How to Create Trail Maps for your GPS Receiver with Google Earth

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You can highlight roads and trails on Google Earth with the path tool. Once a path is created you can save it for later or to convert to a .gpx file for a GPS receiver. You can also post it on the Google Earth Community site. If you post a path it will later show up on Google Earth as a Google Earth Community point of interest. Here's how to create a path:

  • Click the "New path" icon at the top of the Google Earth window (it looks like three circles connected by lines).
  • Click along the road/trail to make the path.
  • Type a name in the path properties window that popped-up when you clicked the "New path" icon and click the "OK" button.

Once you have created a path it will be listed in your "Places" window to the left of the main Google Earth window. The next time you close Google Earth it will ask if you want to save the path. To be safe, you should save the path immediately after creating it. To save a path:

  • Right-click on the path name.
  • Click "Save place as..."
  • Choose a folder and type a name for the path.
    • Save the path as a .kml file instead of a .kmz file for easy conversion to a .gpx file for your GPS receiver. To do this, click the menu arrow next to the "Save as type" box and choose .kml as the file type.

Once you have saved the path you can convert it to a .gpx file with KML2GPX or a similar program. You GPS receiver should have come with a program that allows you to download .gpx files. There are also third-party programs, such as EasyGPS (freeware) to do the same.

Tips:

  • Sometimes the satellite images are misaligned. Use the "Historical imagery" tool to check for satellite images on different dates. You may find several that align with each other where the "current" image doesn't. Use one of the ones that agree to make your path.
  • For short spur trails you can follow the spur then double back instead of creating a separate path.
    • Zoom in real close to get perfect alignment on the doubled-back portion.
  • Use no more than 500 points per path to be compatible with all GPS receivers.
  • Some GPS receivers can only store a maximum of 10 paths.
  • Limit names to 13 characters
    • Some GPS receivers limit name length. This can cause some trails to not load.
  • Save multiple paths in a single folder.
    • Right-click "My Places" or "Temporary Places" then click "Add", "Folder".
    • You can click and drag paths and waypoints into the folder.