Walking Route Planners and Apps

Directions and Measurements for Your Walk

Using Walking Maps on a Smartphone
Romeo Reidl/Creative RF/Getty Images

You can use walking route planner tools to map out the best walking route. There are tricks you can use with Google Maps and the iOS Maps apps to get walking directions, or you can draw your own map with a "Google Map Pedometer" app.

Drawing and Measuring Your Walking Route Online

There are several online tools and apps you can use to map and measure your route. They also make it easy to find and use routes that others have created and saved. Here are some longtime favorites.

  • G-Map Pedometer: This was one of the original "Google Map Pedometer" sites to draw your route online. It's easy to use and you can save or print your routes or export them as .gpx files. You can switch between different styles of maps. Besides Google street and satellite map views, they include choices for Open Street Maps, which emphasizes local knowledge, OpenCycle, which emphasizes bike and pedestrian routes, and U.S. Geological Survey maps which include contours and trails for hikers.
  • Plotaroute.com: This free online site can be used to map and measure a walking route, with many advanced features. You can use the tool and print your map without a membership, or create an account to save and reuse maps. They have a mobile-friendly site but do not have an app. Their choices of maps include Google street map, a street map with contours for hills, satellite, and Open Street Maps, which includes better details for pedestrian paths and amenities such as public restrooms, parking, and restaurants.
  • MapMyWalk Walking Route Planner: Draw a walking route using this free online tool (registration required). You can zoom in on a map of the area and view it as a street map, a satellite map, or a topographic map. As you draw the route, you see the total distance adding up, as well as the elevation lost and gained. You can save and print your maps and download them to your mobile device via the app (iOS or Android). You can't draw a route with the app alone.
  • WalkJogRun: You can use their free online tool or app for the iPhone or iPad to draw and measure a route, or find routes others have mapped. Registration is required after 10 routes. They also have an Apple Watch app.

Get Walking Directions With Google Maps and the iOS Maps App

Google Maps With Walking Directions: Google's mapping tool will suggest walking directions when you enter your start and end destinations and intermediate destinations. You can use the website or Google Maps app. This tool has been improved and suggests routes for walkers on bike/walk pedestrian trails as well as along roadways.

The caveat is that there may not be sidewalks or pedestrian paths on suggested routes along roadways. Zoom in with the Earth (satellite) view or down to the Street View to see if the streets suggested have a sidewalk or other pedestrian safety features. The distance between each turn and the total distance is noted. Directions printed alongside the map tell you which way to turn.

Using the Google Maps app, you can input the destination by text or via voice command by selecting the microphone icon and request "walking directions to 101 Main Street." You can get voice navigation as well as view the map directions.

iOS Maps App: The Maps app that is installed with iOS functions much as Google Maps does. Enter your start and end destinations and select Walk to have a suggested route and directions displayed. You can also simply ask Siri to give you walking directions and she will launch the results in the Maps app.

How to Use a Walking Route Planner

Use these tips and tricks to find the best route for safety and a pleasant walk.

  • Satellite View and Street View: With an online or mobile walking route planner, use the satellite view and street view to look for street crossings with painted crossings or signals, sidewalks, and pedestrian paths separated from the roadway. You will also be able to see shade tree cover along the walking route.
  • Terrain or Topo View: The terrain or topo view of an online or mobile walking route planner allows you to see hills, depressions, and other elevation changes. A route that appears walkable may have steep or even hazardous terrain not apparent on a street map or satellite view.
  • Taking it with You: You can print out a map to have a hard copy, but most allow you to access your route in a mobile app. You can also track your route as you walk with the apps to save and modify for improving it and using it again. It's good to have both a hard copy and a route on your mobile phone. You don't want to be out walking when your battery dies or you lose connectivity. Also, you may not have any connectivity in a remote area or while in a canyon or other cellular "dead zone."

    Planning a Walking Route for a Large Group Walk

    If you are planning a walk for your walking club or for a charity walk, you have to consider how many people will be walking at once. You should choose a route that has wide enough sidewalks or paths for people to walk two-abreast and still allow faster walkers to pass slower walkers. Choose safe street crossings that have crossing signals and painted crosswalks. For group events, you may want to keep turns to a minimum so you have fewer places where people could miss a turn and get lost.

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