Using Trail Maps on a Nuvi 500/550


Install Maps on a Nuvi


Preloaded micro-sd card

If you are using a preloaded micro-sd card, remove the back door from your nuvi, remove the battery and install the micro-sd card in the slot. You should hear a click as you insert the card to verify that it has been inserted correctly. Re-install the battery and case door.


Download from computer to GPS

If you purchased you map as a download, or on CD, run the map installation program to install the map data on to your computer. From there, you can follow the the instructions on how to download maps from your computer to your GPS using Garmin MapSource

Installing Autorouting map directly to the GPS

In addition to installing the moving map on your computer for use in MapSource or Basecamp, you can load the autorouting variant of the trail maps directly to your GPS. See Installing Autorouting Snowmobile Trail Maps to your GPS.


Installing Snowmobile Custom POIs to GPS

Map points are already included in the map files.  But, we also supply map points in the form of POI's which offer some unique advantages, including organization by category, and photo navigation.

If you are using a pre-loaded micro-sd, POI's are already on the card and available to your GPS.

If you are not using a preloaded micro-sd card, follow the next instructions to install POIs to you GPS. (Note: Mac users will need to copy POI files manually. Send email for instructions and help.)

To Install POI files to your Nuvi, connect it to your computer using a usb cable. On your computer, start the program to install map points using the following windows commands…

Start->All Programs->BackwoodsGPStrails->Snowmobile Trail Maps->Download Snowmobile POIs to GPS.

Follow the instructions in the installation program. You can copy POIs to either your micro-sd card or to the Nuvi main drive memory. Which you choose is not critical, and it will work with either.

Disconnect your nuvi from the usb cable. It will exit from interface mode, reboot and load any maps it finds on the main memory drive or micro-sd card.

Adjust settings on the Nuvi for snowmobiling

Turn on your GPS. The main screen will be displayed.

Nuvi Main Screen


Adjusting Map settings – enabling and disabling maps

Click on TOOLS->SETTINGS->MAP to make adjustments to the map.

Nuvi Map Settings.


Click on MAP INFO to view and change which maps are displayed.

Enable Disable Maps

Clear the check mark next to all maps except the Backwoods GPS Snowmobile Trails for now. Clearing the check mark DISABLES the map and access to all it's data including map points. Come back to this screen at any time to re-enable a map. TOOLS->SETTINGS->MAP-> MAP INFO


Go back one screen and click on the MAP VIEW Button. Set this to NORTH UP.

Set map view North Up

NORTH UP sets the orientation of the map similar to the convention for most paper maps. If you are in TRACK UP or 3D, the display may spin around unexpectedly as you move your GPS. You can ride in any mode, but most often 3D mode is the most useful.  During setup and for previewing a map NORTH UP may be less confusing because it is not subject to flipping.

Come back to this screen at any time to change map view orientation.


After you click on OK it will return you to the previous MAP INFO screen. Click and HOLD the BACK button to return to the main screen. From the Main Screen, click on the VIEW MAP icon.

The map display will look something like this. (it may differ depending on the trail color selection. More below about setting trail color and line styles.)

The GPS will center your vehicle icon on the map AT YOUR CURRENT LOCATION. THIS MAY NOT BE WHERE SNOWMOBILE TRAILS ARE. Hint: If you are in West Virginia, you are not going to see any snowmobile trails.


Zoom out by clicking on the minus sign until you can see entire states. You should see lots of lines indicating snowmobile trails. Drag your finger across the screen to recenter to an area where there are lots of snowmobile trails (Eg. Northern NH).

NOTE: Trail colors will differ depending on when you purchased your map. "5 Color trails" (the old default were Blue Red and Green, The Blue/Cyan trails depicted above is the new default)  If you shut off all other maps, it will be easier to differentiate snowmobile trails from roads.


After you have scrolled to an area with snowmobile trails (northern NH), use the plus-sign button to zoom in.

Zoom in to northern NH snowmobile trails

You can point your finger at a trail and it will identify itself. You may have to click several times to point right on a trail line.


Trails disappear – What happened?

If you zoom in real close, you may notice the trails disappear. The reason this occurs is explained here. It has to do with automatic decluttering imposed by the built-in maps.

Trails disappear at high zoom levels

If trails disappear at close zoom levels, disable the built-in maps on your nuvi. On a nuvi 500, disable City Nav & TOPO map. On a nuvi 550, disable CN & Lower 48 States highway maps.


Un-check built-in maps to allow zooming to any level without having the trails disappear.


With built-in maps disabled you can zoom in as close as 50 feet. In practice you will rarely need to zoom at the 50' level. The degree to which you can zoom with other maps enabled is influenced by MAP DETAIL settings. The lower the detail the more you can zoom in before 3rd party maps like our trail maps will disappear. Disappearing trails only happens when the built-in maps are enabled.


You may enable maps that are not built-in such as the free topographical maps provided by the Game & Fish Network. There are very good maps that include roads, lakes streams, mountains,  topographic lines and other useful map features. These maps can be used to provide background detail under snowmobile trail maps and still allow you to zoom in as close as you want. The free topographic maps do not contain as many searchable POI's as do the paid versions from Garmin such as TOPO USD 2008 or their 24k quads.

The more maps you enable, and the greater the detail, the slower the repaint rate will be on your GPS. With topographical maps, the screen can get quite cluttered. Try using the lowest detail settings at first to keep map repaint speeds fast, and to avoid excessive information (clutter) on the screen.

The following image depicts the Free NH topo and our trail maps at a low detail setting. You can see details of smaller streams, road, lakes and other map features. Similar results will occur with TOPO US 2008 and other topographical maps from Garmin.


Try the free topo maps from Game & Fish Network with higher level of detail. The more maps and the higher the detail, the slower you GPS will repaint, so only select what you think you really need. Use  TOOLS->SETTINGS->MAP->MAP DETAIL

You can see topographical contour lines from the topographical map above with a higher detail setting. Different map products will have different levels of detail at any zoom level. Experiment for what works best with you map collection.


Optimizing trail colors and styles for maximum contrast

Differentiating trails from other map features can be improved by selecting different trail color and line styles. The old default 5color trails, differentiated trail types, and is and is useful if you use only a snowmobile trail map. It can be confusing if you also use highway maps because the snowmobile trails use similar colors to highways. One way to avoid this is to select a very unique trail color scheme. We suggest Dark Blue/Cyan wide.

Snow blindness is also a factor. On bright sunny days, your eyes will experience changes caused by reflections from the bright snow. This can make it difficult to view maps unless there is a high contrast between the background and the trails. You might try switching you GPS to NIGHTTIME mode, and use the Dark Blue Cyan Wide color scheme. Some examples are show below.

Use Start->All Programs->BackwoodsGPStrails->Snowmobile Trail Maps->Set Optional Trail Colors and Styles

This will change the settings to MapSource, and not on your GPS. To use those colors on your GPS, you will need to select the maps for download using MapSource, and then download them to your GPS or micro-sd card..


Change your Nuvi display to NIGHTTIME Mode using TOOLS->SETTINGS->DISPLAY->COLOR MODE->NIGHTTIME on your Nuvi.

You may also want to increase the screen brightness to maximum at this time. Experiment to see what is comfortable for you. Higher screen brightness will reduce battery life, but that is not an issue if your GPS is plugged into a 12v outlet on your sled.

Now view the map and see the results. Cyan colored trails will stand out very clearly.when in nighttime mode.

Cyan in nighttime mode - zoomed out

Zoomed in…

Cyan in nighttime mode - zoomed in closer - very high contrast

And closer…


Using Custom Snowmobile Specific POIs

All POIs are accessed through the WHERE TO? command.  Map points are built into each enabled map. If you have multiple maps enabled you may get a lot of different POIs, but not all of them will be relevant to a sledder. One advantage of using custom snowmobiling POIs is that they will limit the POIs displayed to on-trail services specific to snowmobiling. A nearby gas station might be interesting, but not very useful if you can't get there by sled!

Start at the Main menu.

Trick: From wherever you are in the menu system, click and HOLD the BACK button to quickly return to the main menu screen.

Click on WHERE TO? Scroll down with the arrow button until you see EXTRAS

Select Custom POIs.


Scroll through custom snowmobiling POI categories .

Custom Snowmobiling POIs

Notice that the POIs are ordered by what is nearest to your current position. The distance and bearing are "as the crow Flies" unless you have an autorouting map enabled. If you have an autorouting highway map, then the distance will be as calculated along highways and roads. If you have an autorouting snowmobile map enabled (and highway map disabled) the distance shown will be along snowmobile trails. If both highway and snowmobile autorouting maps are enabled, it will be along either highways of snowmobile trails which is probably not very useful.

Click on a list item to display it. The image below was selected from the scenic views list (Mount Kearsarge)

Click on MORE for More information (if available). Click on the photo in the upper left to view the photo. Not all POIs have photos or more information.


Looks like a nice spot to visit. Click BACK to restore the previous screen Then click MAP to see the location on a map.

Mount Kearserge from snowmobile trail - map location

Yup, it is at the top of a mountain as depicted by the topographic detail lines. At this point you can zoom in and out and look at which trails you need to take to get to this scenic overview. Your current position is indicated by your vehicle icon. You can save this point as a favorite (waypoint). for fast reference later.

What happens if you click on the GO button?  If you have no auto routing map enabled, your GPS will try and route you "as the crow flies". If you have an auto routing highway map enabled it will attempt to route you by roads. If you have the autorouting variant of our snowmobile trails map, it will route you by snowmobile trails!   The ON ROAD setting of your navigation map will also influence how it tries to route you. If you are using the non-autorouting variant of the trail map, you can still manually navigate to the spot as you would with a paper map. Make a mental note of the trail numbers and turns and watch the moving map display as you progress along your route.

The easiest way to navigate is to use the autorouting variant of our trail map. This will provide spoken turn by turn directions and visual clues on how to travel to your destination. Even this is not foolproof, and your should always review the calculated route to insure that it makes sense for a given situation.


Selecting a Usage Mode and vehicle

The nuvi 500/550 provides for several vehicle modes, driving, walking, bicycling and scootering. You might expect that these settings have a significant influence over the workings of you nuvi, but they do not. Nevertheless they are not entirely useless. Each of the modes is associated with a unique vehicle icon. The vehicle icon shows your current location on the map display. For driving, you can have automobile icon, for walking footprints. Unfortunately there is no specific snowmobiling mode, but you can download a snowmobile icon and use it with one of the other modes. We include a free snowmobile vehicle icon when we distribute the map on micro-sd card.

We generally use a scootering mode for snowmobiling. Each usage mode can specify how navigation occurs. While the current Usage mode is not critical and our trail map will work in any mode, the navigation settings will influence how automatic navigation will be executed.

To change the Usage mode, and set up it's parameters, click on the vehicle icon (e.g. car profile)  on the top center of the main screen.

The Usage mode screen will be displayed. Select a mode, walking, scootering, etc. This is how you switch between modes and their associated navigation settings.

Select a different nUsage mode

When you select a different mode, it will ask you if you want to configure the mode settings. If not just say no. But on the first time you should say yes and configure the settings. We will do that specific to snowmobiling.

If you have previously downloaded a snowmobile vehicle icon, or you are using one of our micro-sd cards, it will show up in the list. Use the arrow buttons to scroll up and down to find an icon you prefer. Select that icon and then click on NEXT.

Next it will ask you for a map orientation t be associated with this mode.

Any orientation will work with our trail maps. NORTH-UP  will give you a view where the north is always displayed at the top pf the screen regardless of which direction you are traveling. This is most intuitive if you are comfortable using a paper map. TRACK-UP orients the map with your direction of travel at the top of the screen. Thus you see were you are going. It will rotate the map display depending on you direction of travel. Once you get used to it it can be helpful, because you do want to know where you are going, and that is not always north!

The final mode is 3D. When you are zoomed in close enough, a simulated 3D terrain will  stretch out in front of you. The roads will appear to be on the ground and you will appear to be riding towards an artificial horizon. This simulates to some extent what you see as you drive. down the trails. The 3D effect does not attempt to simulate actual topography. The simulation always looks as if you are traveling on flat terrain. Still it is a quite useful visualization of the trails and roads ahead. We find ourselves using 3D mode the most for traveling on the trails, and north-up when stopped to plan out an extended route.

If you zoom out in 3d mode, the map will automatically switch to a TRACK-UP mode which will better allow you to preview what is further ahead. The act of zooming in and out of 3D mode is something that you will find yourself doing as you ride along the trails. Zoom out to see a wider context, zoom back to a 3D view to see the next intersection coming up. Fortunately the plus and minus zoom buttons  are always visible and easily accessed. Use extreme caution making GPS adjustments when in motion. Better to wait and do so while completely stopped.

Next it will ask you about navigation preferences.

With the non-autorouting variant of our trail map, these settings do not matter much. If using the autorouting variant of our snowmobile trail map, set this to Faster-Time.

If you have a autorouting highway map, and either faster time or shorter distance are selected, it will try and route you along roads in that fashion. If no autorouting map is enabled, it will always try and route you off-road. Off-road is a straight line between point a and point b, "as the crow flies". This is generally not that useful unless you are in a boat or airplane, but it can tell you the distance and bearing to your destination, even if there are obstructions in the way.preventing you from traveling in neat straight lines.

The preferred setting for our autorouting snowmobiling is Faster-Time. On the nuvi, you really cannot completely shut off autorouting highway maps, as there is a built-in base map that cannot be shut off. If you happen to be close to a road as well as a snowmobile trail. It may try and route you on the road, which would not be desirable on a sled. We set all snowmobile trails to have an higher speed limit than most roads.  Therefore, favoring faster time would tend to make the GPS pick a snowmobile trail over a highway to get you to your destination. 

For the non-autorouting variant f our map, use Off-Road.


Next it will ask for avoidances. Avoidances settings are not applicable to non-autorouting snowmobile trail maps. Our autorouting snowmobile trail map establishes ice crossings as toll roads. To avoid the inclusion of ice crossings in the calculation of your route, check that you want to avoid Toll Roads.


Finding the trail-heads and trailer parking

Assuming  that you don't live next to a snowmobile trail you are going to need to drive to a parking lot and trail-head. Your nuvi is well suited for that task even of you are driving from out of state.

First, enable the built-in highway maps. Disable the autorouting snowmobile trail maps.

Next select your destination. You may choose either from points of interest stored in your highway map or Custom POIs for snowmobiling. Our POIs include several lodging facilities,  parking areas, and clubs that you might as your destination.




You nuvi will give you spoken turn by turn directions right to you destination, and provide an constantly updated ETA (estimated time of arrival). If you go off course, it will automatically recalculate a new route according to your route preferences avoiding things like tolls and ferries. Once you use you nuvi for on highway navigation, you are going to want to use it all year long and not just for sledding!

But Wait! Don't turn off your non-autorouting snowmobile trail maps. Leave them enabled as you ride the highways. You may be surprised what you can learn about a statewide trail system by zooming out a bit and looking for the trails. You will see where the trails cross secondary roads, and even places where they run under the highway. You will be able to see that a trail runs parallel to the road you are traveling on, just behind that row of trees that obscures it from your view from the highway.You might discover a new place to ride, or simply gain insight into how the trails run in relation to the road system. But, most of all it's just fun! Hard core sledders will want to use it even in the summer when snow is just a distant memory.

Riding the Trails (finally)

Once you arrive at your destination, unload the trailer and get prepared to ride there are a few minor actions to switch your nuvi to trail riding mode. Switch to scootering mode (or whatever mode) you setup with your sled icon and setup for trail riding.

Install your nuvi into its mount. A rugged ram brand mount is recommended.  Preferably your mount is in a position close to to your line of sight as you ride. This will enable you to glance at the GPS while riding without taking your eyes too far off of the trail ahead. Using the cigarette plug power cord to power the nuvi from your sleds battery is also a good idea because it will operate for only about 4 hours in the cold without a recharge. If your sled does not have a battery consider modifying your sled or carry spare batteries.

Before you start out, it's a good idea to preview where you are going. Your nuvi will pick up satellites quickly and indicate where you are on the map. Zoom out a to see what trails are around you, look for interesting loops, topography, and make a mental of note of the trails and trail numbers that you want to ride. Zoom back in to 3D mode and start riding.

If you are "Old School" and enjoy the thrill of riding at your own whimsy without the aid of maps or high-tech navigation aids, you can always TURN YOU NUVI OFF. When it starts getting dark and cold and the sled is low on gas, turn your nuvi back on to find you way to the nearest on-trail gas station or navigate you way back to camp and that warm wood stove. Use of your GPS is always optional.

Zoom out and look at the trails around you

Trails up in the 'burg


Zoom in till you get to 3d mode, then ride

3D mode shows you the trails ahead

Note: You have to be moving faster than about 4 mph for your direction of travel to display accurately. This is also true for GPS compass display readings.

You can see from this map view that Primary 138 will be the next trail on the left, and Corridor 20 the next right further up the trail a bit. You can also see that you will be crossing a small stream from the dark blue line on underlying topographical map. So, you might expect a bridge crossing at the point where the trail crosses the stream. You can also see a lake off to your left.

You might make the occasional zoom adjustment while you ride, but never do anything more than that. It is better to simply stop and make adjustments or wait until the next intersection. YOU DO NOT WANT TO SLAM INTO ANOTHER SLED OR A TREE WHILE YOU ARE DISTRACTED FIDDLING WITH A GPS. IT CAN BE AS BAD A DRIVING DISTRACTION AS TALKING ON A CELL PHONE! USE CAUTION AND COMMON SENSE, AND KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE TRAIL AHEAD.

You may GLANCE at the GPS if traveling at a slow speed. Don't STARE at it. You will be able to anticipate trail intersections and turns coming up as you ride. Different terrain and trails may require different zoom levels.

You might consider enabling the view of your trip log. This will display lines where ever you have previously ridden. The trip log color is similar, but just slightly different that the CYAN color of our trails. If you come to a place where a trail is not on the map, your trip log will supplement what is on the map. Send us your logs, and we will add it to the next release of the map. Trip logs (tracks) can be uploaded from your GPS to your computer using Garmin MapSource and other programs.

Using Snowmobile Trail Map Autorouting Features

Read this to learn how to install the autorouting snowmobile trail maps to your GPS.  Read this page to learn how to use the additional features provided by an autorouting trail map.