Navigating with your GPS - Sun, Jan 29 2012

REGISTRATION REQUIRED: Once you've reviewed the event details, and decided you'd like to join us, you MUST sign up at the bottom of this page.

Navigating with your GPS

The Basics:
Event Type:Learn
Event Location: CRNRA - East Palisades Unit, Whitewater Creek Entrance   Learn: Navigating with your GPS  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Sun, Jan 29 2012  1:00 pm >> Sun, Jan 29 2012 4:00 pm
Registration Opens: Fri, Jan 20 2012 9:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Fri, Jan 27 2012 11:00 pm
Event Duration:3 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D3: Moderate
Distance:4 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Email Trip Leader(s)
You must be logged in to get the Trip Leader contact information.
Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:10
Minimum Group Size:4
Number Registered So Far: 9 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: No


It is very important that you read this ENTIRE Itinerary prior to signing up for this event - Yes, it is long.

This training event is geared to those people who already own an outdoor handheld GPS unit and those people will be given priority registration for the event. If you do not own a GPS unit you are free to sign up, however, if the class becomes full you may be moved to the waiting list to allow room for those who own units.  Cell phones with a GPS do not have the functions that will be needed - therefore, they will have the same priority as not having a GPS.  And if you do not have a GPS, please do not expect for someone else to share theirs with you (it is not fair to those who have them) unless you have pre-arranged to share.

When you register, you MUST specify in the "note" section whether you have a GPS or not, and what type. If this information is not included it will be assumed that you do not have one and you will be moved to the waiting list.


This class is geared for those who own GPS units and would like more information and training on how to utilize their GPS unit for "navigation." There are two general purposes for a GPS - navigation and data acquisition. Read what WILL and what WILL NOT be covered.

This is geared towards navigation.... It will cover the "outdoor," "practical," "hands-on" use of a GPS, and not things that you can learn in the manual or online. It will NOT teach you the specifics of getting to various menus/pages/displays on your specific GPS - there are too many Makes and Models and you can (need to) sit on your sofa with the manual and GPS to learn those basics BEFORE coming. PLEASE READ THE PREREQUISITES for this event - these will NOT be taught and you are expected to know them.

What we WILL do:

  • - Approximately 45 - 60 minutes of outdoor "classroom-like" information
  • - Approximately a 4 mile hike with some steep terrain using our GPSs and a lot of practical exercises
  • - Learn how to enter waypoint (note - see prerequisites)
  • - Navigate to a waypoint (your car, a waterfall, peak, or other point of interest)
  • - Determine where you are located on a map
  • - Determine your coordinates
  • - Marking/saving a waypoint (see prerequisites)
  • - Finding a shortcut
  • - Learning how to "read" terrain and avoid obstacles (the easiest/practical route is rarely in a straight line).
  • - Learning to navigate on a map with "north up". If you are used to navigating with your auto GPS set to "heading up" (up being the direction you are traveling) or need to turn a paper map upside down or sideways when not traveling north, then this may be a significant adjustment for you.
  • - Determining the direction you are moving/traveling
  • - Important things you should do "before" beginning a hike with a GPS
  • - Basic understanding the WGS84 coordinate system (datum), common formats, and how to convert between formats.
  • - Limitations of a GPS 
  • - Providing some web map resources for obtaining coordinates, maps (topos/terrain) etc.

What we will NOT be covering:

  • - How to "get to" screens/views/displays/menus on your specific make/model. (See Prerequisites. Seriously - if you come without knowing how to do these things that you can read in your manual, watch on Youtube, and practice on your sofa, you will be disappointed and will most likely not be able to utilize your GPS for this event.)
  • - Downloading tracks/waypoints, plotting tracks/waypoints, or managing tracks/waypoints on your computer.
  • Instruction on computer interface
  • - Plotting .gpx files (tracks/waypoints/elevation profiles)
  • - How to set up various screen preferences (colors, display fields, turn on/off features, etc)
  • - I will cover some of the "what is possible to do" aspects of these things, but not get into any details or instructions.

  • -- A GPS unit


  • -- You will need to know how to "get to" the basic screens / displays / menus / functions of your particular GPS unit. You do not need to know how to "use" these screens, however, you MUST at minimum know how to easily "get to" the following type screens: (note - these screens sometimes have different names, but in general will display the type of information I have listed)
  1. Satellite page - This typically shows which, how many, and the strength of reception of satellites you are receiving.
  2. Trip Data/Log page - This is the one that typically shows your trip odometer, speed, moving average, overall average, etc) This page is typically highly user modifiable (ie you can usually select from dozens of parameters to display and normally have it display from 4 to 10 of these parameters). I recommend at least having the Trip Odometer as one of those displayed. Others that I personally have displayed on this page, are moving time, moving average, stopped time, overall average, total time, and elevation.
  3. Map Page - This is the one that shows the map. This page normally also has fields for parameters that can be displayed. I usually have a "distance to destination" displayed on here. But remember, that the more additional information you chose to display on the map page, the smaller the area for your actual map. Make sure you know how to zoom in/out and pan the map.
  4. Compass or Navigation page - Not all GPS units have an electronic compass - that is sometimes only available on higher end units. However, most will at least have a navigation page which "looks" like a compass and will provide direction of travel (course), bearing, heading, etc. In addition to the compass, there are typically additional user modifiable parameters available to display.
  5. You need to know how to "Mark" a waypoint/location. We'll go over how to enter coordinates, modify waypoints, etc... just make sure you know where the "Mark" option/button is located.
  6. Main Menu - the menu from where you can get to most other pages, GPS settings, and various other types of functions (setup, map settings, general settings, sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, time, date, lunar tables, alarms, calculator, etc, etc). You do not need to know what all of those things do, or mean, but at least know how to get to this page.
  7. Find menu - you need to be able to get to the "find" function. This is where you will find stored waypoints, etc. Again, just know how to get there on your unit.
  8. Tracks / Track Log page - this is where you reset/clear tracks, save them, name them. Just know how to get to this screen.


  • -- These are settings that you need to have Pre-Set on your GPS before coming: (they are most likely correct by default, but if not, read the manual and change them)
  1. Coordinates format should be ddd mm.mmm' where ddd is degrees and mm.mmm is decimal minutes.  Your GPS should show coordinates in the format "Ndd mm.mmm, Wddd mm.mmm" (example "N33 47.500, W084 18.340" (The actual numbers will be different, but the format must look like that). If it doesn't, read the manual and figure out how to change it. That format is a default for most units, so odds are you won't have to change anything.
  2. Tracks/Breadcrumbs - this needs to be turned on. It is typically on as a default setting. But if you are unsure, go to the "map" page (zoomed in as far as it will go), walk around (outside) and see if it is leaving a "trail" or "track" of your movement on the map. If not, then you have to figure out how to turn the track function on.
  3. North Preference - true north. (not absolutely necessary, but preferred)
  4. Map orientation - north up. This is not required and you can use "heading up" if you wish. But realize, that is more difficult to relate your position to a map (something we will do) if using heading up. And you will have a more difficult time following along if not using north up.
  5. WAAS enabled - not all GPS's can utilize WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System). If yours has it, turning it on will make it more accurate, but this is by no means necessary.
  6. Lock On Road - MUST be turned OFF for hiking. This may be called something else on various units. But the bottom line is that if this is not turned off, your GPS will attempt to show your location ON the nearest road... which is not good unless you're driving a car.

Required Items to Bring:
  • GPS w/ extra batteries
  • Water (1 - 1.5 liter)
  • Pen and Paper for taking notes
  • Maps - I will be sending a couple map links and/or files for you to print and bring prior to the event.  It will include a terrain and/or topo map, and a trail map.

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

How to Get There:
Event Directions:GPS Coordinates:

Enter the following coordinates for the parking lot entrance into your Auto or Handheld GPS. (note: All Garmin, and most TomTom GPS's allow for direct coordinate entry; many "built-in" GPS's will not)
h ddd˚ mm' ss.s" ----- N 33˚ 52' 35.7", W 84˚ 26' 16.3"
h ddd˚ mm.mmm' ----- N 33˚ 52.595', W 84˚ 26.271'

From I -285 Eastbound:
  • Take exit 22, Northside Drive, New Northside Drive, Powers Ferry Road.
  • Right on Northside Drive.
  • Go through the Powers Ferry intersection for 1.6 miles to Harris Trail (Caution light).
  • Right on Harris Trail and 0.9 mile to Whitewater Creek Rd.
  • Right on Whitewater Creek Rd. and entrance will be on the right (.1 mile).

From I-285 Westbound:

  • Take exit 22, Northside Drive, New Northside Drive, Powers Ferry Road.
  • Straight to second traffic light.
  • Left on Northside Drive
  • Go through the Powers Ferry intersection for 1.6 miles to Harris Trail (Caution light).
  • Right on Harris Trail and 0.9 mile to Whitewater Creek Rd.
  • Right on Whitewater Creek Rd. and entrance will be on the right (0.1 mile).

From I-75 Northbound:
  • Take exit 256, Mt. Paran Road.
  • Right on Mt. Paran Road, go to the first traffic light (Harris Trail) and turn left.
  • Go about 0.3 miles and turn left onto Whitewater Creek Road.
  • Unit is on the right (0.1 mile).

From U.S. 41 (Cobb Parkway) northbound:
  • Travel to Mt. Paran Road
  • Right on Mt. Paran Road, go to the first traffic light (Harris Trail) and turn left.
  • Go about 0.3 miles turn left onto Whitewater Creek Road.
  • Go 0.1 miles to the unit, which is on the right.

From U.S. 41 (Cobb Parkway) southbound:
  • Travel to Mt. Paran Road
  • Turn left on Mt. Paran Road, go to the first traffic light (Harris Trail) and turn left.
  • Go about 0.3 miles turn left onto Whitewater Creek Road.
  • Go 0.1 miles to the unit, which is on the right.

There is a $3 daily parking fee unless you have an annual pass.  Either the daily or annual pass must be displayed in your windshield.
* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.