What Do V-Shaped Contour Lines Indicate When They Point Downhill?

On topographic maps, V-shaped contour lines that point downhill indicate sharp, narrow ridge lines. Ridge lines help people recognize areas of high and low ground when hiking, fishing, hunting or engaging in other outdoor activities.

Topographic maps provide a two-dimensional view of specific landscapes and regions. Using these maps, people can determine high and low ground for camping, hunting and fishing. Topographic maps also include mountain ranges, valleys and other landmarks, such as roads, railways, lakes, streams, buildings, homes, quarries and crop fields.

Contour lines, such as ridge lines, indicate how steep or how much of a slope exists in a specific area. This is important information for those who want to walk or camp in an unknown area. An understanding of how much the ground rises and falls allows people to find the easiest path through an area. For example, approaching a ridge at a right angle typically results in a steep, difficult climb to the top and then a sharp decline to the bottom. Following the natural form of the ridge results in a more level and less-difficult journey. Without a topographic map, it is impossible to view the entire ridge line accurately and choose the correct or best path through it.