Convert Google Map Routes to Garmin GPX Files
Update 11/08/2012: The new version of my Google Maps to GPX converter is now live! Please read the instructions below. The description of the previous version (which no longer works due to changes Google has made) is available here.
Update 15/08/2012: I found a bug! Routes without any intermediate waypoints weren't working properly: the route was being saved, but it was not being displayed properly and the GPX files were not being offered. This has now been fixed (and any routes that were made but appeared not to work should now work if you happened to write down the URL or can find it in your browser history). Sorry about that.
The Garmin GPS units are excellent for navigation, but if you want to plan a custom route, the process can be quite laborious. There are a number of sites on the web that will convert Google Maps to generic GPX files. However, these are based on 'proper' GPX files and involve having a separate waypoint wherever the route needs to be fixed. If you're travelling along and find a road closure, it becomes very difficult to bypass a section of the route and then rejoin your route at a later point (it will keep redirecting you to the point you missed).
Garmin have recently released a software update (for the Zumo 660 at least) that prevents the GPS from recalculating a route when it is imported. With this update, it is possible to plan a route on Google Maps and import it into the GPS as a GPX file with Garmin extensions. You can then follow the route as normal. If you need to deviate from the route, it will then recalculate the whole route (and lose your customisations). However, if you (manually) find your way back onto some part of the route and re-start navigation along the custom route, it will carry on from where you are and you can continue to use your customised route. There's also an option buried in the settings that makes the Garmin prompt before recalculating a route, so you can click 'No' and get back onto the route in your own time.
This utility is free and always will be. If you find it useful, please consider sending me a message to let me know or clicking my dropbox referral link and signing up for a free account: they'll give me some extra free storage for everyone who signs up via this link.
Does my Garmin Support This?
To find out if your Garmin supports this feature, find the Change History for your device (for example, the Zumo 660 change history is here). The relevant entry for the Zumo 660 is:
Corrected to allowed [sic] routes to be imported from matching maps on MapSource without recalculation.
In the case of the Zumo 660, this was implemented in software version 3.80. Therefore, if you have this version or greater, your device already supports this. If not, you'll need to use WebUpdater to get the latest version.
If you can't find anything sounding relevant in the Change History for your device, then it's likely that you won't be able to use this and I'd recommend either sticking with the other type of converter or using my tool to create generic GPX files instead of the Garmin format ones.
How Do I Use It?
Go to the route planning page (also linked in the left column of this page). It works in a similar way to the main Google Maps page, so hopefully you will find this easy to use. You can plan a route (either using the "Initial Route" box on the left or by right-clicking on the map and using the context menu) and drag the path around to create the route that you want. Due to a limitation of the Google Maps free API, the route is limited to 10 waypoints. Once you've planned your route, click "Save Route" and the route will be uploaded to my server. It will be given a permanent URL and converted into two GPX files: one for Garmin GPSs and one for other GPSs (the latter one only contains the waypoints rather than including the whole path from Google's direction service). Links should then appear underneath the "Save Route" button and you can download the GPX files.
- Limited to 10 waypoints (this is a limit imposed by Google).
- Opera Browser gives incorrect filename when downloading GPX file (.htm instead of .gpx).
I have tested the GPX generator website with the following browsers:
- Mozilla Firefox (version 14 at the time of writing this)
- Google Chrome (version 21 at the time of writing this)
- Opera (version 12 at the time of writing this)
All browsers have been tested on Linux Mint, Ubuntu and Microsoft Windows XP. If you find the site doesn't work, please try one of the above browsers: as I said, I'm not a web developer and I can't support every single browser. If it still doesn't work, please get in touch via the contact page and I'll try to help as much as I can.