If you like hiking, you’re probably familiar with GPS tracks. These GPS tracks are useful for hiking because they make trail navigation easier. They’re like your reliable hiking companion, making your outdoor activities a breeze.

GPS trails are a goldmine of information, providing you with information such as location, altitude, and distance. You may either locate them online or make your own.

Smartphones and GPS watches, for example, may transform your screen into a treasure map, with the GPS track as your guide.

We’ll dig into the realm of GPS traces in the following sections. We’ll teach you how to make the most of them while hiking and even show you how to design your own personalized tracks. And, hey, we’ll connect you with the best online resources for tracking down GPS treasures. So strap in for a trip unlike any other!

What are GPS Tracks?

GPS tracks, which stand for Global Positioning System tracks, are digital recordings of your movement across space and time. Consider them a digital trail that marks your trip and provides useful information about your route, such as waypoints, elevation changes, and miles traveled. These tracks include plenty of information for outdoor lovers, hikers, bikers, and explorers of all types.

Types of GPS Tracks

GPS tracks are not all made equal. There are several types of GPS tracks, each having a unique function and fulfilling different needs.

Recorded Tracks

One of the most common methods for obtaining GPS tracks is to record your own travel. Recorded tracks are personalized digital trails that provide a full description of your trip, waypoints, and significant data points.

Pre-Made Tracks

Pre-made tracks are a goldmine of ready-to-use GPS trails for people looking for convenience and efficiency. These trails are frequently established and shared by experienced hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, or organizations.

GPS Track Formats

There are three common formats for GPS track files:

  • GPX (Geographic Information Exchange Format)
  • KML (Keyhole Markup Language)
  • TCX (Training Center Format)

GPX (Geographic Information Exchange Format)

Format: XML-based format

Information: GPX files contain latitude, longitude, altitude, and speed data, along with other additional information such as timestamps, waypoints, routes, and tracks.

Benefits for Hikers: Hikers can benefit from GPX files as they can use them to record their hiking routes and share them with others. GPX files can be imported into various GPS devices, navigation applications, or online platforms to view and follow the tracks. Hikers can also analyze their performance, monitor elevation changes, and track their speed and distance traveled.

KML (Keyhole Markup Language)

Format: XML-based format used for visualizing geographic data

Information: KML files can contain not only track data but also points of interest, polygons, overlays, and other geographic information. They can also include styling and formatting information to customize the visualization of the data.

Benefits for Hikers: Hikers can use KML files to view their tracks on a map with rich visual information. They can see their hiking routes overlaid on satellite imagery, terrain maps, or custom maps. KML files can be opened and visualized in various mapping software, and online maps. Even Google Earth, allows hikers to explore their routes in a more interactive and engaging way.

TCX (Training Center Format)

Format: XML-based format developed by Garmin for fitness activities

Information: TCX files are designed for cycling and running activities. They contain data such as timestamps, heart rate, cadence, power, speed, and distance. TCX files can also include information about laps, intervals, and other training-related data.

Benefits for Hikers: Hikers who are interested in fitness tracking can benefit from TCX files by recording and analyzing their hiking activities. TCX files can be imported into fitness tracking devices or applications to monitor heart rate, speed, and other metrics. This allows hikers to track their performance, set fitness goals, and monitor their progress over time.

How to Use GPS Tracks for Hiking?

Hiking, a popular outdoor activity, benefits greatly from the usage of GPS tracking. They act as your virtual guide, ensuring you remain on track and arrive safely at your destination. Here’s how to get the most out of your GPS tracks when hiking.

How to Use GPS Track with a Smartphone?

Smartphones have become widespread, and their GPS features make them an invaluable tool for hikers. Follow these procedures to use GPS traces with your smartphone:

Using GPS Track with smartphone

Choose a GPS tracking app: Begin by downloading a GPS tracking app that works with your smartphone. There are various choices, including Gaia GPS, AllTrails, and ViewRanger.

Download GPS Tracks: Look for GPS tracks of the path you want to hike or make your own. Many websites and applications provide pre-made tracks for download. You may also record your hikes and save them as tracks.

Import or Create Waypoints: Waypoints are particular sites along your path that you may import or create. Import current tracks’ waypoints or construct new ones for points of interest or navigation.

Follow the Track: Once everything is in place, simply follow the track on the screen of your smartphone. You’ll be able to view your current location in relation to the track, which will help you remain on track.

Use Offline Maps: For places with weak or no cellular connection, make sure you have offline maps downloaded. This way, when you go off the grid, you won’t lose access to your GPS traces.

How to Use GPS Track with a Handheld GPS Device?

If you prefer a specialized handheld GPS device, the procedure is slightly different but equally effective:

using gps track for hiking with handheld GPS device

Acquire a GPS Device: Purchase a high-quality portable GPS device built for outdoor usage. Garmin and Magellan are well-known manufacturers in this category.

Transfer GPS Tracks: Download GPS tracks from your computer or the internet and transfer them to your GPS device using the provided software or a microSD card.

Load Waypoints: You can load waypoints onto your GPS device, similar to smartphone apps, to highlight essential spots along your trip.

Navigate Confidently: Turn on your GPS device and pick the route you wish to take. Your device will offer real-time data, ensuring that you stay on target during your walk.

How to Use GPS Track with a GPS Watch?

GPS watches are a great choice for someone looking for a hands-free hiking experience:

GPS watches for hiking

Choose a GPS Watch: Invest in a GPS watch from a reputable brand such as Garmin, Suunto, or Polar. Check that it offers hiking-specific features.

Sync with GPS Tracks: Connect your GPS watch to your computer or smartphone and sync it with the GPS tracks you choose.

Begin Hiking: Put on your GPS watch and begin your journey. The watch will display your current track location, making navigating simple.

Resources for GPS Tracks Online

The internet is a jackpot of GPS tracks just waiting to be explored. Here are a few online resources where you can find GPS tracks:


Websites: Websites like AllTrails, GPSies, and Wikiloc provide a large collection of GPS tracks provided by the hiking community.

GPS track for hiking websites


Forums and Communities: Visit hiking forums and online communities where hikers share their favorite trails and provide helpful advice.


Social media: Sites such as Instagram and Facebook include hiking groups and pages where users frequently share GPS tracks and experiences.


GPS Track Apps: As already mentioned, GPS tracking apps like Gaia GPS and ViewRanger provide you access to a wide library of tracks produced by other travelers.

How to Create GPS Tracks?

While finding GPS tracks online is convenient, creating your own can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Whether you want to document a unique hike or share a new route with the world, here’s how you can create GPS tracks.

Recording GPS Tracks

Choose a GPS Device: A GPS-enabled device is required to record GPS traces. Your smartphone, a portable GPS device, or a GPS watch can all be used.

Choose a Tracking App: If you’re using a smartphone, pick a dependable tracking app that meets your requirements. Check to see whether it has GPS tracking capability.

Begin tracking: From the app, start tracking your walk or excursion. It will track your movements and leave a digital breadcrumb trail.

Mark Waypoints: As you go, make note of any noteworthy sites, trail intersections, or notable landmarks.

Stop Tracking: Once you’ve finished your excursion, turn off your device’s tracking. The track will be saved for future usage by the app.

Export the Track: Most tracking apps allow you to export your track as a GPX file, which is a standard format for GPS tracks.

Creating GPS Tracks with Software

If you want to get more technical and create GPS tracks from scratch or modify existing ones, you can use specialized software like GPS track editors. Here’s a simplified process:

Acquire Software: Download and install GPS track editing software like GPS TrackMaker or Garmin BaseCamp on your computer.

Import Existing Tracks: If you have a GPX file from an online source, import it into the software.

Edit and Customize: You can now edit the track, adding or removing waypoints, adjusting routes, and customizing it to your liking.

Save and Export: Once you’re satisfied with your modifications, save the track and export it to your GPS device or share it online for others to enjoy.

Benefits of Using GPS Tracks on Hikes


GPS tracks have enhanced hikers’ ability to navigate and enjoy the great outdoors. These digital indications provide many kinds of benefits that improve the hiking experience in various ways.

Ensuring Safety

When hiking in the outdoors, safety is important. GPS tracks play a critical part in keeping hikers safe. Here’s how GPS tracks may help you have a safer hiking experience:

Location Awareness: GPS tracks give real-time information about your precise location. It allows you to stay on the approved path and avoid potentially dangerous places.

Emergency Assistance: In case of an unexpected emergency or injury, your GPS device can help search and rescue teams pinpoint your location quickly, potentially saving your life.

Navigation Confidence: Hikers are less likely to get lost with the confidence of GPS traces. It decreases the chance of spending unexpected nights in the bush.

Exploring UnknownTerritories

GPS tracks unlock thrilling off-the-beaten-path adventures. Here’s how GPS tracking helps hikers explore unknown places:

Trailblazing: GPS tracks allow hikers to create their own pathways and share them with other hikers, enabling the discovery of new and fascinating routes.

Hidden Gems: By following GPS tracks left by skilled hikers, you can discover hidden gems and lesser-known paths not generally seen on popular hiking maps.

Custom Adventures: You can design personalized hikes that appeal to your interests and preferences by merging several GPS tracks.

Enhancing Navigation Skills

GPS tracks do more than just provide digital support; they’re also a valuable tool for improving your navigation abilities. Here’s how GPS tracks can assist you in becoming a more skilled and self-assured hiker

Learn Route Planning: Studying GPS tracks and planning your hikes can teach you valuable navigation and map-reading skills.

Understanding Terrain: GPS tracks often include elevation data and topographic information. This will help you gain a better understanding of the terrain you’ll encounter on your hikes.

Practice Navigation: While GPS tracks offer guidance, it’s crucial to complement them with traditional navigation techniques. This guarantees that you develop a diverse skill set.

Final Verdicts

GPS tracks are your digital companions on the path less traveled. Whether you’re using them to navigate with your smartphone, handheld GPS device, or GPS watch, or you’re creating your own unique tracks, these digital breadcrumbs ensure you never lose your way in the great outdoors. With the vast array of resources available online, the world of GPS tracks is at your fingertips, waiting to be explored. So, grab your gear, pick your path, and let GPS tracks lead you on unforgettable adventures.

By Mary K. Trask

I'm Marry K. Trask, a passionate hiker and environmentalist rooted in the breathtaking landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. My journey into the world of hiking and environmental advocacy began in the suburbs of Portland, where I was fortunate enough to experience the wonders of nature firsthand through family camping trips and explorations in the Cascade Range.

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