Making maps?

I do a lot of cycling and hope to begin combining it with paddling this year. I also will be starting a nature writing blog and I would like to have the option of posting maps that show a route that I may have ridden along with where I went when I paddled around a lake or river or whatever. These images of the map with the shown track would be added into the blog. Having the map or image be interactive with photos to click on and comments and such would be cool as well. I feel like I’ve seen some sort of product out there that already does this. Is this something made by Google or some other such program? Free of course is best. I also plan on purchasing a really basic GPS this year as well - probably one of the basic Garmin eTrex units, so compatibility between GPS and the map making program would be nice as well. Any suggestions on where I can go to read up about this sort of thing? Which programs to use?

– Last Updated: Jan-02-12 5:05 PM EST –

That's a bike oriented route planner and recording site you can use for free. I found that it works for water routes too. Have not tried posting copies of the maps, though; you can post a link to a named route if you want. Here's a link to an example (which I have been unable to cut and paste, BTW):

Another site I've been using is the trip planner operated by, a kayaking group. However, this one does not appear to store routes (as bikely does), and I have not been able to copy the map either.

Use Garmin MapSource in conjunction
with GPS File Depot, (free topo maps of the various states)

We have a free Google web site where my wife combines maps with various trips.

Jack L

Will you need marine charts?
I am not terribly familiar with the Garmin line in this area, but this may be worth checking. But if you want the maps/charts to show things on the water like lighthouses, shipping channels etc in addition to your path of travel, you may need to move up from a basic GPS unit to do it.

I’m not interested in open water
I mostly paddle rivers, creeks, and lakes. I have heard that the more basic versions of Garmin GPS units don’t have very good maps when it comes to waterways. I’m guessing I might need some sort of upgrade map for that or the ability to import something from one of these sites where you can get free maps to convert to the Garmin format.

A tip - TakItWithMe

– Last Updated: Jan-02-12 7:45 PM EST –

This works for me in Michigan quite well.

I still use a old Garmin GPS 60 where the batteries
last and last and last, because I'm not pushing
multi-colored screens with barometers and stuff.

It doesn't hurt to study the paper maps intently
before you leave shore and take them with you.
GPS units can and do fail, break, run out of juice.

I've also used GPS Babel quite a bit

if you go Garmin
transferring GPS data between BaseCamp (or the older MapSource) software and Google Earth is a built-in feature; quite useful if you use Google Earth to help plan your routes. From Google Earth you can save a set of tracks & waypoints as a KML/KMZ file, which can then be imported into Google Maps in “My Places”. (Another way to do it is to upload the KML/KMZ to Google Docs or to your own website, and point Google Maps to the URL of the file on the import step.) Once it’s visible as a map in My Places, there is a link button which includes the HTML code to embed the map as a widget in a website or blog. If you click “Customize and preview embedded map” you can change the size and center point of the map before copying the code below it. (This might sound confusing but becomes more evident once you try it) The embedded map will let the user switch between map, topo and satellite views, a feature you’ve probably seen on other blog sites.

There’s a few limitations with using Google Maps this way, since it’s primarily a navigation tool rather than a map-presentation tool, but it works for simple maps.

A more sophisticated way is to create an account on ESRI’s There they have two mapping tools available, ArcGIS Map Viewer and ArcGIS Explorer. The Map Viewer is a web client that works thru your browser like Google Maps; Explorer requires the installation of Microsoft SilverLight and has more features. With either one you can import GPX (GPS data exchange format, supported by all GPS vendors) or a Google Earth KML/KMZ. You can also change the base layer (such as a topo map, or Bing aerial imagery) and create your own layers of objects, paths & labels on top of the map. Once your map is done & saved you can then share on your blog using the HTML embed method, or post it to Facebook or Twitter. There’s alot more functionality but that’s a start for what you are wanting to do. And yes it’s completely free! It takes some time to learn but the Help pages are fairly… helpful.

Gmaps pedometer works in conjunction with google maps. It’s a nice little program. Only drawback is that you have to plot the route manually.

If you have an android phone there is cardio trainer and cardio trainer pro. They have various setting for what type of exercise you are doing, swimming, biking paddling etc. It counts your calories burned, and if you are moving ie bike ride, paddling it plots your course on a map. The map can be exported to facebook, saved to a pc, emailed etc.

I use the store image function for, and then I use my photo editor program to add details. I am not into gps yet, and don’t know what to suggest about that.

msrmaps is essentially the same as the old Takes a while to learn navigational tricks to get the topo you want to work with. But the ability to capture a map image and work on it with a photo editing program makes it workable.

Thanks for the info!

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 12:20 PM EST –

This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I am thinking of going with Garmin. I can't see the need for a truly elaborate GPS or one that is bullet-proof-super-water-proof like the heavy duty marine units typically are. I can use a GPS bag housing no problem. Mostly I'm doing flat water paddling, or rivers where at the most I'd be experiencing Class I or maybe II rapids. I'm mainly wanting the GPS to help quantify things like distance and speed as well as being able to enter markers to be able to go back to interesting sites, like say a waterfowl rookery or where I had seen otters or beavers, that sort of thing. Also, the ability to post this sort of visual record on a blog also adds a nice bit of multi-media spice to the mix. Thanks again - I'm going to cut and paste your post into a word-doc as a reference for when I purchase my GPS. Incidentally, the GPS I'm looking at is a Garmin eTrex Legend HCx, which seems to be a pretty versatile and inexpensive unit.

Use runkeeper on your mobile phone. It will allow you to save your route, in map form, onto the runkeeper website where you can share it with others. Not only it the route there, but there is a graph that shows your speed and elevation at any point along your route. There are free and paid versions of the app. I’m using the free version but I keep meaning to get the paid version just because it is a slick app and it will be nice if the developers get paid.


my etrex Vista only took a couple of good dunkings before it started admitting moisture, and then even on humid days would get a little foggy. I’ve read other reviews stating they’re not as waterproof as they claim. I since upgraded to a 62S but it’s a good idea to use a case/bag as an extra precaution when you use it out on the water.

I use the Garmin software in both directions – plan out hike/paddle routes and load them to the GPS, or log a trip on the GPS and save it back to the computer. In either case it’s easy to create online maps from the data once you get the hang of it. It’s pretty cool to have an interactive map on your website rather than just a static image.

Every trail
This may be of interest to you, the site documents your trip and places photos along the route. If your camera geo-tags the picture they are placed automatically. We plug the gps into the 'puter and download the trail after the trip. EZPZ.

+1 for GMAPS Pedometer
GMAPS Pedometer is a neat mapping/tracking utility I often use for hiking, biking, or paddling routes. You’ll need to click to add the waypoints yourself (I don’t think it accepts GPS data). Here’s an example of a daytrip I took a while back:

Paddler’s tip: be sure to select “Draw route manually (straight lines)”, or else it will ‘helpfully’ tweak your route to conform to nearby streets, probably not what you’ll want …

Good luck!