I am looking to create terrain hillshading for my maps that contain a small region of the US. I intend to show about eight to ten states at a time (at about ~1:5,000,000 scale).

It has been some time since I created a map, but if I recall correctly, I believe the options are to either use imagery or a DEM.

Either way I still face a problem:

  1. The raster data I have found (Natural Earth) is not of sufficient quality.
  2. I cannot find a bulk download option anywhere for open source DEM data or imagery such as the SRTM.

An example of the what I am trying to accomplish is below

(source: bucultureshock.com)

  • Have you tried to look around on ArcGIS online ?
    Dec 15, 2014 at 3:49
  • Define sufficient quality - what resolution are you looking for? Define 'bulk' - are you wanting a one-click/file solution for the entire country? Because it's doubtful you'll get that. The higher the resolution, the more data, the more pieces you'll have to get. I'd start here: eros.usgs.gov/elevation-products
    – Chris W
    Dec 15, 2014 at 19:11
  • Does this related question answer your question: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/27954/…
    – Aaron
    Dec 18, 2014 at 19:13

3 Answers 3


My favorite source of DEM data is at viewfinderpanoramas.org It has STRM data that has been massaged in various ways. I think that should be good enough resolution for what you require.


I personally prefer http://datagateway.nrcs.usda.gov/ however the max resolution you can download at one time is statewide and I would assume those will be quite large but it is organized well.


My preference is nationalmap.gov, they even have a new bulk download tool that simplifies the process of downloading all the tiles quite a bit.

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