How To Make Trail Maps

I have been using the Open GPS Tracker app on my Android phone to make my own trail maps for a few months. Everyone I have shown it to has been blown away with the ease with which I’m able to overlay my GPS bread-crumb trail onto a satellite map to get an aerial view of where I’ve hiked and to share my own home-made trail maps. All this technology is free to use! And so, my intrepid and adventurous readers, here is a step-by-step guide on how you can do it too!

The Open GPS Tracker App

The Open GPS Tracker App is a free app based on the open-source project by the same name. Below is a YouTube video showing the older interface, but will give you a good idea of the basic usage. The app will overlay your path onto a typical Google map or satalite map. A track can be saved to the phone and exported in either KMZ or GPX format. GPX is widely used standard format for working with GPS data. KMZ is the preferred format used in Google Earth.

Creating and Sharing A Trail Map

Create A Google Map

Create your own map by going to

Using the Open GPS Tracker app is pretty intuitive. The real fun starts when you export a track. You can do this by emailing the track KMZ file to yourself. Go to your computer and download the KMZ file, then go to Click on the ‘Create a New Map’ button.

Before importing the KMZ file, set the Base Map. Instead of the default, I prefer to select the Satelite map. That way I can get an aerial view of the area that I’ve hiked. This also gives people a better feel for the terrain when I share it as a potential hiking trail.

The left menu allows configuration of the base map, import, and sharing settings.

The left menu allows configuration of the base map, import, and sharing settings.

Select the ‘Import’ option and upload the KMZ file. After the KMZ data has been imported, you can change the map title and description. At this point, it’s convenient to add additional detail like the location of forageable plants, scenic views, or good fishing spots. You can also import images and edit the trail using the tools on Google Maps.

Lastly you can click the Share button (next to the ‘Add layer’ button in the image to the left) and change the share settings. By default, the map in private. You need to change the sharing settings in order to share it. There are a couple different options. This window will also give you the link that you can email to people so they can access your map. You can also share this link on Facebook or other social media.

Finally, if you want to embed your new map on a webpage, click the three vertical dots to the right of the Share button. A drop-down menu will appear and ‘Embed on my site’ is an option. This will give you the iframe code you need to embed it on your website, just like this map I created from my hike around Stuart Island in the San Juan Islands:

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One Response to “How To Make Trail Maps”
  1. I’m going to try this as soon as I get my water pump back in. We are awash in wonderful technical capabilities, but assembling them in easy-to-use procedures is often a high barrier to use. This looks like a winner. Thanks for sharing it!

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