• Mount Rainier peeks through clouds, viewed across subalpine wildflowers and glacial moraine.

    Mount Rainier

    National Park Washington

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Map Reading

A trail sign showing different mileages for different trails.
A Mount Rainier trail sign showing mileages for different trails.
NPS Photo
Overview: Students will be introduced to the basic skills necessary to read a map, specifically a topographic map, in a national park. Students will practice by orienting a map to magnetic north and/or true north. Students will also have the ability to practice land navigation around their school based on a course set up by the instructor.
Grade Level:
5 - 12
Objectives: Students will be able to:
  • Identify key elements on a topographic map including elevation lines, compass rose, trails, roads, and key features such as hills and valleys.
  • Orient a map to magnetic and true north.
  • Travel on a relatively flat course using a map of the school or local area.
Lesson Plan:
Map Reading - word, 41KB
Map Reading - pdf, 459KB
Resources: Map Reading Hints & Suggestions
Map Reading Setting the Course
Map Reading Teacher Planning Chart
Map Reading Student Answer Sheet

Did You Know?

June 1945:  President Harry Truman plays the piano in the Paradise Inn lobby.

In June 1945, President Harry Truman visited Mount Rainier National Park, dined at the Paradise Inn and played a song on the Inn's piano. This piano and other notable items are preserved today in the Paradise Inn, part of an effort to maintain the park's rich historic legacy. More...