What is a geographic profile

Make a profile sketch

For an overview of the height differences on a hiking route, profiles of the route are often shown in hiking guides.

A straight line is drawn in red on the map section of the topographic map from the Ilkahöhe near Oberzeismering to Lake Starnberg (from A to B).
If you see a scaled-down and simplified image of the earth from above on a map, a profile shows a route from the side. In the side view, the heights of all locations on the route are also directly visible. The height information for the profile is taken from the contour lines on the map.

You can see this profile here.

In order to make the height differences more clearly visible, the heights in the profile are not entered on the same scale as the distances on the map. If the map section is small (like here), you can simply use the map scale for the distances.

The height difference is drawn exaggerated, i.e. larger than the scale for the distances. So you can see particularly well how the landscape is built up.
The cant is chosen depending on the terrain. The easiest way is to look for the highest and lowest point of a profile section and then to plot it sensibly on the high value axis.

From the profile you can read off the shortest distance (so-called linear distance) between places on the line and the difference in altitude between them.

Of course you can also create profiles from large-scale atlas maps, you just have to pay close attention to the scale.

There's more here:

Information on contour lines in topographic maps: -> click here!

Worksheet for the profile sketch: -> click here (pdf) -> click here (doc)

Quiz on the worksheet (and can only be solved after completing it!): -> click here!

Map source (courtesy):
Topographic map DTK50 © State Office for Surveying and Geoinformation Bavaria, No. 314/06 (www.lvg.bayern.de)