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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 can have 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. That covers the full Fenix 6 range, Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5, Fenix 3, Forerunner 630, Forerunner 645 Music, Forerunner 735XT and Forerunner 935 and the Instinct. Not all of those will give you actual maps though, but you can still use the GPS navigation to follow a directional route.

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 really off piste. It’s not just ramblers that can benefit, either. City runners can also take advantage, mixing up runs made in Strava and adding a variety to workouts, without having to pull out Google Maps every five minutes when you’ve lost your bearings.

The process by which you use routes has changed a fair bit over the last year. With the older process of uploading through Garmin Basecamp now superseded with the Garmin Connect web tool and app, it’s a much sleeker and more simplified set of steps.

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.

How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch:

  1. Download the Garmin Connect App and register
  2. Download or create a GPX file
  3. Upload a GPX file into Garmin Connect
  4. Sync your device and your phone
  5. Select the route via your Garmin Device

How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch

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. Although you can create new routes using the app itself, to import GPX files you’ll need to access the Garmin Connect web app and then upload these files first.

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 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, our favourite for building runs is Strava. 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. Come on, we all deserve a break.

If you’re a walker or hiker, maybe try Wander Map – there’s absolutely tonnes of services out there.

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


3. Import the GPX or TCX file into Garmin Connect

Via the side menu in 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.

How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch

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.

How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch

4. Sync your device and your phone

Once you’ve saved the route it will now be stored in the Garmin Connect system. You have the option to view it through the website or in the Garmin Connect app. Click the Send to device button here to automatically sync it to your device as soon as there’s a connection between your phone and the device.

You can also do this via the app itself by selecting the course and clicking in the top right hand menu.

How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch

5. Select the route via your Garmin Device

There are two ways to get to the navigational routes stored on your Garmin device. The first is accessing the navigation option in the activities menu and then scrolling down to find ‘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.

How to add GPX routes to your Garmin GPS watch

The second way is to select a specific activity via the activity menu 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.

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