Sunday, March 18, 2012

Free topo and trail maps for your Garmin GPS

Free-GPS-topo-maps If you’re a Garmin owner and aren’t aware of all the free maps available for your unit, you’re in for a treat. Detailed 1:24,000 scale topo maps are available for most states in the US, as well as for some foreign countries. We’re also beginning to see transparent trail maps that can layer on top of topos.

Sources for free Garmin GPS topo maps

  • GPS File Depot – The best source for US topo maps, this site also includes a limited selection of international maps, forums, and tutorials. If your state isn’t listed, be sure to check out the regional maps before giving up.
  • Mapcenter – The best repository of international maps, although you’ll see more highway maps than topo maps. UPDATE: This site is no longer available.

Trail maps too

A new trend has community mappers creating transparent trail maps that layer on top of topos. Here are a couple of notable ones:

  • Northwest trails – covers Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, British Columbia and Alaska
  • Southwest trails – covers Arizona and New Mexico, with plans to expand to Utah and Nevada

I’m hoping this trend expands to the entire US, especially since Garmin seems to put a low priority on trail data.

Searching for maps

Sometimes a map creator posts a map to his own website, and you won’t find it in one of the above repositories. It’s always worth searching for the name of the area you are looking for + Garmin + img (the file extension used by these maps). You can also experiment with adding terms such as map, topo or contour to your search.

Installing free maps to your Garmin GPS

There are a couple of easy ways to install these maps. If you have MapSource, many will self-register. GPS File Depot has installation instructions for PCs and Macs. If you don’t have MapSource, you can get it for free.

Garmin is adding drag and drop capability to their newer handhelds, so you can rename a .img file to WhateverNameYouWant.img and simply drag it into the Garmin folder. This works as of Oregon firmware version 3.10 and Colorado beta version 2.94.

There are other procedures you can use if you don’t have one of these models and just have a .img file. Here’s one using MapSetToolkit.

Pretty cool, huh? Now grab a map and get outside!

Related posts:

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. The nortwest trails mapset is great i love it!

  2. I’m a clueless prospective buyer who is still looking to buy a GPS unit for the car. I searched this site to see if Garmin units can use Topo maps when I spotted this article.

    Sounds pretty cool, because when I travel Nevada & Arizona I like to go off-road ghost town hunting. I’m not very well schooled in the capabilities of Geeps hardware, so my clueless question is –

    In which Garmin units can I install topo maps? Hand-held only, or can I install them on any (or just certain) road models?

  3. Rich Owings says:

    Yes, they will work with any mapping unit, including auto units.

  4. Just ordered a Garmin 60CSx (great deal on Amazon – THANKS!). We will use it for trail riding on horseback, so am looking forward to getting it here and putting the local topo maps on. Thanks for all the great info on your site!

  5. Rich Owings says:

    Cool! That’s a great unit for horseback riding. There’s not a more accurate consumer receiver on the market. Glad I could help!

  6. How far in can you zoom while using the free topo maps?

    What is the degree of relief when zoomed in all the way when using the free topo maps?

    What kind of accuracy are we talking about when zoomed in all the way, on the free topo maps?

  7. Rich Owings says:

    You can zoom in as far as you can with any other map. I’m looking at a 20′ scale right now on my Oregon 400t.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “degree of relief.” Many are 1:24K scale maps, with 40′ contour intervals. Accuracy depends on the map maker, but generally, they are as good (and often better) than Garmin topo maps, which suffer from roads being off by a significant margin of error.

  8. I am trying to find trail maps for Western North Carolina, like Pisgah Forest, Nantahala Forest, Smokies NP, etc. I have a Garmin Etrex hci with the micro-card. I have tried downloading topo maps, but can’t figure out how to use them.

  9. Rich Owings says:

    Hey, you’re in my backyard!

    As far as topo maps go, here is one…

    And a tutorial on how to load them…

    I don’t know of any trail maps, but you can search for the trail name + gpx, which will often turn up track files. CMC has some posted for many trails…

  10. Rajiv Balaigavindoswami says:

    Can you get some maps for Australia, particularly sydney. NEEDED desparately

  11. Rich Owings says:

    Topo or road? Here are some sources for both, but the Shonky topo map is 1:250K……ads_breadcrumbs

  12. Ok, I now have the new version of MapSource, and was able to load the topo maps.

    My next step is to find hiking trail maps for Western North Carolina. Rich Owings gave me urls for Australian maps, but I am a little far away from there. I have also downloaded a map from the CMC, but MapSource does not recognize the format. I tried making it an MPS, GPX and GPS, but still no luck.

    Also, what does it mean when it says in GPSMapEdit that I need to register? Can’t I first see if the program integrates with MapSource first? I will gladly pay the $65 if it integrates the GPX trail map with MapSource on the Garmin.

  13. Rich Owings says:

    Actually, the Australian maps were for someone else. What format is the CMC file? You may be able to convert it with GPS Babel. And what do you want to use GPSMapEdit for?

  14. The CMC file was a .gpx file.

    GPSMapEdit is the program that ran on my computer when I tried to open the .gpx file. I think I downloaded it a while ago in my quest to understand this, which as you can tell, did not explain a thing! The track was displayed on the screen, but I must get it into my Garmin.

    I heard that cGPSmapper can convert a .gpx to .img, which I was told can then be loaded into the Garmin GPS. I will try that next.

    I may be getting close to understanding this, but boy, it sure is complicated!

  15. Rich Owings says:

    Okay, I see. No need to convert it to an .img file. Open MapSource and go to File > Open. Change the file type box to .gpx and open your file. Connect your GPS and then select Transfer > Send to Device.

    Then you’ll need to go into Track Manager on the eTrex and be sure the track (.gpx file) is set to show on the map.

    GPSMapEdit seems to be set as the default for handling .gpx files on your computer. You might want to change that.

  16. Viajero Perdido says:

    For Canada (and US too), there’s an excellent series of free topo maps. Just search for “Ibycus topo”.

  17. I’m kinda new to the computer and gps scene,would like to know if I can put topo map from gpsfiledepot on sd memory card for my garmin nuvi,and if there are other legit free sites for NY topo maps.Thanks!

  18. Please HELP! I am trying to upload the free New England Topo into *MapSource* (and then onto my garmin 60csx). I have already downloaded *Mapset Toolkit v1.77* and *CGPSMapper*….So, *Mapset Toolkit v1.77* is telling me that the NewEngland Topo map is already ‘installed’ in MapSource, but when i go into MapSource I can’t find the NewEngland Topo map. When i try to open the map manually through MapSource i can only find .img files (which apparently MapSource can’t open). When I went back into *Mapset Toolkit v1.77* and clicked the ‘check registry’ button, I found that there is a .Loc file (which i believe MapSource CAN open), but i can’t access the .Loc file through MapSource… PLEASE HELP. THANKS!

  19. If it’s this map, you don’t need the other tools. You just click to extract the download and it installs to MapSource. Is it showing in the drop down box in the upper left corner of MapSource?

  20. Rich,

    I just ordered a Garmin 60CSx for geocaching and hiking with my three boys. I am waiting for delivery from REI where this unit is on sale for $199.99!


  21. Are there any free boating/marine maps? Thanks for awesome website.

  22. If you have a Garmin with custom map capabilities, you could use NOAA marine charts, but the memory would be limited.

  23. What area are you looking for?

    • New England coastline boating charts. Why would the memory for the NOAA marine charts be limited? I’m also trying to figure out if the NOAA charts give you enough detail to actually boat with, see buoys, avoid rocks, etc.

      • Because Garmin has placed limits on custom map capabilities, and raster imagery is very memory intensive.

        There’s a map viewer on Garmin’s map pages, so you can check out the details of their vector maps. You should be able to find the NOAA charts online and look at them too.

  24. Tom Hore says:

    Hi everyone, newbie at this so forgive my ignorance. I have an Garmin Oregon 550t and want the topo maps for Finland. I have managed to go as far as putting mapsource on the computer, but when trying to get the right maps mapsource just does not recognize them? I know am cocking it up somewhere, but i never realized these gps gadgets would be so difficult, maybe easier if i stick to the ones i got on my phone! Any help is greatly appreciated guys.

  25. Is the map an .img file? Do you see a gpsmapsupp.img file on the unit when in mass storage mode?

  26. Tom Hore says:

    Yes i have several img files and NO i do not see a gpsmapsupp.img file on the unit in the garmin folder? I see “gmaptz 591kb, gmapbap 49,824kb, and gmapprom 3,101,824 kb, if that’s any help.

  27. You should be able to just drag and drop the .img files over, and not have to fuss with MapSource.

  28. I am trying to transfer and Alaska Topo map from GPSFileDepot to my Garmin Oregon 450 with mapsource. I can build the mapset on mapsource, but when I go to transfer the map, I keep getting the message that ” the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error”. Do you have any suggestions on how to correct this error?

  29. I think your best bet is to ask at the GPS File Depot forums…

  30. I have downloaded the AZ map and it has been great for dirt bike riding. great detail for charting out routes. Thanks
    I am looking for a marine map for the san francisco bay and the sacramento delta. I want to play around on my sea doo’s and I don’t want to get lost in the maze of the delta. Any recomendations?

    • I’m use a Garmin 60csx

      • Mmm, I’m a landlubber, so I’m not the best person to ask. I can’t think of a lot of options, short of buying a Garmin marine chart card (assuming the have coverage for an inland area like that). Another option would be to get a newer generation handheld that can use custom maps and aerial imagery. That would allow you to add scanned marine charts and aerial photos.

  31. Can aerials or satellite images be loaded to the Garmin 60CSx.

    Where are instructions how to do this?

  32. Hi, I really need step by step help on loading topo maps on my Garmin Oregon 200.
    I have the GPS and cable to hook to the PC.
    Please advise.
    Regards, Richard

  33. Dan Pincu says:

    How about maps for Western North Carolina. I have searched for trail maps and can never find any. I have downloaded the topo maps, but without trails, they are next to useless.

  34. peter mcgowan says:

    I am an avid hiker who owns a Etrex Legend, but has always relied on old school map and compass.
    I have wanted to upgrade to be able to use maps feature on the GPS receiver, and am excited about the possibility of the free map feature listed on you website.

    Which specific Garmin models can use this free map feature, it still isn’t quite clear to me. Thanks, PM

  35. i recently got my garmin 60csx in the mail. i had already downloaded mapsource then a simple ohio map. it wasn’t what i wanted, it didn’t have state game land marked out along with the topo map, so i decided to go with the NE USA part 3 that had everything i needed and a couple extra states. as i look back all three files saved as exe’s on my computer. i followed the instructions and went to utilities, then manage map product, like it said only to find that i need a 25 or 8 number code to unlock either of these maps… both of them said free on gpsfiledepot, any ideas what i should try next?

  36. thanks in advance!

  37. i figured it out, the yellow triangle-looking thing at the top of the screen in mapsource turns your cursor into a selector to select the quaudrants of the map you would like for export, thanks anyways -shaun

    • Shaun,

      Sorry for the delayed response (I’ve been traveling). Glad you got it figured out. In case it helps — On the 60CSx, you can load multiple maps, but you’ll have to send them to the GPS at the same time (it will erase previously sent map sets when you send a new one). Just select the maps you want, then use the drop down box to change maps, select more, etc. Then send them all to the GPS at the same time.

  38. I have a Rino 530 and would like to have access to as many detailed logging roads as possible for the washington area…do you have a particular map down load you can reccomend? also, is there a satellite immages that could be used with that model of garmin?

  39. I have the garminphone can I use this type of map on it. Want to go geocaching using this gps divice

  40. openstreetmap project is providing free maps of the whole world

  41. Roger D. says:

    I recently bought an Etrex Legend Cx that has cities and western states topo on an SD card already loaded. I can see all the maps are enabled, but I cannot figure out how to access the topos. I see the roads fine, but no topo. I thought that maybe I had to turn off the city navigation maps, but it took like 10 solid minutes of scrolling thru every single maps on there, and it did not work. Then 10 more minutes of solid scrolling to turn them back on. Is there an easier way to access the maps at the bottom of the list? And how do I view the topos?

    Thank you VERY MUCH.

  42. Do you have topo maps for southern Africa? it’s for a garmin dekota 20

  43. Hello, i think my question is much more elementary than the discussions on this board. Gps is at this time totally foreign to me. My husband and I maintain an equestrian trail that surrounds a corp. of engineer reservoir. Currntly, the trail is approx 20 miles, and we are continually adding loops and milage to the trail. I want to be able to create a simple trail map whereby i can name the different loops and points of interest, state the milage of the loops and main trail, and be able to continue to add new loops to the map. I cannot come to grips as to what would be the best gps machine and software to purchase to my needs. Any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  44. Hey there,

    Here’s a story idea: with Christmas coming, lots of people will have new GPSrs and maybe some of them will discover they don’t have as many uses for them as they thought they might.

    This spring, based on your recommendation, I upgraded from my old Geko to a Dakota and I’m very happy with it. While I bought the Dakota primarily for mountaineering and backcountry skiing, my first real test was a ten day conference in Stockholm. I thought having a street map on the Dakota might help me navigate my way around the city.

    Since I was unlikely to visit Stockholm frequently, I was unwilling to pay for commercial maps. After a bit of web hunting, I found This is the user-built street mapping equivalent of Wikipedia.

    I downloaded the Stockholm map (already in Garmin format) and easily transferred it to the Dakota. I found the map to be incredibly detailed and accurate. And it was supplemented by hundreds of POIs which made finding restaurants, etc, exceptionally easy. (I should note that Stockholmers are invariably polite and almost all speak English, but I was loathe to ask directions, since these would invariably involve Swedish street names, which are invariably long and incomprehensible to me.) The Dakota flawlessly followed OSM data to provide me with efficient routes to my destination, and frequently located pedestrian routes avoiding roads.

    Happy with my Stockholm Openstreetmap experience, I decided to see what was available for my home in Canada. And the answer was – not much. So I set out on my bike to map every foot and bike path, park, body of water, etc. in my home town. Once I had loaded the data from the GPS to computer and then to Openstreetmap’s in-browser editing screen, it was easy to map all the missing features. And other OSM users run sites dedicated to making this data available to Garmin users.

    So now I have both free topo maps (from Ibycus) and routable street maps (from OSM)on the Dakota. My wife and Inavigated a month long road trip using OSM maps exclusively. While we noted a few glitches, the maps were mostly dead accurate.

    So why not post an article encouraging your many readers to join OSM and start mapping around their homes by foot, bike, or auto? It’s a great way to learn how to use a GPs, to create more detailed maps that you can actually use, to explore your neighborhood, get some exercise, and to benefit other GPS users.

    The OSM site contains many tutorials and experienced users are more than willing to answer questions. There’s no limit to how much detail one can map, and I think the Europeans are well ahead of us.



  45. You are a wealth of knowledge and info, thank you!

    My question is that I just bought the etrex 20 and bought the 24k western us DVD. On my MacBook, the maps look good, but on my etrex they are nowhere near like the desktop version. I zoom in and out but can’t seem to get the details I want. I followed instructions until it said download complete.

    Am I missing something?

  46. Joe Liebel says:

    Can I use Topo maps for streetmaps on my Nuvi 255W?

    • You can load a topo map and use it, but you’ll need to disable the highway map. There are a couple of ways around this:

      1. Depending upon where you live, you may be able to find a transparent topo at, which should allow you to use both at the same time.
      2. Garmin’s new 24K topo series includes routable roads, and I’m assuming it would work with a nuvi.

  47. Hi all,
    I am not that much of a GPS newbie, I can pretty much find my ways around, but it is my upgrade time now from my nuvi 755T to my 2595LMT. I need help just enough for me to grab the new changes and find my ways around them. I am currently having north america CN which I will remove or disable and load the South African maps. I read on the garmin website that the topo, which I like using in case of my off road trail driving, is not compatible with my 2595LMT. could someone explain why? I also read on some threads that it is possible to have both streetmaps and topo both installed and enabled, by changing the priority of the topo to 31. I understand the whole concept but isn’t there a link or could someone give me a comprehensive step by step to do so including the software I can use to change the drawing priority? (as I understand the topo map is already transparent)?
    Thanks a lot in advance for your help guys. Cheers. Mo

    • You should just disable the North American maps, not remove them. You can use the microSD slot for supplemental maps.

      Which map do they list as incompatible? Can you provide a link? Those compatibility lists are often not kept up to date.

      If the topo map is transparent, you shouldn’t have to modify it.

      • Thanks Rich… I found my way around some amazing tricks, this device actually exceeded my expectations… but I guess I will still need to play a bit more on it. Security is a bit of a pain but you could still go around it and customise almost everything on it!

  48. i just got the etrex 20. how can i put free nautical maps on my gps for the north carolina area??please help

  49. Hello Rich,,
    I would like to know is it possible to convert the topomap to dxf file.
    Topomap file is *gdb from garmin map source and I need to put the
    map into my autocad dwg.
    Hope you can clarify this and thanks in advance.

    • You can export data (waypoints, routes and/or tracks) as a .dxf, but not the topo map. File > Save As and then choose .dxf from the Save As Type drop down box.

      If you search for the following in Google, you may find information on how to create topo maps in .dxf format:


  50. Doug Cornett says:

    Rich, I downloaded a free topo map of KY from OSM with the installer. When I open it in Basecamp and try to send it to my Dakota 20, it says I don’t have a Birdseye subscription. So I
    STILL have to pay Garmin an annual fee to use free maps????

    Slowly reading and learning!!!! Thanks for all the great info and suggestions.


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