How to Create Maps Using GPS

by Chris Moore

Global positioning satellites make precise mapmaking and direction finding easier than ever. If you need a simple way to use GPS to create a map for any location, you can use a GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping program to take GPS data files and convert them into full topographical maps. Once you have a drawn GPS map, you can print it out or transfer it to a Garmin GPS receiver.


Download a web-based GPS mapping program to your computer. "GPS Visualizer" is a free downloadable program that provides GPS data for making maps for many places around the world. Make sure you also have Adobe's SVG Viewer plug-in installed for your web browser.


Download GPS data files for the location you want to map out. Search for online resources that provide GPS data for your location or region. The GPS Visualizer has sample data available if you go to the "Draw a Map" link on their home page. Right-click on any data file and use the "Save As" command.


Open the mapping program and go to its map input page. It may have a lot of settings available; leave them at the default settings if you're just starting. Import your GPS data into the program by going to the first file text box, clicking on the import or browse button.


Select the type of map you want in the program's map parameters section. It should have a background map (or similar) drop-down list. Choose the option for a single-image topographical map for your area. For a U.S. map in GPS Visualizer, this is "US: USGS Topo Map, Single Image."


Draw out the map by clicking on the draw or display button once your settings are complete. If there is an option to display the map in a second window, choose that option so you don't lose the page with all your settings. Your map will be displayed and can include features like waypoints and tracks or travel routes.

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About the Author

Chris Moore has been contributing to eHow since 2007 and is a member of the DFW Writers' Workshop. He received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Texas-Arlington.

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