While I was running around at E3, Google released an update to their Google Earth software that made it an even more attractive program for hikers.

In earlier versions of Earth, GPS connectivity was limited to those who paid a hefty annual fee to enable “advanced features.” Over time, Google has opened up more and more of the goodies for the free version. GPS connectivity was added in version 5, and now in 5.2, you can have instant access to an interactive graph of your track’s elevation and speed.

Team WWED and I did the Three Tees Trail from Icehouse Canyon to Telegraph Peak this weekend, and I imported the track into Google Earth. After you turn on your GPS unit, just go to Tools, GPS for the simple import menu.

Importing your track is a pretty simple and quick process, and your route will immediately show up on Google Earth:

That’s mostly old news … but if you choose your track from the file menu on the side and right click, you’ll now have the option to show the elevation profile – and as you can see, it’s a pretty robust little profile … even including the occasional GPS jump.

As you drag your mouse over the graph, you’ll be able to see how fast you were going at any point in time, or how long you were stopped at a particular location. Here’s a point from a particularly nasty section of the Three Tees Trail that gains almost 1250 feet in just over a mile. Guess how fast we were going then.

The graph will also give you basic track info like average slope, max slope, and the like – although I found the overall distance to be a bit different from both the GPS unit’s readings and the map distance … so go figure.

Overall, nothing that you probably can’t already do with your GPS program of choice, but the information is presented in a very nice and easy to understand way inside Google Earth. Clicking anywhere on the timeline of your hike will take you to that 3D position on Google Earth, and vice versa. And it’s pretty cool to see your speed charted alongside your elevation, so you can see just how tough those inclines are on your legs.

Google Earth is a free download, available here.

For a good write-up of the Telegraph Peak experience, check WWED.

I didn’t take my camera with me (’cause I wasn’t expecting the hike to be so epic), but I will post the GPS and Google Earth files for the hike later.

Thanks to reader Andy M for the heads up on this story!

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