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Using Google Earth for Trip Planning
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John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Using Google Earth for Trip Planning on 07/02/2010 23:56:51 MDT Print View

Trying to figure out how to use Google Earth for trip planning. Seems like it has massive potential, but I can't find a trails overlay, or really any way of getting my bearings once I'm in the general area I want to be in. How do you all use it?

Edited by johnbrown2005 on 07/02/2010 23:57:25 MDT.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Nationwide USGS Quads on 07/03/2010 01:31:39 MDT Print View


This layer streams USGS quads for any area straight to Google Earth. No more $50 per state Topo! purchases.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Using Google Earth for Trip Planning on 07/03/2010 10:35:47 MDT Print View

Thanks for tip Miles! Having trouble getting it to work, sent you pm, any help much appreciated!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Using Google Earth for Trip Planning on 07/03/2010 11:38:55 MDT Print View

I've tried it and have found it not all that helpful. For me it is more of a fun toy to play with. But I am sure some folks have really dialed in all the features and tools.

Here is how I usually go about planning a trip. I start with a National Forest map or similiar. Over the years I have built quite a collection. I also like the Tom Harrison maps, as they often show trails that are not on topo or government map. Sometimes I even start the planning with a road map. Once I find an area of interest (do not neccessarily need a trail for my planned route), I get a topo map. I may buy a USGS map, use Topo! California, or even download a topo map from the USGS site. Now I plan my trip. If you get good at planning trips with topo maps, and the actually hike was what you hoped it will be based on the map, you will get better and better with your map skills. The more skill you gain with a topo, the more fun you will have. You cannot use Google Earth when something happens and you need good navigation, which is an accurate map and compass. GPS is an option too. I suppose you can download/print a google map and take it with you in print or electronic gadget form, but you need a method to determine where you are, should you get lost.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Using Google Earth to Plan Trips on 07/04/2010 01:16:59 MDT Print View

Have spent about 5-6 hours on this today, know alot more than I did. Miles, thanks for pointing me in the right direction. Tons of potential, but lots of steps to make it work. Best just to get a real map. But if you don't have one, this can get you there. Too much detail for a post, but folks can feel free to pm me if they have questions, happy to pass on what I've figured out.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
USGS topos free online on 07/04/2010 08:03:45 MDT Print View

You can get USGS topos free online at For day hikes, it's cheap to download the USGS, cut out a section, and print it out. But you do have to be careful to preserve relevant info like scale, datum, magnetic declination, and UTM grid. For medium-length hikes, it works better to just order the full-size sheets from USGS. For hikes that cover longer distances, it becomes impractical to carry that many 1:24,000 maps, so it's better if you can find something like a 1:63,360 Harrison map.

I wouldn't trust google earth or google maps as a primary source of info, but it can be helpful for trip planning. If you're using a USGS topo without contour shading, it can be helpful to compare with a contour-shaded view from google maps; it really makes the topography "pop" visually. It can also be handy to get a google earth rendering of what the landscape will look like from the ground, e.g., will I be able to see this saddle from this peak.