Track Heatmap

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By TallPaul on 30/12/23 at 10:20am (last edited 30/12/23 at 10:21am)

Today we've made live a new layer called 'Track Heatmap' which is currently only available to supporters. What we've done is that we have taken all the GPX tracks which logged in users have uploaded over the years and we've used then to create a heatmap showing where everyone has been.

This has taken us quite some time to do, both to get it looking how we wanted and to filter the tracks to exclude tracks recording in moving vehicles like cars, motorbikes and aeroplanes and also routes which have been saved as tracks (something which some other software does, incorrectly). Beth has been working on this for some months now to get to where we are today.

So how do you access it? Well, in essence it's just another layer so mouse over the layer selection icon and you'll see a new option "Track Heatmap" at the bottom, as shown here:

Click on the radio button and the new layer appears. The first thing to note is that the background is the WayMaps tiles for the area you're looking at but they're now in shades of grey and also faded down. Overlaying that is the heatmap in red. Each red line is a single track and where multiple people have been the same way the red line is wider. So here you can see that most people going to the viewpoint on Latrigg come from the north, often via the zig zag path but also along the ridge from the east.

You can also see that very few people seem to come from the south: no one has recorded a track using the path coming from the WSW and only one person has come from the SE.

You can use this layer for route planning, as shown below, picking routes that other people clearly favour and then toggle layers to see this route on WayMaps, or OS, or aerial photography ... or you can use '2 maps' mode to see it on both the heatmap and another layer at the same time.

We think that this is a very powerful tool and should help you when route planning anywhere in the British Isles, not just in the Lake District as we have users recording tracks pretty much everywhere, but particularly in popular walking areas like the National Parks, as you can see when you zoom out as shown below.

Finally, although I like the heatmap overlaid on WayMaps with it faint and entirely in shades of grey you may prefer it more in colour, or more or less opaque and you can change this in your settings using the new option show below. You can even set the opacity to zero and completely remove WayMaps from view.

Anyway we hope you'll find this new layer interesting and that you may also find it useful with your route planning.

Do let us know what you think by commenting on this post. Thanks.

By Chris Mac on 30/12/23 at 9:18pm

Fantastic, this is a brilliant additions, thanks so much for your hard work on it Paul and Beth! Will we also be able to access a personal heatmap of only the GPX tracks we have uploaded? Cheers.

By TallPaul on 01/01/24 at 10:31am

Hmmm ... interesting idea. And Lancashire Lad is after it too. Beth and I have had a brief chat about it and we can see two ways we can do this:

  • do it the same way we're going the current heatmap - the upside to this is that it's tech we already (now) have. The downside is that it means one set of tiles per user ... which is doable if we restrict this to supporters at the moment but it won't scale. It would also mean that new tracks would only appear when we re-built the tiles.

  • do it the same way we display a track (or tracks) from an uploaded GPX now. This has the up side that it would always be up to date and it would also scale well as we wouldn't have to hold a set of tiles for every user, but it may make Leaflet and/or your browser groan under the load.

If it works I'd prefer to do it the second way as I think the combination of being updated in real time plus being scalable is very attractive for us so I'm going to try that first and see how I get on.

By Lancashire Lad on 31/12/23 at 2:20pm (last edited 31/12/23 at 2:20pm)

Hi Paul & Beth,

Another great addition to the website!

I've spent some time having a good browse and have already tweaked the background colour & opacity settings to my own personal preferences.

As has already been mentioned by Chris Mac, if possible, it would be great if users could somehow have their own personal heatmap of just their own tracks.
The heatmap has a great resemblance to the "My Collection" element in Garmin "Basecamp" software, which I find very useful and use on my desktop PC to record all the GPX tracks created on my Garmin GPS units.

One other small observation which I think might improve things if it could be implemented.
Others might disagree, but personally, I think that the current width of the track line (where only one person has walked that particular route) is very thin, even when zoomed in. I think it would improve things if that "once walked" line could be made just a tad thicker.
(I may be making too much of a comparison with Garmin Basecamp, which does show a slightly thicker line for a once walked track - but I do prefer the slightly thicker line).

Best regards,

By TallPaul on 01/01/24 at 10:33am

Thanks Mike. Funnily enough we did go through several rounds on track line widths. We started with them narrower, then went wider, before settling somewhere in the middle. I'd be interested to know what other people think.

Oh, and if you could post a screenshot from Garmin Basecamp here that would be helpful ...

By Lancashire Lad on 01/01/24 at 4:09pm (last edited 01/01/24 at 4:32pm)

Hi Paul,

I've attached a part screenshot (below) from Garmin BaseCamp as requested.
(Greater Langdale area with a few of my GPX tracks showing).
The area shown is roughly 3.5 miles W-E and 2.25 miles N-S.

Some of the tracks are definitely showing multiple walks along particular routes. (e.g. along Mickleden, Jacks Rake etc).
Although I've definitely only walked the highlighted track across Martcrag Moor on one occasion.

All the GPX track settings, (widths of track lines etc), are at Basecamp software default settings.


Hmmm! - The track lines don't look as thick seen here, as they do on my monitor screen.
(Due to image being shown here at reduced size).
I will try again (below) with a smaller section of the screenshot; -

Not sure if the images are of any help?
All I can say is that "once walked" track-lines in Garmin Basecamp software as seen on my monitor are definitely thicker than similarly "once walked" tracks showing on the Heatmap.


By Jandy on 31/12/23 at 2:45pm

Love this, will definitely spend ages scrolling round maps (even more than I do now). Nice to go back and see routes that we have taken and thought - Hmm, perhaps we were the only hikers who thought this route looked a good idea in the planning stage! Two of ours, confirmed by this overlay, are the track out of Gillercombe below Base Brown and a diagonal up Carrock Fell and there are a few others. Thanks this is great :)

By TallPaul on 01/01/24 at 10:35am (last edited 01/01/24 at 4:55pm)

Thanks. It is fascinating when you start looking around. For example I can see my sailing trips (I insisted Beth leave sailing tracks in 😉) with a friend of mine who keeps a boat in Nairn on the Moray coast but the one that's intriguing me most is this one which goes on for miles in both directions from the point I'm highlighting and seems to completely ignore the contours and occasionally pause to do loops. I think it's something aerial, either a remote control glider or, possibly, a GPS tagged bird of prey.


N.B. the links above only work for logged in supporters.

By SheepFarmer on 01/01/24 at 1:34pm

Nice, but not all the uploaded tracks are there, it's missing my "The Rhinogs / Rhinogydd & Y Llethr - a hard day".

By TallPaul on 01/01/24 at 7:27pm

I think that's "because" it was uploaded as part of a walk report and I forgot to tell Beth to import all those. Something to be sorted out in the next release.

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