You have a GPX track file from an external source and you want to run/hike/cycle it using your Garmin device. This does not work immediately, because Garmin Connect does not allow you to import GPS tracks as courses directly. However, Garmin does allow you to import tracks as activities and subsequently convert them to courses. We will use GPSbabel to turn the track into a fake activity and import it in Garmin Connect.

Adding timestamps to your GPX file: GPSbabel

Use the GPSbabel software tool to convert your GPX file. We want to add fake timestamps to the track points in the file. Without timestamps, Garmin Connect cannot interpret the GPX file as an activity. After all, it cannot show you your speed if it does not know how long a certain distance took you to cross.

To add timestamps to a given GPX file1, use GPSbabel with the faketime option:

gpsbabel -i gpx -f infile.gpx -x track,faketime=f20100705200000+10 -o gpx -F outfile.gpx

A few things to note:

  • For different GPX files, use different faketime values. The faketime value contains the date and time upon which you supposedly ran this activity. In the example, the date is 5 July 2010 and the time is 8 PM (20:00). Garmin Connect does not allow you to import two activities with the same timestamp, to ensure that you do not accidentaly import the same activity twice.
  • The +10 part of the faketime value is the number of seconds it supposedly took you to get from one track point to the other. Feel free to modify this. However, because the distance between two track points is not fixed, the reported speed in your activity will still be all over the place. It does not matter much either way.
  • This probably only works for GPX files that contain tracks. GPX files that just contain waypoints will need a different approach. I have not looked at this.

Importing the GPX file with fake timestamps into Garmin Connect

Log in to Garmin Connect and go to the Import Data menu. You reach the menu by clicking the plus (‘+’) in the top right corner of the screen and choosing Import Data.

Drag and drop the file you have just created into the upload box. Click Import Data.

When it says ‘Import Complete’, click View Details. You are shown the activity you just created.

In the top right corner, click the little cog icon and choose Save as Course.

Save the course using an appropriate name. Load the course on your device as you normally would. You’re done!

If you do not want to clutter your activities with these fake ones, remove the activity you just created from the Activities menu. Also, if you automatically sync your activities to Strava, be sure to discard the activity there as well.


  1. These instructions are based on this answer on StackExchange.