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Scale of the MAP

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The Scale of a map tells you how many units of length on the ground are represented by 1 unit of length on the map. Without this information you do not know whether one centimeter on the map represents 1 kilometer, 2 kilometers, or 10 kilometers on the ground.

The topographic maps used for hiking in in the Rocky Mountains have a scale of 1:50,000, i.e. 1 cm on the map represents 50,000 cms ( or 1/2 km ) on the ground. There are also 1:250,000 maps which cover a larger area in less detail - these are useful for identifying mountains which are further away or for planning longer trips.

Some scales and their meanings:

Scale Metric meaning Imperial meaning Comments
1:50,000 2 cms to 1 km 1.25 inches to 1 mile Canadian, British, and European maps
1:250,000 1 cm to 2.5 kms 1 inch to 4 miles Canadian and other maps - used to get overall view of area
1:63,360 1 cm to 2/3 km 1 inch to 1 mile Old British maps
1:62,500 2 cms to 1.25 km 1 inch to 1.04 miles US topographic maps (15 minute series)
1:25,000 4 cms to 1 km 2.5 inches to 1 mile More detailed maps (US, Canada, Britain, and Europe)
1:40,680 2.5 cms to 1 km 1 inch to 1 km! Some newer US maps

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