Monday, December 4, 2023


How to easily see elevation gain along your route

By Chris Guld, Geeks on Tour

I’ll never forget when we were traveling in New Mexico and asked Google Maps to plot our course from Carlsbad to Alamogordo near White Sands National Park. I didn’t understand why it was telling us to go many miles out of our way to the north, then around and down. When I looked at the map I saw a much more direct route – thru Cloudcroft. Let’s go that way.

Well, we learned the hard way. That is a very steep climb up and an even steeper trudge down. We’d already burned one set of brakes, we had to be very careful not to burn another.

That was some years ago and we didn’t have the separate programs that would tell us what the elevation was. Today it is super simple, right in Google Maps. Just tell Google Maps that you’re on a bicycle and it adds a panel to the left sidebar with the elevation changes along the selected route. Make sure to select the car once as well, just to check that the route is the same. The elevation profile will only show up when you have bicycle selected.

Want to know how to edit your travel videos? Watch What Does This Button Do, Episode 167 LIVE on Sunday June 9 at 2pm.

Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at She and her husband, Jim, produce a free weekly YouTube show called What Does This Button Do?  They have been Fulltime RVers, popular seminar presenters at RV Rallies, and regular contributors to, for many years. 



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

dennis hyde (@guest_150384)
2 years ago

We’re taking the RV from CA to Moab. So wanted to see what roads are like in UT. This is a good idea for general elevation along the route.

But if you want to see how steep the road is at any one point, is much better.

Clunky interface but below the elevation is the grade. From Salt Lake city on Hwy 89 going to Moab there is a section that is 20% up! Tried to route south down I-15 and then across 70 and you get some 10% with one 15% down… Not sure about this trip!

Jen (@guest_111784)
2 years ago

Too funny, that’s the route I have been trying to get elevations on! I tried the bike route trick but it doesn’t take the same route, it takes bike trails.

Bart (@guest_85623)
3 years ago

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. One little click on an app I already had

Diane Mc (@guest_71418)
3 years ago

Or how about this directory (there is one for Eastern part of US, but obviously it is the West that have the many steep road/highways). Also included description below.


In an attempt to make mountain driving a little safer for truckers and RV’ers, R&R Publishing Inc. has been collecting and publishing information about mountain passes and steep grades since 1993. Over 85,000 copies of Mountain Directory West and Mountain Directory East have
been sold. The books have been expanded and upgraded periodically. Combined, Mountain Directory West and Mountain Directory East give the locations and descriptions of over 700 mountain passes and steep grades in 22 states. This is vital information for anyone driving a large or heavy vehicle. The Mountain Directory books tell you where the steep grades are, how long they are, how steep (%) they are, whether the road is two lane, three lane, or four lane, if there are escape ramps, switchbacks, sharp curves, speed limits, etc. With this information, one can know ahead of time what a pass is like and make an informed decision about whether to go over or around. If you decide to go over, perhaps the cool morning hours would ease the strain on the engine and transmission during the climb. Unhooking the towed vehicle would make the climb and the descent easier. Knowing what lies ahead is half the battle.

cee (@guest_71412)
3 years ago

I am using a laptop, selected the bike icon but the panel does not show up for me. I have been using Google Earth to see elevations on interstates, highways and secondary roads for years. Just move your pointer on the map, watch the elevation in the lower right hand corner change. You can do it anywhere on the map, doesn’t have to be a road; great to see how your trail will climb in elevation.

Irv (@guest_71400)
3 years ago

I switched to bike, and picked a route. I see bike related info at the bottom of the screen but no elevation panel.

Google Maps on Safari

Bill Cantell (@guest_71377)
3 years ago

Down shift. May not slow you enough to avoid brakes, but can make a big difference in how much braking you will need. Diesel locomotives use that for most, if not all of their braking. When you use 3-5 engines pulling rail cars, that number solves two problems. Rails are slick, so you need more resistance for more weight to pull up a grade. Going down, you can end up with a runaway train if you don’t have enough braking capacity. The number of engines needed for a particular consist (engines and cars) is calculated based on loaded weight.

Sean (@guest_57421)
4 years ago

Good info, but unfortunately this will not show interstates.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_71394)
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean

Usually interstates have no more than 6% grades. Maybe 7%. I think the main idea here is for when you head off on unfamiliar two-lanes.

Bill Bateman (@guest_47447)
4 years ago

Great Info … Thanks for sharing.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.