Android as a GPS on the Pacific Crest Trail

Greetings to all Pacific Crest Trail Hikers! I know some of you will be hiking the Pacific Crest trail this year with the help of the GPS in your Android Phone. Here are some tips for Android users.

DO NOT FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THIS PAGE. For 2012 and later, refer to this HelpDesk Article for the files:

BackCountry Navigator, an Android GPS App, can import waypoints and tracks in GPX format. Nonetheless, HalfMile has done this work for you, and you have a trip database ready for download. Note: to learn about the waypoints that HalfMile has prepared for the PCT, go to PCT Maps.  

These instructions assume you have a utility to unzip files (they are built in to some versions of windows), and that you are doing this from your desktop PC with the storage card mounted. If things look slightly different on your system, try not to panic. 

First download the trip database from here:

Waypoints and Tracks for Pacific Crest Trail.

This link is to a single file called This file should be extracted and placed on the storage card under /bcnav/data. Here my storage card is mounted by the desktop and I show the location of the trip database:

Waypoints and Tracks for the Pacific Crest Trail for Android 
This step alone is extremely helpful. This is a single database that contains all of HalfMiles waypoints and trail tracks for the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail. 

BackCountry Navigator is also able to download Topo Maps for offline use along the trail. Getting the map data along the data. However, to save time for everyone and bandwidth for, I've gotten a copy of the download made by Jim Bravo. This is close to 400 megabytes in a zip file. Bravo to Jim Bravo, who was nice enough to send me this on a CD. 

Topo Maps for the entire Pacific Crest Trail: No longer available. Please refer to the link at the top of this page.

 These tiles should be unzipped so that the mytopo folder is under /bcnav/tiles on the storage card. 

Find the folder inside the zip folder and drag or copy and paste it into the /bcnav/tiles directory on the storage card. 

If you see a message like this, say YES. 

Merging Pacific Crest Trail files.

It will then start copying, but keep in mind more messages may still appear. 

Copying Pacific Crest Trail files.

If you see this, say YES and check do this for all current items.   

Merge wiht current folders.

If you get a message that some files exist, you don't have to overwrite them. This is common only if you've used BCN before this point.

For this message, choose 'Don't Copy'.  and enable it for the next however many conflicts. 

Don't copy.

This file structure is not intended to be human readable. Do not waste any time poking around to try to figure out which files are for Oregon, Washington, or California. It will only make your brain explode. 

NOTE: If a buddy already has data, you can copy the entire bcnav directory from his storage card to yours, and start with the same data set. 

Warning: the topo map itself is based on USGS data, and thus the dashed lines on it will sometimes represent outdated or fictitious trails. You don't need to worry about that, because the colored lines from Halfmile's data will guide you accurately.

When you first start the app, you may have to choose a Map Source. Choose under US and Canada section. 

You then want to make sure that you load the trip database that you placed there.

Waypoints database for Android GPS

Choose pct_2011 (assuming it is still 2011 when you read this page). 

Choosing Pacific Crest Trail Waypoints database.

You now have access to waypoints and trail data for the entire length of the trail. To get started, you might want to center the map somewhere meaningful. Using the screen switcher in the top right, switch to the 'nearest waypoints' view. It looks like clipboard, but don't worry, it won't give you a todo list. 

Multiple views for offline navigation. Nearest waypoints in Android

Choose a waypoint that is near your starting point. If you start typing a name in the waypoint list search box, it will narrow down the list. By typing in 'mex' on the line I was able to find the southern terminus on the Mexico border. You can then press and hold and choose Center…

Centering on a waypoint in Android

You are now centered on the Mexican border. If the display looks a little busy, zoom in and take a look at the first few miles.

Waypoints on the Pacific Crest Trail on AndroidBeginning of Pacific Crest Trail on Android Phone
With the right preparation, you can effectively use your Android GPS as a navigational aid on the Pacific Crest Trail. Happy hiking! 

One thought on “Android as a GPS on the Pacific Crest Trail

  1. Excellent. I’m hoping to hike the John Muir Trail this August, and if I make it I plan to use the BCN as my GPS.

Comments are closed.