Avenza Mapping Basics

Avenza Mapping Basics: Collecting and sharing data


Forest Service Topo maps. Click the area you wish to get a map from. Copy the link address for the “download PDF” option. Open Avenza App and import map using the URL map option. My maps > + icon > “Tap to enter a URL of a map.” Paste your copied URL and tap “go.” You can upload and use up to 3 maps in the free version.

Published Forest Service Project maps. Search and import Forest Service projects individual map files such as this one: https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/110523_FSPLT3_4498221.pdf

Avenza Store. Through the App, search the Avenza Store for maps that you can purchase/use based on a location. USGS topo maps and historic maps are usually available through the Avenza store.

Custom map. Georgia ForestWatch Members can take advantage of custom maps made to include areas such as Land Sales, Georgia Mountain Treasure areas, surveyed old growth, and satellite imagery for monitoring Georgia’s National Forests. 


Placemarks. Zoom in and move the map until crosshairs are at your location (blue dot). Tap the placemark icon. Edit the title and description. Tap submit (top of screen on ios). 

Tracks. While viewing the map, tap the ellipses for more option and select “Record GPS Tracks.” Tap Start Tracking. Slide the compass screen downward to see more of the map. Tap the Stop icon when finished. Be deliberate with your tracks, starting and stopping in the right place without extraneous paths and backtracking. 

Photos. Avenza does allow photos to be attached to placemarks and works well if only viewing on the device but, we’ve found that it takes longer, sharing them often runs into quality issues, may not transfer, or file size limitations occur. We suggest using your phone or camera and sharing photos of the area separately. (ie- Gphotos or Wetransfer).


When back to cell/wifi connection and on the map view, tap the placemark with three lines icon. Tap the Export icon and select “Export to Others.” 

  • Select KML from “format” options. Here you can also customize what you export if you wish (ie- no image). 
  • Tap “Export” (top right ios). Wait for file to finish export and the App should then give you options for sharing. If your email is connected to your device, emailing is the preferred Georgia ForestWatch option. Give the email an intuitive subject line and CC your own email so you have a record. No need to change the actual file name. 


Always tell someone where you are planning to go and when you plan to be back. Relying on only one type of map or technology can be a recipe for an unproductive forest monitoring visit or worse. Redundancy is good. Some backup options for safety and effective monitoring are knowing/preparing to use:

  • Physical map and compass
  • Alltrails or Gaia GPS apps
  • Download offline Google map
  • Know current forest road closures and conditions


Modern phone batteries can drain quicker while searching for cell tower service. 

AIRPLANE MODE is highly recommended in areas with poor reception to prevent this. 

A backup battery bank can also come in handy. Modern car battery “jumpers” that also double as a charging station and flashlight in a very slim package like these are highly recommended. 


Wrong kind of maps. Some Forest Service published maps cannot be used in Avenza. Single-page georeferenced PDF maps with a URL that you can get to from your internet browser are most common. It may be difficult to tell if a map is georeferenced since you may not be in the area of interest when uploading into Avenza. 

How to ensure your location displays on the map when physically in the area of interest: 

  • Check that the file name ends in PDF. If not, request another map or confirm.
  • Scroll to see if PDF is multiple pages. If so, don’t use and request another map.
  • Look for upload errors when importing in Avenza

Deleting maps and layers. Your Avenza App will continue to save points and tracks (layers) even though you delete the maps (to make room for new ones when using the free version). You can always re-import and see your points and tracks on the previous map or new maps of that area unless you deliberately delete layers (points and tracks). Avenza recently (2020) allows you to see which maps your layers are “linked” to in the “layers” menu. 


Avenza Basics – printable document (of information above)

Georgia ForestWatch video tutorial

Avenza tutorial powerpoint

General Avenza video tutorials

Historic USGS maps

Georgia ForestWatch Interactive Map

Georgia National Forest Road Status Google Map

ForestWatch Volunteer Interactive Map

Problem roads identified for Clean Mountain Streams Campaign