Where to find free topographic maps

Canada Maps: What I use and recommend

The Backcountry Canada maps I recommend on this page are either maps or map series that I’m actually using and trust.

Canada Topo maps come in a range of scales. In some places, you can get them as detailed as 1:2 500, but that’s not everywhere in the backcountry.


I used lots of different Canada maps over the years. That includes everything from paper maps, through to Backroad Mapbook maps on my hand held GPS to iPad apps.

I know what works and what doesn’t. Any map I’m recommending here is one I own and have used.

FREE Topographic Maps for Canada

Canada Maps TopoTopographic maps, (Canadians call them ‘topo’ maps for short), are what you will absolutely need if you are hiking off track or driving off road.

Topo maps come in a ranch of scales. Most of the topo map sheets are 1:250 000 and 1:50 000 scale.

The great news is, that there is a way to get these maps for free.

-> You absolutely MUST read This Post, which will tell you how to get FREE, high quality maps for your iPad or tablet. <-

The link above will show you the EXACT method I use to get free backcountry Canada maps for navigating using the GPS built into my tablet.

Visitors Centers and Tourist Information

Don’t forget to stop in at the Visitor Center when you get into a town. Some maps they offer for free are of good quality.

An example are the printed Provincial Park Maps, available for different regions with a good overview of the area with hiking trail suggestions and activities.

Many maps are offered online if you search for the for the province you’re interested in visiting.

Commercial Maps

There are four map series that I recommend: Canadian Government Topographic Map, Map Art Backroad Atlas, Backroad Mapbooks and Gem Trek Recreational Maps

Yes, there are other topo maps available in Canada, but the once mentioned here are the once that work for me the best.

So what’s the difference?

The biggest difference between the maps boils down to two things: map scale and map detail.

With map details I means the kinds of topics or information that each map series focuses on.

When I travel, I usually have more than one map. I nearly always have a Map Art back roads Atlas, as well as a Backroad Mapbook (BRMB) in print and on my Handheld GPS. I also check whether there is a Go Trekkers Map for the area I’m heading to.

Depending on what you’re planning to do, you might find that you need more than one option.

Canada Map OntarioMapArt Backroad Atlas

I always have a MapArt Backroad Atlas in my vehicle for the particular province I’m at. These are my basic Canada maps.

You find most roads, with many attractions, but not geared towards recreation.
The atlas also has some city maps which might come handy.
Scales: 1 : 500 000

You can explore the West with the new Calgary to Vancouver Atlas from the CCC map series, GPS compatible with back road map coverage from Seattle to  Vancouver all the way to Calgary!
Scale: 1 : 250 000

 These Canada maps are essentially a road atlas, no idea where “backcountry” came into the picture.

Backroad MapbookBackroad Mapbooks

The Backroad Mapbooks series is the go-to source when it comes to backcountry maps in Canada. Backcountry mapbooks are loaded with are user-friendly topographic maps and outdoor adventure information. These popular mapbooks contain the most detailed maps in Canada (apart from the Government topo maps), plus extensive trails and regional information on hiking, camping, angling, snowmobiling, hunting, skiing, paddling, ATVing, and much, much more.

The Backroad Mapbooks are available for different regions. If you spend lots of time in one region and want to go into the backcountry, to buy a Backroad Mapbook might be worth it. If you travel across the country, then it doesn’t make sense to buy all the Backroad Mapbooks.

They have a  I have various backcountry mapbooks on my handheld GPS and I love them.

Complete area topographic map coverage at 150 000 – 250 000 scales (province and region dependent). Price: CND25.95

Backroad MapBackroad Maps

The Topo backroad maps are a blown up version of the maps you’ll find in the Backroad Mapbooks, allowing for easier reading and better scales, starting at 1:60 000.

You can tale a water-resistant, region-specific map along on your outdoor adventure and navigate with confidence – or get a digital topo map for your iPhone or iPad, compatible with Google Earth.

Price: CND 12.95

BRMB Navigator

The BRMB Navigator is the leading-edge GPS navigation app from the publishers of the Backraod Mapbook series. You get access to to recreation maps with 10,000+base scale topographic maps of all Canadian provinces, as well as satellite, terrain and street maps.

The BRMB Navigator app is available for IOS or Android devices.

They offer a 30 day trail and after that it gets somewhat expensive

Backroad GPS

Backroad maps for your handheld Garmin GPS  are also available. The Backroad GPS maps boast the most detailed and comprehensive coverage of Canada available to recreational users. They are suppose to be the most complete maps available from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

The GPS maps contain the most up-to-date outdoor recreation information including contour elevations and summits, logging roads, trails, parks, rivers, lakes and lots more.

The maps are compatible with Garmin GPS and Garmin Basecamp, these backcountry GPS maps let you navigate in the wilderness with confident.

I purchased the British Columbia backroad maps for my Garmin Oregon 600  and they are what they promise to be. The GPS maps are very expensive and only worth buying if you have lots of use for them. More information on the BRMB Website here.

Gem Trek Recreational Maps

Gem Trek Recreational Maps com in two different series: Go to Driving Maps and Go to Trail Maps.

explorer-mapGo to trails map is a full-colour, user-friendly recreational maps show all the hiking, biking and equestrian trails. They are also loaded with valuable visitor information, including mountain lodges, campgrounds, points of interest and even picnic areas. These maps are ideal for hikers and cyclists, as well as touring vacationers who want a detailed map of the parks.

Driving Map are for the traveller who wants a level of detail far beyond what’s on a regular road map. Relevant visitor information included on the maps makes planning your trip easier and takes the guesswork out of getting around while you’re there.

Scales: Between 1 : 20 000 to 1 : 400 000, depending on the area covered.

Gem Trek Maps focus on particular routes, not on general area.

Price Range: CND 4.95 – CND 14.95

I hope you’ve found this page useful for planning. I’d really welcome feedback or any advice on how I could improve this page, or any Canada maps that you’ve found really helpful in your backcountry travels.


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