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How to Load a GPS File on Your Phone in GPX Format

Viewing a GPX file with MotionX
Photo: Chris McNamara
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Thursday August 31, 2017
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Want to load a GPS file on your iPhone or Android device? Want to follow the excellent trail network that your friend just biked or hiked? The easiest way is to use an app where the file has already been added like Hiking Project or Trailforks. However, often a trail is not anywhere to be found online. In this case, you can have your friend share a GPS exchange format file (GPX file). Two common ways to load GPX files are by emailing a file around or opening a file in Google Drive. We describe the two processes below. NOTE: following a GPS track can drain your battery fast so check out our iPhone Battery Saving Tips for Backpacking. We also have a review of bike phone mounts for following the tracks easily while cycling. An armband can be very helpful when hiking as taking your phone in and out of your pocket, especially if you have to unlock your phone, takes a lot of time.

Loading a GPX File by Email

1) Get the right app
There are many great apps. Some favorites are:
  • RunGo - Free on iOS and Android. Gives turn-by-turn voice directions
  • ARA GPXViewer for iOS - Free. The paid version removes ads. The downside is you can't view many GPX tracks at once.
  • BikeGPX free and alerts you when you're off route.
  • Gaia not cheap but gives a more precise location and more maps options.
  • Strava - Just "favorite" a route and it will then be accessible on your phone. Press "Record" and click on the dotted line route icon and then "Use Route".
  • RidewithGPS - it costs a bit and you get A LOT for that price. You can easily record tracks and share them, see stats for your activity.

2) Email a GPX file to yourself or have someone forward an email with a GPX file attached

3) Load tracks into your app
Click on a GPX file in your mail app

Click on the icon in the bottom left of the screen

Select the GPS viewing app you want to open the file.

The track should show up and look something like this.

Loading a GPX file by Google Drive (Or Dropbox)

1) Get Google Drive for iTunes or Google Drive for Android and one of the GPX Viewing apps mentioned above like ARA GPX Viewer

2) Open a file in Google Drive
Click on the three dots in the upper right corner.

On the next screen, click "Open in"

Then choose the GPX viewing app:

You should see a track like this:

Other Tips

  • It's still highly recommended you bring a map in case you lose power to your phone or your phone gets wet or is damaged.
  • If possible, download data for offline use. You can't do this with ARA GPX viewer, but you can with MotionX and many hiking apps.
  • Bring an external battery backup and charging code in case your phone loses charge faster than you think

Also, check out our article on how to mount a burly phone case to your bicycle or motorcycle.

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