After hitting my head against the table for many days, I'm humbly presenting myself to the QGIS community.
I downloaded 4 IMG files (1/3 arc second, elevation data) from The National Map on the USGS website. I then loaded these into QGIS v 2.4 and went through the following steps with each section.
First, I converted the raster from meters to feet using the Raster Calculator (outputting to a GEOTiff file and using the current layer extent).\
Next, I used the DEM(terrain models) tool to create a hillshade raster layer.
I'm assuming my adding of contours doesn't matter.
Why is there a line that forms between the sections? The data is supposed to be seamless between the layers.
Also, my Project CRS is NAD83.