Although this tutorial will work with any zip file it is focused on dealing with GPX tracks which you find online but are in the zip file format. We will also discuss how to open a GPX file someone may have emailed you or you try to open via browser or even a file hosting service like Dropbox.

In this tutorial I am using an example file from the AZ Backcountry Discovery route. These are great routes with lots of detailed information but in order to get the tracks into an application like Gaia you need a way to decompress the zip file and then import the GPX files into Gaia. Again while we mention Gaia (our preferred navigation application) this will work with any navigation app that allows you to import tracks.

What you will need:

  • A zip file that you wish to open
  • Either iZip or WinZip app for iOS yes there are other apps but let’s keep things simple.
  • A navigation app of your choice

This can seem a bit complicated but it really isn’t. The issue is that iOS just does not handle file management well. You have no “C:” drive, download folder etc. Hopefully, this changes down the road but it hasn’t to date.

Alright lets get started!

Navigate to the website:

On the right side menu bar you will see the link “Download GPS Tracks.” When you click the link and acknowledge the disclaimer this will appear on your iPad. Depending on the number of apps on your iPad the option on the right may be different.


Click the Open in… option on the left

Scroll and pick the app of your choice either WinZip, iZip, or iZip Pro if you decide to purchase the app.

Note: I will now show screen shots from both WinZip and iZip to give you the option and still be successful! WinZip requires less steps.

Using WinZip:


Select the second file which is the actual GPX file. On the Top Title Bar you can see the full file name.

Then tap the Open In icon on the top right of the screen.


You will again scroll until you get to the app of your choice. Our preferred app is Gaia GPS. Click the Gaia icon and the file will then be imported into Gaia.

Skip the next few screenshots if you are using WinZip. They show the same process using iZip.

Using iZip:


Note: iZip may ask if you want to extract all files. You can select “Cancel” since you only want the GPX file. After selecting cancel select the GPX file and then click the Extract Button. Once the file has been extracted you can select it.


When you have selected the file the following dialogue box will appear. Choose Open In


Scroll until you see your favorite app and click the icon for that app. The file will then be imported and the app will open. In the screenshot below you can see 4 different navigation apps. While we haven’t tried them all we are serious about being familiar with a wide variety of apps.


We’re almost done! After you have chosen Open In and selected Gaia you will only see whatever you were doing in Gaia previous to the import. To see the track you imported click the blue/white arrow on the left side of the screen to bring up the Gaia menu options, pick Timeline, then select the file you imported.


Some GPX files may be broken down into segments. Pick a segment and select Show On Main Map to view it. The others segments from the GPX file should also appear.


You can now close the Gaia Menu and preview the track.

All done! This tutorial makes it look harder than it is. Once you import a few tracks the tasks can be accomplished in under a minute.

Bonus Tutorial:

There are many sources for GPX files. Too many to list and that can be a future topic. Let’s say a friend is nice enough to email you a track. Here’s a how to get one of those files into Gaia. The steps for opening a GPX file from a web page are similar.

You receive an email similar to this.


Click on the icon that says “Track.gpx”


When the track opens you will get something that looks like this. Kind of confusing. For those techie people out there this is XML data. A universal format that makes importing data easy. Anyway!, click the top right of the screen and select Open In. 


Choose “Copy to Gaia GPS” and you are done. The steps to view the file are the same as importing from WinZip or iZip.

We hope you found this tutorial useful. If you are in the Phoenix area and would like to learn more, receive training on these types of apps, trail selection, gear selection, or want someone with more experience than you on the trail drop of a note.


Chris (4XOA)


Thanks to GaiaGps for making an excellent app and continuing to keep it up to date with addition features.

Thanks to the Backcountry Discovery Route team for creating this great overlanding routes. We have done the AZ, UT, and ID routes to date.

Additional Reading: 

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