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Introductory GMap Tutorial #3305
    Date first written: 2013.02.21   Review Date:2018.07.04

Table of Contents
1. Preface
2. Different Flavors of GMap Link
3. GMap on a Trip Report
4. General Navigation
5. Different Base Maps
6. Roads and Trails
7. Clicking on Mountains
8. Using Two Windows
9. Viewing Trip Reports
10. Feature Icons
11. Getting Waypoints with Draw and Save

1. Preface
This is a quick tutorial which will show you the key features of GMap that you might not figure out on your own. Print out this document, then check off each paragraph as you do it.

2. Different Flavors of GMap Link
As of 2018.07.04 there are several different GMap links. The links you see depend on whether or not you are on a "line" page such as trips, roads and areas, or a "point" page such as mountains, towns and features.


  1. GMap1
     On the "line" pages, the links are called GMap1 and GMap2. GMap1 is the simplest but does not overlay peak names, etc. It is just an overview map. It shows only a single road, trail or area. It is great for quickly showing somebody a large trip. For example, Betsy's Edziza Ski traverse. You can still zoom in to more detailed levels, and more peak names appear. But there is no bivouac road or trail data.

  2. GMap2
     GMap2 is the "overlay" version. It has an overlay which shows all the Bivouac roads, trails and peaks. For some areas, it initially looks pretty cluttered. For example, go to Scott Nelson's Across the Coast Mountains: From Taseko Lake to Bute Inlet and click GMap2. You initially see a lot of clutter. But when you zoom in on part of it, the map is much more friendly. For example, you could zoom in at either end and thus be able to investigate the roads. The GMap2 link is only available for areas less than 50 km radius.


  1. Gmap
     On mountain pages, there are also two GMap links: GMap (point) and GMap Form. Both have Bivouac overlays. The default Gmap overlay shows all mountains, roads, trails and features such as huts within a default radius (15 or 20 km).

  2. GMap Form
     The "Gmap Form" link is more advanced. It allows you to customize Gmap by choosing different radiuses, different information, etc.

3. GMap on a Trip Report

  1. Find a Gmap link
     Here's how: There is a GMap link on every Trip report page. For trip reports, I'm going to use my trip around mount Callaghan. Click on Mount Callaghan Circumnavigation.

  2. Click on the link
     You are now looking at the trip report page for the Mount Callaghan circumnavigation. Click the GMap2 link at the top of the page. Now you see a topographic map. The default map is a scanned version of the familiar 1:50,000 NTS topo map published by the Canadian Government.

  3. Note the Purple trip line
     Note your map shows a purple line showing the route of the trip.

  4. Info links
     Note the small brown "info" icons along the route. Note that as you hover over them, you see waypoint descriptions.

  5. Note the Roads and trails
     Note your map shows various orange and green lines. These are roads and trails. Note that each one has one or more small green number icons along the route. Click on these to go to the road page or trail page.

  6. Notice the mountain icons
     Notice the mountain icons superimposed on Gmap. Note you can click on them as well.

4. General Navigation
This chapter walks you through the main "navigation" features of GMap such as how to pan or scroll the maps, how to zoom for more detail, and how to look at different map views such as satellite view.

  1. Panning the map (Scrolling)
     Click your left mouse button down at any point on the map, and drag it to the left or right. This is called "panning the map". As you pan, new parts of the map become visible. The actual scanned image of the map comes in little squares called "tiles". Note that as you pan, you will also see Bivouac peak names and roads that were previously not visible. I refer to this data as the "Bivouac overlay". The distance you can pan and still see the underlying map data is unlimited, and you could pan for hundreds of miles. However the Bivouac overlays are limited, and only cover about 25 km around the point you initially started from.

    Furthermore, at the edges of that area, not all the roads will be complete. So if you want to really see all the data for an area, you need to initiate a new GMap at that location. For example if you initially started looking at Mount Callaghan, but then panned over to Mount Garibaldi and wanted to see all the roads there, you should click on the Mount Garibaldi link, then bring up a new map.

  2. Zoom:
     Notice the lower left corner of the map shows a scale bar. All maps start out at a zoom level where this bar shows "1 km". But we can zoom such that it shows "500m" or "200m", etc. Now zoom the map in one of two ways:

    - Click the + or - icon in the upper left corner of the map.
     - With a mouse, roll the center wheel one click forward.

    After zooming, look again at the scale bar in the lower left corner. You now notice it is something like 500m or 200m.

    If using a Macbook Pro track pad, sliding two fingers up or down zooms the map instead of panning it as it does with the Apple maps. Google and Apple can't agree on interpreting that mouse event. I find this confusing, so when I'm using my Macbook, I zoom using the +/- icons.

  3. Cursor Coordinates
     Notice that in the lower right corner is the lat-long of the cursor. Move the cursor around and see the numbers change. This is often useful when talking on the phone with someone planning a trip. For practice, move your mouse to the lake at 50.22, -123.21." As you move the mouse, just watch the first two decimal places - move vertically till you see ".22", then move horizontally to .21. Now you see the unnamed lake I'm talking about.

  4. Cutting and Pasting Coordinates
     If you "right click" anywhere on the map, a box comes up with coordinates of the point. (On a Mac, "right click" is done by holding the Control key and left clicking). When the box pops up, you see about 7 formats. The format we now use in Bivouac is decimal degrees. Eg: 49.12345,-123.12345. You can cut and paste these lat-longs into your trip report waypoint form.

  5. Refresh Map
     Each map overlay only contains the waypoints at the time you launched the map. If you are working on items on the map, you must "reload" the map to get a fresh view. To refresh varies with different browsers. Most commonly, the "refresh" icon is a small clockwise arrow to the right edge of the URL window. (This is true in Firefox and Safari). In IE 8, refresh is a pair of green arrows, on the same row as the URL, but a separate icon. Anyway, make sure you know how to refresh a map. Again, it can take up to 10 seconds.

5. Different Base Maps
Once you are looking at a Gmap, you can switch base maps using the drop down in the upper right corner. For example, switch from Experiment with this.

  h Hybrid satellite shows labelled logging roads
  t1 Google Terrain (this is now the default for area maps to start)
  t2 MyTopo best artwork and matches Western Canada CanMatrix in GPS
  t4 Caltopo (BC Trim data,for logging roads and peak heights
  t5 Topo Canada - has good contour labels
  t8 Topo OSM Cycle World - shows trails

  1. h - Aerial Google Hybrid
     This is one of the most useful displays in GMap, more useful than the plain Satellite maps because roads and peaks are labelled. If you zoom in to 100m scale, you see road labels. These are often pretty good names for the roads, although sometimes they will label a whole set of forks with the same name.

  2. t2 MyTopo
     This is the default display for Bivouac. In all Canadian provinces it displays scans of the familiar 1:50K National Topographic Series (NTS) paper maps. These are some of the best maps ever made, and have the most suitable contour interval and coloring for Canadian mountaineering. The contour interval for many areas is still 100' contours, and in some areas 40m contours. One flaw is that the contour lines are very sparsely labelled making it difficult to determine the elevation of a given point. The "t5 Topo Canada" labels are much more useful, and I often briefly flip to this view when getting elevations for road waypoints. In western Canada, the Mytopo maps match the map set called "Western Canada CanMatrix" which is available in many GPS Apps like Backcountry Navigator, or Gaia GPS.

  3. t4 CalTopo
     Despite the GMap label "USA", in BC this shows the 1:20,000 TRIM data. The trim data is newer than the old 1:50K maps and in some cases more accurate. It shows calculated spot heights of many more mountains. It shows a vast network of logging roads as dotted maroon lines. Most of these are overgrown or irrelevant, but the display is still useful for digitizing when the satellite view is too dark to see. When in USA Caltopo shows the USGS maps, and high resolution. Eg: Go to Mount Mckinley and switch between CalTopo and MyTopo. You see that the CalTopo is the same map but much higher resolution.

  4. t5 Topo Canada
     This display shows Tiles from a modernized version of the old NTS 1:50K maps. The government produced these by scanning the old 1:50K maps with some sort of program that recognized the contour lines. So the contour lines are just the same old ones on the 1:50K maps, but clearer. Most useful is that the contour labels are generated automatically and much more frequent than on scans of the old paper maps. I always use this display when trying to fill in elevations for road waypoints. For lakes, rivers and streams it uses the 1:20K TRIM data rather than the old creeks shown on the 1:50K. The TRIM has many more streams than the old 1:50K although some are insigificant.

  5. t8 Topo OSM Cycle World
     Despite the misleading word "cycle" these maps are often very useful for locating trails not in bivouac. For example, if you go to Mount Seymour and zoom in to 100m, you'll see a vast network of trails shown as maroon dotted lines. Many of these have trail labels. These trail networks tend to be best in popular areas near large cities. In more remote areas there will be nothing. And in areas such as around Mount Macdonald on Vancouver Island, they show a vast network of trails and some don't exist at all. Unlike the Bivouac trails, you can't click on them to see any information, or to see where the source of waypoints came from.

6. Roads and Trails
To do this tutorial, use a map centered at Chilliwack.

  1. Note Road Line Colors
     Note that the lines that represent roads and trails correspond to the surface condition of the road. For example, a red line is a paved road, an orange line is a low clearance 4WD, and a dotted orange requires high clearance 4WD, and dotted yellow means the road is only walkable. You'll soon learn the main road types, even without a legend. Don't get distracted now, but for future reference, you can see all the different road types by bringing up Test Road with bridges and gates and clicking on GMap.

  2. Note that the condition class can change
     A road color can change in the middle of a road. Eg: If you look at Tamihi Creek road, just west of Mount McGuire, you'll notice that south of the big red "X", the road is a yellow dotted line, meaning that part of the road is only walkable.

  3. Note Road Number Icons
     Note that every road and trail has little green icons along it.

    ------ ------- ----------- This is road #1 on this map

    ----- ------- ------------This is road #5 on this map

    The single digit in the road icon helps distinguish between two different road records. Eg: Road 4 will have a different road page than road 6.

  4. Hover over Road Number Icon
     Hover your mouse over one of the "road number" icons and note that you see the name of the road and the distance from the start. Eg:

      Chipmunk Creek Road +4.1 km

  5. Click on a Road Number Icon
     Click on one of these icons. Note that this pops up a box with a link in it. Eg:

      Chipmunk Creek Road +4.1 km
    Click on the link, and notice it pops up the road page itself. This is how you can all about any road you see on the map, in particular the actual road bulletins.

  6. Gates and Bridges
     Note that along various roads you see a large "G" icon or a bridge icon, or a large red "X". And there will be a mileage. If you click you see the waypoint description.



    Don't get distracted now, but the Road Waypoint Keywords Referencehas more discussion of these types.

  7. Info Point Icons
     Note that some roads have points marked with a brown square icon.
    1. Fork
    2. Jct
    3. Other Info Point

    These are "Info icons". If you hover or click on them, you see the waypoint description. They are automatically labelled with the distance from the beginning of the road. For example, look at the Upper Callaghan FSR, which is the road leading up to Callaghan Lake. At km 3.7, you see a brown icon. Hover over it and you see the following information:

    "branch road on the east side".

    If you look at the satellite view, you see a short branch road that was not important enough to put into the system, but still worthy of mention. The label is the number of kms from the beginning of the road segment.

7. Clicking on Mountains
 Now that you know how to move and zoom the map, the next stage is to understand the basic operations you can do on any icon. With any icon that has a label, there are four potential operations:

- Hover over the icon
 - hover over the label
 - click on the icon
 - click on the label

Try each of these operations on Mount Callaghan:

  1. Hover over the icon. You see the full name and height in meters.

  2. Hover over the label. Does nothing.

  3. Click on the icon. A "pop-up" window comes up giving the height, prominence and the ID number of the mountain. Now right click on the Mountain name in the popup. This will allow you to pop up the mountain page in a separate window. Pop it up, then shut that window down again, so we can concentrate on the map.

  4. Click on the LABEL. With firefox, the mountain page pops up in a separate browser tab. With Internet Explorer 8, the mountain page pops up in a separate window. Either way, close the window (or tab) that popped up and go back to the original "Map". Make sure you know how to do this, because otherwise you'll end up with a lot of windows, or become confused. A good practice is to keep the same map window for your whole session, and then open information pages in a separate window each time from the same map. That way you don't have to reload the map each time.

Notice that different mountains have different colored icons. For example Mount Callaghan is a different color than Ring Mountain. The mountain icons depend on the prominence. This allows you to see the high prominence mountains immediately on any map. Mountains with prominence less than 500m have a white square, mountains over 500m prominence have a green square, and mountains over 1000m prominence have an orange square.

8. Using Two Windows
Often when reading a trip report, it is handy to have a GMap window open beside the report. To do this, you need to know how to use 2 separate windows on your computer.

 It is most useful to have the map in a separate window from the trip report. Lots of people I've talked to don't know how to get two separate windows on their computer. Fortunately both PC and Mac are similar. On the PC, with my version of Firefox, if I click "GMap" it initially comes up in the same window but a separate tab.
 - Go to the map tab and "right click". This brings up a menu box. Choose "Move to separate Window".

Here's how to do it on an Apple Macbook Pro equipped with a trackpad instead of a mouse. Go to the mountain page and click GMap link. Note that GMap comes up in a separate browser tab. You can then do a "two finger" click on the GMap tab, which brings up a menu box with "Move to a separate window".

9. Viewing Trip Reports
To do this tutorial, go to the trip page for Mount Callaghan Circumnavigation and click GMap link.

  1. Purple Line
     Note that the map in this area has all the same layers (mountains, and roads) as if you had launched it from a mountain page, except that it has a wide purple line showing the trip report waypoints.

  2. Note it overlays the trail at the start

  3. Note Brown Icons with Red Labels
     Note the labels such as Pass2, Pass3 and Camp1. These labels are caused by the author putting in asterisk and one word into the waypoint. Eg: *Camp1 Note that if you hover over the icon or click on it, you see the entire waypoint description.

  4. Note that most waypoints are not labelled

10. Feature Icons
The maps also show certain "features" such as huts,campgrounds,parking lots and passes. Each of these types of feature have their own custom icon. Below is a list:

    Huts - a brown hut symbol on a white background
    Campground - A "tent" symbol on a white background
    Parking Lot - A blue "P" on a white background
    Passes - Two blue vertical lines

  1. Hover-text:
     If you hover over the icon for a feature, you see its full name.
  2. Click on Icon If you click on the icon for a feature, you see a pop-up which has its full title.

You should see a blue "P" at the trailhead at the south end of Callaghan Lake.

11. Getting Waypoints with Draw and Save
If preparing trip reports, use GMap to get your trip waypoints. You can get waypoints one at a time, or an entire route. To get a single waypoint just right click on the map. To a whole route use the "Draw and Save" function. These are described in separate tutorials.

  1. Get single waypoint from Gmap
  2. GMap Draw and Save