Find a Trail

How to Make a Virtual Trail on Google Earth

Article contributed by Flint Striker.

Do you want to map your hike on Google Earth, display pictures at the locations where you took them, and save the mapped trail in KML so others can view your (virtual) hike?

Read on.

For these instructions, I assume you have already loaded Google Earth on your computer. I assume that you have access to your picture on a server site such as Sierra Club Trails. And I assume that your trail is visible enough in Google Earth that you can trace it.

Create a Folder

In the "Places" menu in Google Earth, select "Temporary Places." Right click on the menu item and select "Add --> Folder" from the cascading menus. We'll use the folder to collect the path and all of the placemarks that you will add to your virtual trail.

Create A Folder

Folder Info

Give the folder a name and add some descriptive information about your hike. Hit "OK" to save the folder.

Folder Info

Add a Path

Find the location of your trail on the Google Earth map. Position the map so you can see the trailhead and the area the trail travels through on the map. Find the newly created folder in the "Places" hierarchical menu. Select your folder and right click. Select "Add --> Path" from the cascading menus.

Add a Path

Mark Out Path with Path Tool

A dialog box will appear. Give the path a name and a description. You can change the style and color of the path by selecting the "Style, Color" tab. You have to keep the dialog box up while tracing out the path. Trace out the path by clicking at points on the trail.

If you make a mistake, you don't have to start over! Select a point by clicking on it, and then you can drag it to a new location. To add a new point in between two existing points, click on the previous point in the trail. Then click on the map. A new point will appear connected to the previous and next points in the path. You can then drag this new point to the desired location. To delete a point, right click on it and it will be deleted.

Mark Out Path with Path Tool


Completed Path

If the entire trail doesn't fit on the map, use the Google Earth navigation tools to re-center the view and continue to add points. When you are done, select "OK" in the dialog box and your path will be saved.

Completed Path

Add a Placemark

Center the Google Earth map about where you would like to place your placemark. Again, right click on your trail folder in the "Places" heirarchical menu. Select "Add --> Placemark" from the cascading menu. A dialog box will appear. Don't dismiss the dialog box until after you have positioned your placemark. Name the placemark and position the placemark where you want it.

If you want to switch the placemark icon, click on the image just to the right of the name. I've chosen the hiker icon for my placemarks.

Add a Place Mark

Add a Picture to the Placemark

In the description section of the dialog box, we are going to add some html fragments to add a photo.

The placemark description supports the html image tag. In order for others to see your picture, you need to have it posted on a Web site accessible to the Google Earth browser. If you have already posted your trail to the Trails site and posted some pictures along with it, you can use that picture. I will show you how to get this URL in just a second.

The paragraph tags delimits a paragraph. The image tag tells Google Earth where to find the photo. You can also use a tag to create a link to another Web site. If you know html, you can experiment. If not, try to use the html fragment below as a template. You will have to change everything in the quotation marks of src="your url" and you will want to provide your own text within the paragraph delimeters, which look like this: <p>your text goes here</p>

<img src="http://connect.sierraclub.org/assets/sierraclub/groups/E/0/5/5/E0553F97-935B-4BEB-8FAF-CFCB65CD402B/photos/69FB4F52-71DA-4F80-AEB7-8F8CDA1BA42F/5FBD9BF8-022F-437B-9C6C-01922D220958.JPG" width=160 height=120/> <p>Found a pair of Golden Eagles here. Managed to get a couple of good close ups.</p>


Add a Picture to the Placemark


Find the Link to Your Photo

Find your picture on the web using a browser. I've uploaded some pictures to the Sierra Club Trails site as part of my trail description. In FireFox, you can right click on an image and select "Copy Image Location" to get the URL of the image.

Substitute your URL into the src attribute of the image tag as previously shown. Click "OK" on the dialog box to save your placemark.

Find the Link to Your Photo

Placemark and Trail

You should now be able to click on the placemark on the map and see your text and image.

Placemark and Trail

 

Save KML File

If you want to save your work, right click on the trail folder and select "Save as." You can then save your file as a kml file or a kmz file. The kml file is a text file. The kmz file is a compressed file that will include any resources that your folder uses. It won't include the image, however, as the html we created earlier is stored as CDATA in the kml file. CDATA simply means that the kml file treats your html as some text that it doesn't know anything about.

Save KML File

To KML Folder

Pick a place to store your kml files. The kml file allows you to view your virtual trail in any tool that understands kml, or to send it to someone else to view. Wouldn't it be nice to have a kml link on your Trail site so others could easily find and inspect your trail? Or even possibly add to it?

To KML Folder