\" \" Topographic maps allow you to see a 3-D landscape on a 2-D surface. If you're trying to drive from Point A to Point B and prefer a map over GPS instructions, a regular road map is the way to go. And that means you need to be able to read a topographic map. AdvertisementWhat's the difference between a topographic map and a regular map? The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produced its first topographic map in 1879, and it still produces them today.