Hiking In New Mexico: Get The Tracks


Each route description on New Mexico Meanders includes a map showing the trail that was followed. I’ve had a few requests for instructions on how to download a given track. This is possible although in November of 2017 you will have to jump through some hoops. If you’re willing to hop, then the following instructions will describe one path through the digital morass.

Mandatory Warning:

The suggestions offered here are informal and largely untested! There are no assurances or warrantees that the results are accurate, useful, safe or in any other way trustworthy. It is your responsibility to recognize navigation problems and respond appropriately. With that injunction in mind, here are two guidelines for people who are new to backcountry navigation:

  1. Don’t trust your navigation to battery powered aids. Electronic gear is a useful supplement but it can be brutally unwise to trust your life to a GPS or phone.
  2. Practice with a map and compass; this can be done in a local park or with a more experienced navigator in the backcountry.

You may need to adapt for system differences. I was using Safari on a Mac to access the site and Garmin Basecamp for analysis.

And Apologies:

If you download a track from the last year or two you may find it has “snarls” formed by points in places where I took a nap or paused to take pictures. You might want to edit them out before you commit them to your GPS.

Download the Track as KML:

  1. In your browser, navigate to the trail guide in New Mexico Meanders.
  2. Scroll down to the Google Map display.
  3. In the gray bar at the top of the map, click the “View Larger Map” icon (a rectangle in which only the corners are drawn).
  4. This opens a full-browser map. On the left side is a map-summary column with a red banner across the top. At the right edge of the banner is more-options icon (a stack of three dots, like a colon (“:”) but with an extra dot). Click the icon.
  5. This opens a shortcut menu, the last item of which is “Download KML”
  6. This presents a popup with two options. The one that is best for you will depend on how you are going to analyze and present the data. (I clicked on the second for the analysis described in the next section). The data will be downloaded to your browser’s “download” folder.
    • “Keep data up to date with network link KML (only usable online).”
    • “Export to a .KML file (for full icon support, use .KMZ).”

Reformat the Data:

I was unable to introduce the KML file directly into Garmin Basecamp, which seems happier using GPX data. A file type conversion was necessary, which I did online. As you know, the mountains are not the only potentially dangerous places in the world!  No one wants to download malware with their data conversion.

I looked at a couple of reviews and got the impression that many users had a good experience with “GPS Visualizer”. (For a summary of useful online sites see the Best free online tools for maps and route planning review from Travel and Photography). I liked the GPS Visualizer because it gave me a chance to see the converted data and the option to do a copy-and-paste, which can be safer than a download. These are the steps I took:

  1. Open a browser and go to gpsvisualizer.com
  2. In the “Get Started Now!” box (green, about halfway down the screen on a laptop) click the “choose file” button beside the “Upload a GPS file” label.
  3. Below the “choose file” button there is a dropdown box that seems to default to “Google Maps” and that has the label, “Choose An Output Format”. Click the dropdown box and select the option, “KML File“.
  4. In the bottom of the box is a button that defaults to reading “Map it”. Once you’ve chosen an input file in KML format the text will change to Convert It. Click “Convert It“.
  5. This will open a new screen with a bold line saying “Your data has been converted to GPX”. Below that is a link saying, “click to download <arbitrary filename>”. You have two options.
    • If you click click to download <some filename> then your converted file will be sent to your downloads folder.
    • If you are as averse to malware as I am, there is also a display of the GPX data on the web page. I did a select-all and  copy, then a paste into a plain-text TextEdit document (you specify plain-text in the TextEdit preferences menu). Don’t use the default rich text (or Microsoft Word) since those options will introduce formatting data that will confuse your analysis software. Remember to change the suffix from “.txt” to “.gpx”.

Perform your analysis.

  1. To load the GPX into Garmin Basecamp:
  2. Open Basecamp.
  3. Use File => New List to create a list that will accept your GPX file. You’ll be prompted for a name so give it a name that reflects the trail you’re trying to map.
  4. Use File => Import into <filename> to import the GPX data into your new list.
  5. Click on the name of your new list to check that the trail gets displayed and is located where you expect it to be.

From this point you should have numerous options, including the option of exporting the data to your GPS device.


If you encounter an issue with pulling GPS data then please post a comment describing the problem. I hope that by addressing the major problems/miscommunications we can simplify this process and make it safer and more enjoyable.