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How to create a google map of places you want to visit

This post is primarily a screencast tutorial on how to create a custom google map of places you want to visit—or what I like to call an Adventure Map.

An Adventure Map is a handy repository for all of those places on your OMG-I-Want-to-Visit list. It’s a place to store those random campsite tips you get from friends, that instagram post about a backcountry waterfall, or that killer hike your friend just posted on facebook. There are plenty of ways to save this information for later, but I find that a custom map is one of the most useful.

The screencast tutorial

In this tutorial, I show you my personal Adventure Map and explain how I use it. I then teach you how to create your own adventure map. The entire screencast lasts about 27 minutes. If you’re in a rush, the tutorial itself starts at the 8:30 mark. I’ve also added some additional notes below that I didn’t mention in the screencast, as well as another short tutorial on how to load your new Adventure Map onto your mobile phone.

Even if you’ve used Google’s My Maps before, I hope there some nuggets that can you can put to good use. If you have additional tips, please leave them in the comments.

Thanks for watching. It’s quite a bit longer than I would have liked, and I’m not particularly happy with my performance, but I hope you found it useful. Below are some items I didn’t mention in the screencast that you might want to know about.

Additional notes not mentioned in the tutorial

Other ways to add pins

You can also add pins by clicking on the pin icon in the toolbar and clicking directly on the map. This is especially useful if you’re setting pins to investigate on the ground later, like possible indian ruins or dispersed camping sites. In addition, you can also search for a location by gps coordinates, which makes it easy to add destinations that you might have found from blogs, guide books, or someone else’s custom map.

More on driving, biking, and walking directions

Another method to add driving directions is to click the draw a line tool and select the add a driving (or biking or walking) route from the drop-down menu. Then click where you want the route to start and trace the path you want to the directions to follow. Double click to end the route. This will create a new layer containing the directions. Using this tool, Google will calculate a route based on the roads in its database. So if you start your route 1/4 mile from a road, the directions instead start at the nearest point on the nearest road, and only follow roadways. Awkwardly, this is also the case with walking and biking directions, too. Nonetheless, this is still a useful method when you’re trying to force Google Maps directions to follow a particular route.

Drawing lines and shapes

You can also add lines and free-form shapes (using straight lines only) to your map. I find this to be useful when there’s an entire area I want to save for future investigation, such as a long wall of petroglyphs, or what appears from satellite view to be a complex of pueblo ruins. Select the draw a line tool, click to add the starting anchor point for the line, then move to where you want the second anchor point to be and click again. You can continue to add anchor points, creating a multiple angled line. When you’re done, double-click to lock it in.

Or, if you’re adding a shape, follow this same procedure around the edge of the area you want, being sure to end back at the first anchor point. Once you’ve saved your shape, you can go back and adjust the location of the corners or create a new corner by dragging the dimmed circle that’s midpoint on each line. Once you’ve saved your area, Google will calculate the perimeter distance and area for you.

If you’re trying to undo a line or shape, you can easily abort by clicking ESC on your keyboard. If you click ESC again, you’ll be returning to the default select mode where you can click to select items or drag to pan the map.

Measuring distances and areas

This tool functions similar to the one used to add line and shapes, except that it doesn’t add any permanent items to your map. Instead, it simply shows you the distance of the line, or the perimeter and area of a shape. One useful feature of this tool is that when you’re measuring distances, it keeps a running total using “mile markers” along the line path.

How to load your Adventure Map onto your phone

As mentioned in the screencast, one of the benefits of using a custom google map is that you can load it as the base map on Google Maps on your phone. Below is a brief tutorial on how that in iOS.

Here’s how to do the same thing on Android. Even better, the My Maps app for Android allows you to create and modify your custom maps directly from your device [edit: the app is no longer available in the play store, perhaps the functionality has been included in the Google Maps app?].

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4 thoughts on “How to create a google map of places you want to visit”

    • Nope, it’s filled with some secret places that I’m not willing to divulge! I’ve definitely considered putting together a public map of some of my favorite things in Arizona, but I haven’t gotten around to it.


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