Getting Tracks into your Garmin

Everyone knows how to use a GPS nowadays. Simply plug in an address to the “Where to?” query from your GPS unit. But what if you don’t want to go on the quickest or shortest route from point A to Point P. Or what if you want to go on side routes along the way and don’t want to have to add all these points to your GPS on the fly. Well, there is a way. Create a routable, drivable map and transfer it to your GPS. For this to work, you need a Garmin-based unit, although I suspect there are means to do so for other manufacturers.

What we want to end up with is a .gpx file. But there are a few steps. And remember, this is for a Garmin.

1) Head over to Google Maps. Plot out your track. One of my favorite features of Google maps is the option “Avoid Highways.” I hate highways. I hate the ho-hum of highways. I hate the high-speed, get-you-there-fastest of highways. I prefer the backroads. That’s where ‘merica is in my opinion. After plugging your route in:

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 4.32.57 PM

Which results in Google Maps with something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 4.34.13 PM

2) Next copy the URL. For Chesapeake to Washington to Asheville to Chesapeake (avoiding highways), I get a long string that looks like this (which you can click on at this point and get the above map):,+VA/Washington,+DC/Asheville,+NC/Chesapeake,+VA/@37.2396759,-80.6024309,8z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m28!4m27!1m5!1m1!1s0x89baa57a802f6d99:0x4c7b1b1790710b79!2m2!1d-76.2874927!2d36.7682088!1m5!1m1!1s0x89b7c6de5af6e45b:0xc2524522d4885d2a!2m2!1d-77.0368707!2d38.9071923!1m5!1m1!1s0x88598ca93c0f6f09:0x94ef31c106343a5d!2m2!1d-82.5514869!2d35.5950581!1m5!1m1!1s0x89baa57a802f6d99:0x4c7b1b1790710b79!2m2!1d-76.2874927!2d36.7682088!2m1!1b1!3e0?hl=en

3) Now, head over to GPS Visualizer here:

Do three things:

Select output to GPX

Paste the URL you just copied in to the URL field

Then hit convert. You end up with a screen like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 4.42.08 PM

4) Right click the “Click to Download” and save the file wherever you are keeping your tracks.

5) If you don’t have it, get the Garmin Basecamp App. It’s free. You can find it here:

6) Once Basecamp is open, import the gpx file you just created. When you zoom in you will see the track you created.

* To use basecamp, you must have your Garmin connected as it contains all the maps you need.

7) In the data window (bottom left), delete the tracks (indicated by footsteps) that Google created.

8) Select all the waypoints (again in the window in the bottom left) and right-click to create route from waypoints.

9) Here is where some detail work is required. Go into the Basecamp map and ensure your route worked as you intended. You may need to adjust settings (such as global settings within Basecamp, choosing avoiding highways, e.g.), or how Basecamp did your route. Basecamp is great in that you can drag waypoints just as in Google Maps.

10) Once you are satisfied with your route, right-click on the route (again, bottom right window), and select “Send to your Device.”

11) If you’re done, unmount your device (disconnect). Once you start up your Garmin, you will see that tracks have been detected and prompted to import them. Select yes.

12) So, where are your tracks? You need to select Apps and then Trips. There you will find your route that you created.

So, I’gone through all that.  If you prefer you can watch this video, which is where I learned to do it.  (Mind you, this guy is from NC and has a terribly slow speech – then again, I am from NC so didn’t mind it).


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