How to Print Free Canadian Topographic Maps Quickly and Inexpensively

Free Canadian Topo map example

This is a guest post from educator and wilderness guide Dave Freeman.

Canadian topographic maps generally cost between $11 and $16 dollars each. When buying many maps for an extended camping trip, the costs quickly add up. Luckily, the Canadian government offers free electronic copies of all of their topo maps. By following a few simple steps you will save money and produce more useful maps by printing your own for a fraction of the cost. All you need is an Internet connection, a printer and a little time. Printing your own maps allows you to customize your maps and only print out the parts that you need. It shaves precious ounces off the weight you have to lug around with you, and each map makes a great fire starter at the end of the day. You may even print maps with greater detail for tricky sections of your route and larger scale maps for areas where less detail is required or for route planning.

Canadian Topo Maps Printing Instructions:

  1. Go to Toporama’s interactive map page.
  2. Find the part of Canada you are interested in. The toolbar above the map will help you zoom in, zoom out, and re-center the map. The search feature on the right side helps you quickly locate places by entering towns, lake names, or other geographic features.
  3. Determine the amount of detail you want in your maps. For canoeing and kayaking 1:100,000 usually provides enough detail. For backpacking or off-trail hiking, the greater detail of a 1:50,000 map is more useful. Find the scale just below the map. You can quickly zoom in and out by changing the map’s scale.
  4. Use a screen capture tool to save a map of the start of your route as an image onto your computer. For a home printer you will want to capture sections of the map that will fit onto an 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet of paper. Using a consistent image size is important because it keeps the map scale the same across all of your printed maps. Images that are 850 pixels by 1100 pixels works well. However, other dimensions will work fine as long as you are consistent.
    (If you need help doing a screen capture see the bottom of this article for more details.)
  5. Open the image and print the map.
  6. Adjust the Toporama map and capture an image of the next part of your route.
  7. Repeat steps four, five, and six until you have covered your entire route.

It may take you a few maps to get the hang of this, but soon printing off Canadian topo maps for a weekend getaway becomes as fast as you could order them online, and printing custom maps for a summer-long expedition only takes three or four hours.

Screen Capture

Capturing images of your computer screen is easy. In fact there is a good chance your computer already has screen capture software. If not, you can easily download a free screen capture program.


  1. Press command, shift, and four all at the same time and a little target will appear in place of the mouse arrow.
  2. Place the target at the top left corner of the map you want to copy.
  3. Hold down the button on your mouse and drag the target to the bottom right corner of the area you want to save as your map. Your computer will automatically save the selected area to your desktop.


For Windows, download Lightscreen.

  1. Start Lightscreen.
  2. Click on “Screenshot” and then “Area.”
  3. Follow step two and three for a Mac.

About Dave

Dave Freeman is an educator and wilderness guide. He has worked as a dogsledding, sea kayaking and canoeing instructor for 15 years, introducing hundreds of people to wilderness travel. He and wife are in the middle of three-year, 11,000-mile journey across North America by canoe, kayak, and dogsled. Learn more about him:

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  • Thanks for the article, Dave. I going to use this for sure.

  • […] you can get electronic copies of the topo maps for FREE. Save money by following these steps. .. Share and […]

  • I used to use the Natural rEsources Canada site to download until I came across this site:

    It is essentially Google Maps with an added Topo Feature. It is much more use friendly than the NR Can map facility and is great for toggling between Satellite, map and Topo – especially if you are not familiar with the area you are considering navagating. The only thing I would caution is that I don’t know how frequently the ACME Mapper Topo maps (ot toher maps) are updated. The NR Can maps will be the latest and greatest…

    Happy Navigating


  • Good tip, Snowman. Thanks.

  • Toporama has a button at the top of the screen, in the map navigation area, labeled “Save map” which will open another window with the image of the map in it. You can then right-click on the image and select “Save Image As…” in your web browser. With use of this button you can avoid having to use the screen capture utility and you can use the XL map size.

    You’ll probably capture more data this way as the XL images are 1150wx1350h and even large screens (mine is 2560×1600) won’t capture the full height of the map if you use screen capture.

  • A vastly easier method for Canadian maps is to go to:

    Figuring out their system takes a good twenty minutes the first time, but is quite straightforward thereafter. You can even connect with an FTP client and download even faster. The result is high-res PDF or TIFF files of full CanTopo Digital maps. $3 at FedEx Office puts them in your hand.

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