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

Viewing a GPX file with MotionX
Article By:
Chris McNamara
Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Last Updated:
August 31, 2017

Want to follow the great 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 phone battery saving tips.

Loading a GPX File by Email

1) Get the right app
There are many great apps. Our two favorites are:
ARA GPXViewer for iTunes or Android - It's free and simple. The paid version removes ads. The downside is you can view many GPX tracks at once.

MotionX GPS - it costs $1.99 and you get A LOT for that price. You can store 300 tracks, easily record tracks and share them, see stats for your activity. Not available on Android.

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 with.

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.

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

Chris McNamara at Big Sur  2008
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Chris is the founder of OutdoorGearLab and serves as Editor-in-Chief. Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’ sanity. He’s climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?” Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He’s the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 14,000 dangerous anchor bolts. Chris is also the founder and lead author of the rock climbing guidebooks publisher, SuperTopo. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or He also has two Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals here and here.

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