Creating roads, trails and paths when imagery does not exist!

by Eldridge McFadden


There are times you will find a road (or even a network of roads) that have been created, but the imagery in Google Maps either does not show them, or the imagery is poor enough to not be visible.  Google does not update the imagery daily, so it helps to add those roads in.  This tutorial will show a method on how to accomplish this.

Creating roads with Android

Google has created a great method using Android's "My Tracks" app in order to import data to Google Maps. Instructions on how to use it may be found here:

Creating roads with iPhone

Currently there are no known apps from Google which import roads directly into Google Maps. As a result, iPhone users need to use other methods to collect the data. Popular programs which are known to collect data in .kml format in use exist in Apple's iTunes Store.( After you have downloaded the .kml file from the app you used to create it (or its accompanying website) to your computer, continue below with "Importing .kml data into Google Maps".

Importing .kml data into Google Maps

So the data has been collected but now must be imported into a format which Google Maps can show on the screen.

Enable Overlays

  • If you don't have Overlays in Google Map Maker enabled, you will have to do that first. Do Step 1 only at the following link (, then come back to this webpage , and continue to "Create a table in Google Docs".

Create a table in Google Docs

  1. Go to Google Docs (
  2. Choose the Create button on the left side and scroll down to and choose "Table."  A window will open up.

Import data from the kml file

  1. Select the Choose button and find the kml type file you downloaded and "Open" it.
  2. Select the Next button. A status alert will show saying it is "loading".  A new window will open, 
  3. Select the "Next" button.
  4. Choose what you want to name the table. 
  5. Select the Finish button.  This will take you to the data. 

Share the data

  1. In the top right corner, choose the Share button, 
  2. Shange the "Visibility Option" from Private to Public.
  3. Close the window by selecting the x in the top right corner of the box.

View the data Overlay in Google Maps

  1. At the menus in the top left, choose Visualize, then Map.  This will open Google Maps and show the trail or road you traveled on.
  2. Select on the "Get KML network link" link.
  3. Copy the address in the box that pops open.
  4. Go to here ( and continue with Step 3.

Voila! You should see the data. 

Map the data!

Go ahead and map the data using the overlay lines as templates.  Any lines you create now, will not modify the overlay you created. So do not be concerned about creating a problem with the data you just imported to view in Google Maps.  It won't happen!  Also, realize whatever program which was used to collect the .kml data only collects data every few seconds, so there may be some jerkiness to the data which you will have to smooth out when you map over it.

The table and network link you created will be available any time you need it (or until you delete the table from Google docs - or at least make them private again (which I recommend you do), if you want a record of it for the future.

Tips and Tricks

  • To change the privacy of the Overlay go to the top right corner of the table in Google Docs, choose the Share button, Change the "Visibility Option" from Public to Private.
  • Overlays are only good for the session in which you are actually mapping in the browser. If you close the browser, you will need to reenter the web address entry for the Overlay.
  • You can create more than one overlay, then view them simultaneously.


Fusion Tables <>
Mapping Trails and Paths for Hiking & Biking <>