Mountain Bike Maps, Routes and Courses – Plan Your Next Trip

by Robb Sutton

Bear and Pinhoti Map - Mountain BikingWhen you set out to find a new trail, having the map, specific route or an actual course map before the race can help drastically as you prepare to navigate terrain that you have never been on before. In the old days, this was reserved to paper maps that may or may not disintegrate with moisture as you ride miles away from your starting point. With the widespread adoption of GPS devices and mapping technology (Garmin Connect) spreading on the web, mountain biking trips are much easier to take with the aid of specific routes and maps related to your destination.

Where To Find Mountain Bike Maps, Routes and Courses

Looking for a mountain bike route for your next trip? Chances are…there is someone who has already ridden that trail with a GPS attached to their bike. It is as simple as heading over to and doing a simple search for the mountain bike trail name or the city in which it is located. From there, you can sift through the available GPS maps to find the exact mountain bike course that you want to ride. There are several options to print the route or upload it to your GPS enabled device for easy navigation while on the trail.

If you are looking to map out a race that you are participating in, you can do this same process to pick up your mountain bike courses. Additionally, most events will actually provide you with a pre-race look at the course using GPS technology that you can upload or print out for your training needs months before the race. If the race course has not changed over previous years, finding a course map on should be an easy process.

Found Mountain Bike Route…What Now?

After you have located your mountain bike trail map, you have several different options from that point.

#1 – Import The Course Into Google Maps or Google Earth

Using the export function in Garmin Connect, you can display the mountain bike course in Google Earth or Google Maps to print out or take down notes of important turns to take with you on the trail. This will provide a cue sheet for you to take with you on the trail. But there is one thing to keep in mind…you are not going to see all of the trails on this map, so I would compare your Garmin Connect map with any local trail maps you can find so you know what to expect while you are out riding.

#2 – Import Your Route Into Your GPS Device

Using the export function in Garmin Connect, you can export the mountain bike route as a tcx, gpx or kml file to upload into your GPS device. I typically upload to my Garmin 705 in a gpx format, but you can use any of them and they will work.

Once the mountain bike maps are uploaded into your GPS, you can follow the course right on the screen so you know exactly where you are on the trail. Getting lost while mountain biking will be all but a distant memory.

Garmin GPS Devices for Cycling

While you can use other GPS devices that are made for off road use, I have found that the Garmin GPS devices made specifically for cycling tend to work the best and have the feature set that is most appealing to those obsessed with pedal induced forward motion. I personally use the Garmin Edge 705 (allows for turn by turn directions on the road bike), but Garmin also has a wide range of more cost effective options that might fit better into your budget.

You can find the Garmin Edge 500 starting at $249.99 or the Garmin Edge 305 at around $199.99.


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