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Public-images-osm logo.svg natural = cliff
A vertical or almost vertical natural drop in terrain, usually with a bare rock surface.
Group: Natural
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysmay be used on areasshould not be used on relations
Useful combination
See also
Status: ApprovedPage for proposal

A Wikipedia-16px.png cliff is a vertical or almost vertical natural drop in terrain topography as it occurs for example in form of coastal cliffs or escarpments. The face of the cliff usually consists of bare solid rock but can occasionally also consist of clay, compacted sand, ice or other solid materials.

How to map

Orientation example in a coastal place.

To map a cliff draw a way along the edge of the cliff and tag it natural=cliff. The direction of the way should be so that the top of the cliff is on the left side of the way direction and the bottom on the right side. If the cliff is not perfectly vertical the way should be located on the top edge. Circular cliffs like craters or escarpment outliers can be drawn as closed ways.

You can use name=* tags to name the cliff and height=* for the maximum vertical distance between top and bottom. If there is rock debris at the bottom, use natural=scree to map this.

Artificial cliffs

For artificial cliff like features man_made=embankment and barrier=retaining_wall exist as more appropriate tags.

When not to use

natural=cliff should not be used for ridges, i.e. crests where there is a significant drop in terrain to both sides and neither of them is close to vertical. Use natural=ridge or natural=arete instead. Also do not use natural=cliff just for mapping an inclined bare rock surface, use natural=bare_rock instead.


Ways tagged natural=cliff have been added to mapnik, and are rendered as a line with small ticks on it, see example.

Stannage edge is shown on old Ordnance Survey maps as a kind of dotty line. Newer OS maps show scraggly rocky penstrokes on the downward side.

Closed ways are not rendered yet, but shall be rendered in the same style as open ways, unless the tag is accompanied by area=yes or set on a multipolygon relation. In those cases, applications are advised to treat natural=cliff as an obsolete synonym for the newer tag natural=bare_rock.

Nodes tagged natural=cliff mean rock spires. One common and simple sign is an upright isosceles triangle.

Related natural features

See also