It’s a lot easier than you might think.
Like most folks who depend on the Internet as a source of information, I use Google Maps a lot. But rather than use it to track down street addresses and get driving directions, I use it to pinpoint places out in the middle of nowhere that I need to visit by helicopter. There are usually no street addresses, and even if there were, they wouldn’t help much while flying. What I need are GPS coordinates.
You might be in a similar situation. You see a place on a map and, for one reason or another, you need to know its exact GPS coordinates. Fortunately, Google Maps can help. Here’s how to get those coordinates.
- Use Google Maps (not Google Earth) to display the location you want GPS coordinates for. In my example, I’ll use satellite view to find a dirt airstrip I know along the Verde River north of Phoenix. You could search for an address if you needed the coordinates for a street address.
- Hold down the Control key and click right on the spot you want the coordinates for. A menu pops up. (You may be able to simply right click, but I’ve had limited success with that on my Mac using Firefox; Control-click always works.)
- On the menu, choose Center Map Here. The view will probably shift a bit.
- Above the map area, in the blue bar, click the Link button. A window appears with two text boxes in it. The contents of the top text box, which are selected, includes a link to the map that you might paste into an e-mail message. It also includes the GPS coordinates, which I’ve indicated with a red box around them. Sometimes the GPS coordinates are not so obvious and you’ll need to scroll through the contents of the box to find them.
Note that the coordinates are in digital format. In this example, they’re 34.160043°N 111.727266°W. (West and South are negative numbers.) Some GPSes use this format; you can usually specify the format you want to use in your GPS’s settings.
If you need coordinates in degrees, minutes, seconds format, you’ll need to do some simple math. Let’s take a look at how it works for the first number: 34.160043.
- Take the whole number (34) and set it aside. That’s the degrees.
- Take the number after the decimal point and multiply it by 60: .160043 x 60 = 9.60258
- Take the whole number from that calculation (9) and set it aside. That’s minutes.
- Take the number after the decimal point and multiply it by 60: .60258 x 60 = 36.1548
- Take the whole number from that calculation (36) and set it aside. That’s seconds. Keep in mind that if you want a more precise number, you can include the decimal places after it. You might also want to round the number up or down depending on what comes after the decimal point. In this example, the number after the decimal point is 1 so I’d round down and use 36.
- Put the numbers you set aside together in degrees° minutes‘ seconds” format. In this example, you’d have 34° 9′ 36″.
My helicopter’s GPS uses a degrees° minutes‘ format, so I’d stop calculating after step 2 and wind up with 34° 9.60258’.