Since road maps are pressed for space, they often employ symbols as shorthand for landmarks and structures. Usually these symbols are defined within the map's key. But map keys can be pressed for space, too, and the terse definitions given can be a little hard to understand for the beginner. Here are some guidelines to help you along:
Colors. While the basics are easy to understand--blue marks bodies of water, green marks natural areas, like local, state, and national parks and refuges--the other colors can be trickier. Different shades can mark urban
areas, counties, states, federal land, reservations, and so on. Consult the key (if you're using an atlas, consult the master key, usually located in the first few pages).
Symbols. Most of these are also fairly straightforward. An airplane will denote an airport, a tent means a campground, and so on. For
atlases, consult the master key if you don't see the symbol on the map key. Just be careful you don't get them mixed up on the map (for example, a
camping symbol and a mountain symbol can look very similar on many maps, as can an airport and an air force base).
But once you get into the swing of map reading, you'll find navigating a snap. From the littlest country road to the largest eight-laned highway,
it's always nice to know exactly where you are.