GeocachingTeam Markwell LogoGeodashing
Non omnes vagi perditi sunt

Back to Team Markwell's Home
Back to the FAQ

Route Planning: Waypoints Along a Route

How do I find caches along a route?
I had some older answers on this page as part of
my FAQ for quite a while. But now, and the great Groundspeak Lackey Raine have implemented the new method for Caches Along a Route. So, I'll leave the older stuff up, because it does work - but I'll some summaries of the newer methods first.

Google Earth Routing, the KML file and Pocket Queries
This explanation assumes you know how to run a Pocket Query.

Google Earth is a great software available from Google that you download and can zoom all over the planet in startling resolution and with high accuracy. It does require a PC and you will want a cable modem or DSL for internet speed.

First, you'll need to go to Google Earth and download and install the software. Play around for a while with the zoom, the pan, the tilt (and see it in 3D!) and the key component: ROUTE DIRECTIONS. Create a route, and do a File, Save As, and change the file type to KML. Give it a recognizable name and location.

Then, as a premium member of, head over to the User Route section. There are plenty of user routes being uploaded all of the time. First check your starting location, and see if there are any existing routes that you can use. For example, I plugged in my home zip code of 60544, and came up with 45 routes that already existing that go near my home town. But they were ones that were put in by other users and may not be going precisely where I need to go.

So, if there's nothing already there, you can upload the GPX/KML file. Just follow the steps and upload your route to and you'll be 99% of the way there. After the route is uploaded, click the link "Create a Pocket Query from this Route."

From there, you can determine the distance from either side of the route (max of 10 miles/15 km) and limit it to types and sizes of caches, just like any other PQ.

BE AWARE - there's a limitation of 500 miles per route.


Streets and Trips Routing and Pocket Queries
WARNING Geeky stuff ahead!

The problem with Google Earth Routes is that you can't customize it, nor can you do anything except give it a starting point and an end point. What if you want to take a side trip somewhere, or avoid a major metropolitan downtown area during rush hour? You'd be out of luck with the Google Earth Routing method.

But there is hope for those of us with Microsoft Streets and Trips, but it is not for the feint of heart. You'll need a couple of conversion programs created by Robert Lipe, a giant in GPS programming for The first piece of software is st2gpx, a command line conversion software that will take a Free Form object created in Streets and Trips and convert it to a GPX file. The other is GPSBabel another command line program that will convert the newly created file to the right format for

Both of these programs are command line programs, with no clicking interface that Windows users are used to. You have to be familiar with working in the old DOS type of environment, and that can be intimidating for the best of us.

My suggestion would be to have a folder on your C drive called myfiles (C:\myfiles\) and a pair of folders - one called st2gpx and the other called gpsbabel. When you get the zip files from the different programs, unzip them to the correct folders. For the examples of command code below, I'll be using the assumption that GPSBabel is in C:\myfiles\gpsbabel and that st2gpx is in st2gpx C:\myfiles\st2gpx.

Step by Step - here we go:
  1. Create your Route in Streets and Trips. Starting point, ending point, and make sure that the trip is less than 500 miles.

  2. Zoom in to your starting point and click on the Free Form tool - it looks like this:
  3. Trace your route by clicking on it as you go. Once you get the hang of it, you'll see that you can pan by clicking on the edge and then continuing to trace your route. THIS STEP IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. You are creating an object that will be the representation of your route.

  4. When you're at the ending point of your route, double click to stop. If the polygon is filled in, it makes it tough to see what you've done, so choose Transparent Fill on the toolbar at the bottom.

  5. IMPORTANT STEP: Delete your route, but NOT the Free Form line you just created. Go into the route planner and delete all of the points.

  6. Save the file to the C:\myfiles folder - it should be something like "route.est" - and for the purposes of demonstration, I'll use "route" - and in the command lines for the conversions, if it's not "route" replace it with whatever you have used.

  7. Close MS Streets and Trips.

  8. Go to the Command Line (Start, Run, CMD, OK)

  9. Type this: cd c:\myfiles\st2gpx - and hit the enter key. The screen should look similar to the image on the right

  10. Then then type this: st2gpx c:\myfiles\route.est - and press the enter key. This will create a GPX file called route.est.gpx in the c:\myfiles folder.

  11. Type this: cd c:\myfiles\gpsbabel - and hit the enter key.

  12. Then then type this: gpsbabel -i gpx -f route.est.gpx -o gpx,gpxver=1.1 -F routefinal.gpx - and press the enter key. This will convert the file to the necessary version 1.1 of GPX, as well as give the correct file the new name of routefinal.gpx so you know which one it is.

  13. Upload the file in the same method as for the KML file and proceed from there.
Why go to all of this trouble?
I tested something specific as I worked on this FAQ. I created a route (right) that went from my home to Laona, WI, but I specifically wanted to test the limits of the system. The dots are the resulting caches against my dark blue Free Form path. But I also had the route take a detour around a stretch of interstate in Milwaukee. Here's the results:

Just for fun, I forced a route that matched it, and had S&T produce that "cloud" that forms when you say "find points near route" and I specified 1 mile - exactly the same as I did with the PQ.

You can see that it followed the Free Form object and not the route. So the possibilities of CUSTOMIZING your route to not take the path that Google Earth forces are endless!

Map Source Routing and Pocket Queries
Many Thanks to Mushtang for his assistance in providing the detail and screen shots on the Mapsource method below! This was updated in March 2007 for MapSource 6.5, which includes the autorouting feature (turn by turn driving directions).

To use MapSource to create a .gpx file for the Cache Along A Route feature...
  1. Open a new file in MapSource, one that doesn't contain any waypoints, routes, maps selected, etc.

  2. Go to Edit, Preferences, and click on the Routing tab. Change the Route Style to “Use Direct Routes”, otherwise the route you build will change as you make it, often times to a route you’re not intending to drive.

  3. Find the starting point of your trip and zoom in so you can click pretty close to it.

  4. Select the Route Tool from the tool bar.

  5. To use the Route Tool you simply click on the map along the route you're planning on driving. The first click will be your starting point, and the following clicks would be along the route you're going to take. Here I've clicked 4 points and the route is heading from the top right of the map to the bottom left.

  6. You can use the zoom in and out buttons on the tool bar (the magnifying glass icons) and the scroll bars to zoom and pan while you're creating your route. Keep clicking on points to define the route you'll take. You can cross your route, double back on yourself, and pretty much create the route exactly as you want to. In this image you can see I've created a route that takes me down 85, around the top end of the Atlanta perimeter, and heading out Southwesttowards Alabama.

  7. In this picture I'm using the scroll bars to scroll to the left to show me more of the road. As I'm doing this, MapSource hides the map but keeps the route visible. It's easier to see the route this way if you want to check it for some reason.

  8. When you're done creating the route, before you save it, you’ll want to change the name of the route (this will be what shows up on the website). To change the name, right click on the name of the route in the left pane (currently my example name is shown as “001 to 069”) and select Route Properties. You may have to uncheck the Autoname box (1) in order to change the Name (2). Give it a descriptive name of the actual route. Other people might want to use your route, and it’s easier for them to find if you name it properly.

  9. Finally, use the File menu and click on SaveAs. You'll want to be sure to do three things:
      1. Save the file in a location you can remember easily. You'll need to know where it's at later when you upload it to
      2. Change the file type to GPS eXchange Format. This is a format that can use, and you won't have to convert it later.
      3. Give it a descriptive name so you’ll recognize it later. The actual file name here doesn’t show up on the web site.

  10. Now that you've got the .gpx file, upload the file in the same method as for the KML file and proceed from there.

Zooming and Panning the Maps
There are maps of caches on First, pick a cache near where you're starting, and click the link to "find ...all nearby caches." When you get the results, you'll see an icon in the upper right of the results page (see image to the left). Click it and you'll see the cache and the other caches in the area on a map. If you are a premium member, these maps can pan and zoom. You can also have it identify caches on the map as well and go straight to the cache page.

Here's an example.
I'm leaving Joliet, Illinois to go to St. Louis on Interstate 55. I can choose a cache near I-55 in Joliet (Patrick's Pot Of Gold is a good one), and click find ...all nearby caches. When I click the Map It! icon, I'm taken to a map of the area, showing the cache you started from and any other caches in the area. I can "pan" the map down I-55 and periodically identify the caches that interest me, creating a list as I go.

It's time consuming, especially once you identify the caches and try to get them into your GPS. But it is available.

Google Maps on has also installed Google Maps on their pages. If your are running in the PC world, and have cable, this is definitely the way to go. If you find a cache near your starting point, you can click on the Nearby Caches link, click on the Map It! icon and click the link for the Beta Google Maps. In that save region I started with before, I can start with this Google Map Interface and identify the caches. I can drag the map and zoom it, and even bookmark. Very cool enhancement.

Google Earth and the KML File also has something for its premium members called the "Geocaching KML" file. Google Earth is a great software available from Google that you download and can zoom all over the planet in startling resolution and with high accuracy*. It does require a PC and you will want a cable modem or DSL for internet speed. The Geocaching KML file, when opened, will show Geocaches when you get down close enough to the planet.

First, you'll need to go to Google Earth and download and install the software. Play around for a while with the zoom, the pan, the tilt (and see it in 3D!) and the route directions. Then go to your own My Cache Page and the premium features tab to download the KML file. What that file does is allow an overlay of Geocaches on to Google Earth. Once it's downloaded, start up Google Earth and click file open and find the Geocaching KML. It should start overlaying.

There are some limitations. The views will only show 150 caches at a time. If there's too many, it shows 150 RANDOM caches, so be sure to zoom in. The other limitation is that the Google Earth overlay will only query the database 200 times per day, and the default is that every time the map stops, that's a view. Eeek.

So, after starting up Google Earth and starting the KML overlay, there's a setting to change. Right click on the overlay in the panel to the left and click edit, then select "Refresh Parameters" and click OK. Then the Geocaching KML file will not refresh until you right click the link in the panel and say "Refresh". That way, YOU control the page views and can be more selective about what you want to actually show for the caches. Another little tip is that the TYPES of caches are listed as subsets in the panel to the right (traditional, letterbox, multi, puzzle, etc.). You can deselect viewing them in the current view. It won't hold that deselection (to only query traditionals for example), but that does help if you're looking for good caches that match your type.

A key to understanding just how powerful this tool is understanding Bookmarks. Bookmarks are a premium feature on where you can have a list of caches. You can have multiple lists and each list can have multiple caches. You can also share these bookmarks with other cachers, or use them to create a Pocket Query of the caches. So if there's an interface to allow you to pick and choose caches and add them to a bookmark list, then later you can get those results from a Pocket Query. There's three settings for bookmark lists:
  • Private (only you can see the list)
  • The List is Viewable (other cachers can see the list of caches) and,
  • Completely Public (other cachers see on the cache page that this cache is part of a list).

So - back on Google Earth, once you find the caches you want to find, click on them, and you'll get a little pop-up window that tells you more information about the cache - difficulty/terrain, and the size of the container. You can click it and either visit the cache page, or bookmark it and add it to the list.

In December of 2005, I tried this out - using the I-55 corridor from Route 52 in Joliet to St. Louis, a stretch of about 253 miles (408 km). It took me about 45 minutes to an hour to travel down the corridor and bookmark some 40 caches that were readily accessible to exits or rest stops, and create this publically viewable Bookmark list. Pretty cool.

* HOWEVER, while the Google Earth interface is extremely accurate, the coordinates for the Geocaches if taken from the KML file are NOT. They are purposely rounded and off a little, as really wants you to go to their online database to get the actual cache information. However, Google Earth CAN also open up GPX files. These GPX files contain precise coordinates, and are therefore correctly mapped on the Google Earth maps. So, pick your caches using the KML and the bookmarking list, then get the GPX through a pocket query. If you then open the GPX file on Google Earth, it will correctly show your caches on your route.

Pocket Queries, Streets and Trips and GSAK
You need to run Pocket Queries and MS Streets and Trips, and you'll want a software like GSAK.

Last Notes
November 29, 2004: Putting it into practice...
I just set up five pocket queries to match the following criteria...
• Maximum Difficulty of
• Maximum Terrain of
• Not Multi-stage or Unknown or Virtuals
• All containers except micros
• Is Active, I don't own, I haven't found

With that in mind, I carefully selected slightly overlapping regions for a trip I'll be taking soon to visit my in-laws. I tested the PQ results online first to make sure I wasn't hitting over 500. Got it all down to exactly what I wanted and got the GPX files e-mailed to me. I then pushed the results into MS Streets and Trips and did the route.

The results: 86 caches within 1 mile of my route - 49 caches within a half mile of my route. Now I'll be looking for the ones that are close to exits or rest areas. Final assessment: it works!

March 30, 2006: Putting Google Earth into practice...
For a trip to Washington, D.C. from Chicago, I started off using the Pocket Query method, but I quickly hit a snag as I approached our pass through Cleveland. So I used that portion of the trip through the Google Earth solution and created a Private Bookmark list of cache that I thought would be easily accessible along our route. Combining this method with the Pocket Query method, I was able to take a laptop that had GSAK and Streets and Trips, and a hookup to my GPS and see where we were on the route, and pick and choose geocaches along the way. I received the final list of GPX files the day before we left so that I had the most current information possible on the road. It all worked like a charm!

If you have any more detailed questions about any of these three methods, feel free to e-mail me.

Back to the FAQ
Back to Team Markwell's Home

Last Updated: June 4 2007