How to Locate Places on a Map

Highways are marked according to number on the map.
Highways are marked according to number on the map. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

With the availability and relative ease of Internet-based interactive maps, reading a paper map may seem old-fashioned. When you can't access a computer or smart phone, though, the ability to read a map is a useful skill. Interpreting symbols, directions and distances on a paper map helps you figure out where you are going and how to get there, so brush up on the basics of map reading and be prepared. When you know how to understand what you are looking at on a map, you can easily locate the places you need to be.

Things You'll Need

  • Map
  • Ruler

Read the map's legend. The legend is a key on every map that identifies the symbols it uses and what they mean. For example, a symbol of a triangle -- or tent -- may indicate camp sites. Look for the symbol for your destination on the map.

Identify major roads and how to navigate them. For example, interstate highways are usually marked using the interstate "shield" icon with the highway's number on it, while normal highways are marked with an oval containing the highway number. Follow these roads to your destination so you can plan a route.

Look for major geographical landmarks on the map. If you are near a lake, for example, it will be marked on the map both by name and by shape and color -- bodies of water are typically blue, while land is typically green or white.

Use the map's scale to determine distance. All maps feature a scale that explains relative distances -- for example, one inch may equal 10 miles. If that is the case, and you are trying to locate a place 15 miles northeast of your location, measure out 1.5 inches northeast on the map.

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