GPX Track Files: How-To navigate with them using a Smartphone or Garmin 800/810

GPX files are making it easier than ever for people to explore! Here's some info to  jump start your GPX navigation assisted adventures!

GPX files are essentially breadcrumb trails of routes that can be displayed on a computer, Garmin 800/810 and other handheld GPS devices like Smartphones. GPX files are making it easier than ever to enjoy and explore on your mountain bike (or road bike, or trail running, etc.). If someone has ridden a route before you with a GPS device, or if they've used mapping software to define a route ... then they probably have a GPX file they can share with you. Every route on every website like Strava, MapMyRide, RideWithGPS can also be exported as a GPX file (sometimes for a fee).

Below are basic instructions on how to start exploring using GPX files. Please note that while the track lines displayed on your device will sometimes be spot-on, at other times they will likely be a bit off. It may appear as though you're supposed to turn right where you are ... but there's no turn. The turn is probably up to 100ft in front of or behind you. Essentially, the GPX track and your GPS capable device are very helpful navigational aids, and you still need to use good navigational judgement, read the terrain and having a map of an area is helpful too.

So you have a GPX file and you're excited to explore this route - here are some device options to get you out there:

Garmin 800: Anyone with a Garmin 800/810 can simply drop a GPX track file into the Garmin/NewFiles folder on their 800, and the route will appear as one of the courses on their 800/810. Click on Menu, Courses, select the new course and go!

Androids: One good and free option for Android is the free app "Maverick". Just download and install Maverick on your Android, then when you try to open a GPX file on your Android it will prompt / ask you if you want to open the file in Maverick as a Track or as Waypoints - choose Track. Then, in the Maverick application click on the binoculars icon, then click Tracks, then click on the track you'd like to display and navigate. Your location will be a blue dot on the map. Zoom in as much as you'd like and to navigate just move / ride so that you (the blue dot) stays on the track line.

I use Google Drive to get GPX files onto my Android
but you can get the on your phone in many ways. Click
the file to open it.

Save the file as a Track.

On the Maverick app the track will be displayed
on a nice topo map of the region. You're position will be displayed as a blue dot.
iPhone: For iphone users download the app GPX Reader and enter in the url to the gpx file. It's $1. Turn on the "Show your location" and the "Track" options.

Finally, navigating via GPX uses more power than normal smartphone or Garmin operation. If you're just GPX navigating a short route this will not be an issue, but if you're GPX navigating an epic ride it could be. One easy way to address this is with an external USB battery:

I picked up this external battery for just $14 here LINK and it can be easily attached to a bike's handlebars with a CO2 cartridge holder:


  1. Hello from a novice. I have downloaded the app and have one gpx file that I want for practice. I can see the route on my phone but where is the map, I just have a grey background, or should I be more patient, or do I also have to download a map as well ? Thanks

  2. Help please from a novice. ..I can see my track on my HTC One, but just against a grey background. ... do I have to do something else to bring up a map ? Thanks

  3. Mike, Are you opening the file in the Maverick app? Or something else?

  4. Great tips, I've just got the Colorado Trail gpx file on my Android using mavericks - seems to be working brilliantly. Quick question: how do you mount your smartphone to your handlebars? I've got an Otterbox case for my Motorola Moto X - might try to hack the box and turn it into a bike mount. Thanks again!

  5. Robert, have you found any files you can't open in Maverick for some reason? I'm able to see a few gpx tracks - such as the Colorado Trail and the Salida Big Friggin Loop, but can't open the Arizona Trail or the White Rim. Using the same process, can see the tracks in the file page, but they don't show up when I hit open.