Map creation

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Ropewiki natively supports KML maps, a format made popular by Google Earth and Google Maps. KML is a vector map format that can contain geolocated waypoints, track lines and complex area polygons.

GPX is another popular format supported by most GPS devices. Currently Ropewiki does NOT natively support GPX, so please do NOT upload any GPX files.

You can convert GPX files to KML with free tools like Caltopo or Garmin Basecamp.

Regardless of the software you use, please try to follow the posted KML Guidelines for color and naming conventions.
This will make it easier for others to use your map and seamlessly integrate it with maps from other canyons.

Adding a KML map

You can only upload maps for canyons that are already in the database, so if your canyon does not exist you will have to create it first by clicking this link: Create New Canyon.

Once a canyon is created, the page will display a map with its approximate location. On the bottom-right corner of the map box for that canyon there will be a link called Upload a KML map, just click on it to upload a KML file for that canyon.

Once uploaded, if you refresh the canyon page it should display your new KML map. If you entered a comment for the uploaded KML file this will be displayed in the Credits section.

Modifying a KML map

If a KML map for a canyon is already in the system you can upload a new version by clicking on the link Upload new version displayed on the bottom-right corner of the map box.

To quickly modify or add to an existing map you can use CalTopo. Just click on the Open in CalTopo link under the map box, then change the map as required (see below) and 'Export to KML' from CalTopo to download the new KML file. Then click the Upload new version link in Ropewiki and upload the KML file you just downloaded from CalTopo.

Creating a KML map

There are a few free tools that you can use to create KML maps from scratch or to quickly modify existing maps.

Caltopo is an online application that is free and easy and works on any device with a Web browser (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, etc). The default Topo map covers the USA and parts of Canada, but you can switch to other maps like Google Terrain or Opencycle that cover the whole world, and can even display custom map sources.
To use CalTopo just go to You can also click on the Open CalTopo link under the map box, it will open with the latest version of the existing KML map or centered on the canyon location if no KML map exist.

Once in CalTopo you can:

  • Creating Waypoints: right click anywhere on map and choose 'New', then 'Marker'. Enter name, choose symbol and then click 'Ok'
    • Modifying Waypoints: right click on a waypoint and choose 'Details' to change color/symbol/coordinates or 'Drag To New Location' to move it around.
  • Creating Tracks: right click anywhere on map and choose 'New' , then 'Line', fill up name, set thickness to 5, choose color and click 'Ok'
    • Drawing Tracks: Click=draw, ESC=undo, Shift Click=freehand, Double Click=End
    • Modifying Tracks: right click on an existing track, choose 'Modify' then choose 'Extend', 'Split', 'Join', 'Reverse' or 'Drag Vertices'
    • Dragging Vertices: move vertices around, delete the ones you don't want, when done right click on track and choose 'Save Changes'
  • Switch map view: you can switch map view from Topo to Satellite imagery and others using the combobox in the Upper-Right corner
Most useful map views: USGS 7.5K Topos (USA & Canada), US Forest Service (USA & Canada), Google Terrain (World), Google Satellite (World), OpenCycleMap (World) TF Outdoors (World)
  • Export to KML: once done click on 'Export', then click on 'Download KML' to download the new KML file. Then upload the KML file to Ropewiki.
  • Convert from GPX: click on 'Import', click on 'Choose File' and select the .gpx file. Edit as needed and then Export to KML as above.

Custom Map Sources

Caltopo can display custom maps using the option 'Add New Layer', 'Custom Map Source' and specifying the proper settings. Below are some of the most popular custom maps:

Description URL Template Max Zoom
4UMaps: Topo Europe{Z}/{X}/{Y}.png 15 Topo Europe{Z}/{X}/{Y}.jpg 17
Thunderforest Outdoor: Topo World{Z}/{X}/{Y}.png 18
Komoot: Topo World{Z}/{X}/{Y}.png 18
ESRI: Aerial World{Z}/{Y}/{X}.png 18

Google Earth

Google earth allows users to draw paths (lines/polygons) and geolocate waypoints directly onto a 3D model. More information: The tutorial in the Google Earth web page probably goes into more detail than we need for our canyon purposes, so just follow these steps:

  • Create a new Folder within your Places folder called My Canyons (or whatever).
  • Add another Folder as a sub folder to My Canyon by clicking / highlighting it, then Add Folder – this will be the name of your canyon.
  • Now click / highlight your canyon folder, and you can add Paths (named Approach, Descent, Exit, Shuttle etc. as per the posted KML Guidelines naming convention, and Placemarks (Parking Approach, Drop In, R1, Parking Exit, etc.).
  • There is a pop-up window for each of these operations where you are able to name each one and edit its properties (color, width, shape etc.).
  • When you have all the items you want for your map, just click on the canyon name Folder heading, right click and select the option of Save Place As (be sure to select KML, not KMZ file type). This file will be saved to your computer, and is what you upload when updating your map on your canyon page here.

MAKE SURE YOU SAVE PLACES AS KML (NOT KMZ) before uploading to Ropewiki.

Custom Map Sources

You can display custom map source also in Google Earth by downloading Ropewiki Explorer and enabling the Map Overlays.

Other free tools

  • Smartphone Apps: a number of free smartphone apps allow users to use cell phones as GPS devices and some of them like Locus or GaiaGPS allow users to create maps too.

File Formats

Ropewiki supports only KML maps, but you can use CalTopo to convert a GPX file to KML:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on 'Import', then click on 'Choose File' and select the .gpx file
  3. Once imported edit titles or change colors as needed
  4. Click on 'Export', then click on 'Export to KML' Download button

For converting to KML from other formats you can use this free software