below.

At the far right is a declination arrow, which shows the magnetic declination at the center of the map. This is the present-day declination, computed when the PDF is generated and rounded to the nearest degree. Single-page geospatial PDFs (see below) have a QR code to the left of the declination arrow so that printed maps can easily be imported into a phone.


Geospatial PDFs

All single-page PDFs printed on CalTopo are geospatial PDFs, which means that they contain extra information relating positions on the PDF to real-world coordinates. While there are a number of programs that can read this information, the most common use is to pull CalTopo maps into the Avenza PDF Maps application. You can view your location on the PDF, as well as record tracks and import or export data.

Managing Your PDFs

Any PDF you create while signed into CalTopo is automatically saved to your account. You can access them via the Your PDFs tab of your account dialog.


The dropdown at the far right shows the number of days until the PDF will expire, and allows you to change its expiration date, including bumping it out to whatever your account is limited to. In theory, a free account could keep a PDF around forever by visiting this page once a week and resetting the expiration date to 7 days out.

There is no limit to the number of PDFs you can have active at once, but you can delete a PDF using the red X in the first column.


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