​How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch

We explain one of Garmin's most useful features
Wareable Fenix with map
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Garmin's GPS sports watches offer tonnes of ways to get more from your workouts, but the ability to add and follow GPX routes and courses is a powerful feature that has a heap of benefits, whether you’re running through the city or hiking across the mountains.

Utilizing navigational maps is a relatively easy process and can be done on a range of Garmin devices.

Garmin devices that support GPX uploads:

Not all of those will give you actual maps though, but you can still use GPS navigation to follow a directional route. TOPO mapping itself is only available on Fenix, Epix and Forerunner 955.

Even without mapping, you can use GPX waypoints to follow a heading. Hikers can use this feature for long, off-the-beaten-track walks, and it's especially reassuring to follow when the path fades away and you're off-piste. 

City runners can also take advantage, mixing up runs made in Strava or Koomot and adding a variety to workouts, without having to pull out Google Maps every five minutes when you've lost your bearings.

The older process of uploading through Garmin Basecamp is now superseded with the Garmin Connect web tool and app. Garmin has also overhauled its GPS navigation features to make it easier to get out that door quicker.

You can also use Garmin’s detailed Trendline data to build a route based on how many of its users have followed the same path. That system also incorporates elevation, so you can see how tough the route is going to be. Building a route using Trendline can be done via the Garmin Connect phone app or via the Garmin Connect website.

Quick look: Add GPX routes to your Garmin watch

1. Download the Garmin Connect App and register

2. Download or create a GPX file and store it on iCloud/Dropbox/Google Drive.

3. Import the GPX file into Garmin Connect

4. Send the Course to your specific Garmin device and then sync.

5. When starting an activity, select Navigation and then Courses

Wareablefenix topo mapping

1. Download the Garmin Connect app and register

The Garmin Connect app on your phone will automatically sync courses to your Garmin device via Bluetooth.

You can create new routes using the phone app itself through Courses, as well as import GPX files from third-party apps on iPhones and Android phones.

You can also import files from the Garmin Connect web app. The web interface also offers a significantly easier-to-use system for reviewing and modifying navigational data, as well as editing various features of the GPX course before sending it over to your device.

2. Download or create a GPX file

Next, you'll need to get a GPX or TCX file containing your route. If you don't opt for the impressive Garmin Trendline route builder or Courses, our favorite for building runs is Strava – however, in April 2020 this became a paid-for feature.

While it's a little complex at first, it's pretty easy to click out a running route, find popular areas frequented by other runners, and, handily, 'flatten' the route to take out any nasty and unexpected hills.

If you're a walker or hiker, maybe try Wander Map or Koomot.

You can also download GPX files from the web. The site wikiloc.com is a great source of routes with GPX downloads, and in the UK you can grab them from GPS-routes.co.uk. There are loads of sites out there besides those.

3. Import the GPX/TCX file into Garmin Connect (app)

Wareableadd a route

If you're importing GPX or TCX files via the Garmin Connect phone app this will slightly differ depending on whether you're using an iPhone or Android phone.

For iPhone users (see above), you'll need to copy the file to iCloud Drive or Dropbox. Long press the file and choose Share and then you should have the option to Copy to Connect.

You may have to expand to see the full list of apps. Your iPhone needs to be running iOS 13 or later to do this. You then can name the route, choose whether it's public or private, and then save the route to Connect.

If you have an Android smartphone, locate your course file then select to open it with Connect, choose course type, and edit the name before saving.

Get more from your Garmin with our in-depth guides

4. Import into Garmin Connect (web)

When using Garmin Connect's web tool, navigate to 'Training' and then 'Courses'. This will bring up the course overview screen listing any courses you may have previously uploaded. Here you’ll have the option to create a course or upload a new one.

Wareablegarmin web dashboard

Click on the small 'Import' button and you’ll have the option to drag and drop or browse for a .gpx or .tcx file. Once you’ve selected one, click 'Get started and it’ll upload that file. Next, select a course type and you’ll be taken to a course overview.

Before you do anything else, give the course a relevant name as searching through unnamed files via the device itself can be tricky. You can also use this screen to review the map itself, view popular routes from Garmin’s Trendline data and toggle the privacy/public status of the route.

Wareableedit a route

5. Send to your Garmin watch

Wareablesend route to garmin watch

Once you’ve saved the route it will now be stored in Garmin Connect. You have the option to view it through the website or in the Garmin Connect app.

In Garmin Connect go to More (iOS) or the menu button (Android) and then choose Training > Courses.

In Courses tap to enter the course, hit the menu button and tap Send to the device, to automatically sync it to your device as soon as there’s a connection between your phone and your watch.

5. Select the route via your Garmin device

There are two ways to get to the navigational routes stored on your Garmin device.

Start a new hike/run/cycle activity and then head to the Navigation option in the activities menu before scrolling down to Courses.

Here you should see a list of the available routes that have been synced to the device. Click on those and you’ll have the option to view the map or start the course as an activity.

Wareablecourses on garmin watch

The second way is to select a specific activity via the activity menu and then select 'Navigation' > 'Courses' in the options menu.

From here you can use that course for the activity, view the map itself (assuming your device has maps), run the course in reverse, plot elevation, use the course for the cool new PacePro feature or view the elevation for that course.

How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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