Yesterday, Google pulled back the curtain on Google Maps’ new “Terrain Mode.”

It takes everyone’s favorite driving directions / traffic advice / stalking tool and gives it a fresh new layer for us outdoorspeople.

Terrain Mode will basically take the underlying topographical data and render a 3-d shaded image that looks pretty dang close to those fancy shaded trail maps you can pick up at your local REI for 9 bucks. I was surprised (and pleased) to see that prominent peaks and features are clearly labeled, as are Forest Service roads. No trails, though.

It’s definitely not a replacement for actual topo maps … but given Google’s track record of adding features and the internet’s track record of coming up with great Maps mashups and hacks, it’s probably not too far off.

Via Google Earth Blog.

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