Planning a gravel ride? This great map shows all paved and unpaved roads

When you want to make a route for a gravel ride or bikepacking trip, it’s great to have a map that shows all the paved and unpaved roads in your area.

Unfortunately, Google Maps and Apple Maps don’t show whether roads are paved or unpaved. Apps like Ride With GPS show road surfaces on routes you create, but don’t show whether the surrounding roads are asphalt or gravel.

Luckily, there’s a simple (and free!) way to make maps that show all paved and unpaved roads in any part of the world. It uses data from OpenStreetMap and is called Overpass Turbo. It runs in your browser (e.g. in Chrome, Safari or Firefox) on a laptop or a tablet and you don’t need to download an app.

Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

A map of all paved (blue) and unpaved (orange) roads in northern Victoria made using Overpass Turbo. Brown dashes show dirt tracks.

With a click of a button, Overpass Turbo can display all paved and unpaved roads overlaid on a basemap from OpenStreetMap. The map above shows all the roads and dirt tracks in the Nathalia area in northern Victoria. The one below shows the Mt Gambier area in South Australia. You can use it wherever you want.

Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

A map of all the paved (blue) and unpaved (orange) roads in the Mt Gambier area made using Overpass Turbo. Brown dashes show dirt tracks.

Unfortunately, not all roads have data to show whether they are paved or not, especially on local back-roads. But it’s easy to see these roads by using a different colour (in this case, khaki) in Overpass Turbo as shown below.

Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

Not all roads have surface data, as shown in this area near Jugiong in central NSW. Blue = paved roads, Orange = unpaved roads, Khaki = unknown road surface, Brown dashes = dirt tracks.

Private roads [updated]

Following a suggestion on social media, I’ve updated the Overpass Turbo code so that private roads and tracks, and those where bicycles are not allowed, now show in bright yellow (with lines for roads and dashes for tracks). This includes roads and tracks on private property as well as those in reserves that are open to management vehicles only and where bikes are not allowed. I suggest you interpret this with caution. OpenStreetMap does not hold comprehensive data on access restrictions and there are lots of roads and tracks where bicycles aren’t allowed that do not show in yellow on the map.

Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

Roads and tracks on private property or which are not open to bicycles are shown in yellow on the map, with yellow lines for roads and dashes for tracks.

Step-by-step guide

It’s super easy to use Overpass Turbo. Just follow the steps below.

  • Click on this link. It will open your browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) and load a page that looks like this:
Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

If you don’t want to click on a short link for security reasons, I’ve included the full link to Overpass Turbo and a copy of the query code at the end of this post.

  • Move the map around to any area you want. It’s best to keep the area small so the query doesn’t crash.
  • Push the green Run button at the top left of the screen. Wait a bit and it will create a map of your area with paved and unpaved roads shown in different colors, like this:
Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

The first time you use Overpass Turbo, your map might be covered in gazillions of small circles. If so, you just need to change one of the settings to turn them off. You only have to do this once.

  • Click on the settings button at the top of the Overpass Turbo page.
  • Scroll down and tick the box that reads ”don’t display small features as POIs”.
  • Push the save button at the bottom of the dialog box.
  • Then push the green Run button at the top left of the page to load a new map. It should look like the one above.

Hide the code pane

Want to hide the code and see a full screen map? Super simple…

  • Push the small arrow to the right of the code pane (in the orange circle below) and the code pane will disappear.
  • Then push the Run button again to create a new map that fills the entire screen.
Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

You can keep the code pane hidden and move the map to new areas. Just push the Run button each time you want to display a new overlay of road surfaces.

Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

It’s best to map just a small area. If you view a very large area, you’ll get a warning like this: “This query returned quite a lot of data (approx. 50 MB). Your browser may have a hard time trying to render this. Do you really want to continue?” If you’re happy to download the data, push “continue anyway” and wait until your map appears.

Save the query code

You can save the query code so you don’t have to click on the link above next time you want to view road surfaces.

  • Push the Save button at the top of the Overpass Turbo page.
  • Give your map a name (e.g. “Paved and unpaved road map”)
  • Push Save again. (Don’t click the “save on osm-org” button.)
  • Next time you open Overpass Turbo you can press the Load button at the top to open the code and then push Run again.

Make a different map

If you like tinkering with code, you can use Overpass Turbo to display heaps of things. Want to find all the dunnies for your next bikepacking trip? Just add them to the map. (Click on this link to make a map like the one below.) There’s a great tutorial on how to use Overpass Turbo here.

Click on the image for a full screen view. All data © OpenStreetMap Contributors.

Paved and unpaved roads plus public toilets in Gippsland, as mapped in OpenStreetMap and displayed using Overpass Turbo.

Summary

Overpass Turbo is a fantastic tool to create maps that show paved and unpaved roads. It’s really helpful when you want to design a long gravel ride or bikepacking route.

OpenStreetMap’s road surface data isn’t perfect — some roads don’t have information on whether they’re paved or not, some surfaces are out-of-date, and a few are just plain wrong — but for most roads in Australia, the data is fantastic. Better still, if you want to improve the map, you can update OpenStreetMap yourself, like thousands of others have done before hand. There’s lots of great tutorials online.

Happy riding.

All maps were created using the comprehensive data in OpenStreetMap. It’s an honour to acknowledge the thousands of editors who have compiled this amazing resource.


Footnote

In the text above, I used this short link, which automatically opens Overpass Turbo and loads a map of road surfaces. If you’re wary of clicking on short links for security reasons you can get the same result using the following steps.

  1. Open Overpass Turbo in your browser by clicking on this link: http://overpass-turbo.eu/
  2. Delete the sample code in the panel on the left of the screen.
  3. Copy the code below and past it into the panel on the Overpass Turbo page.
  4. Move the map to anywhere you want (keep it small!) and press the Run button at the top left.
  5. You can hide the code pane using the method described above.
// SHOW PAVED AND UNPAVED ROADS IN DIFFERENT COLORS USING ROAD SURFACE DATA FROM OPENSTREETMAP

/* ver 2 shows private roads and tracks and those with no bicycle access */

/* 
LEGEND:

BLUE = paved roads
ORANGE = unpaved/dirt/gravel roads
BROWN DASHES = dirt tracks
KHAKI = roads with unknown surfaces

YELLOW = private roads and/or roads with no bicycle access 
YELLOW DASHES = private tracks and/or tracks with no bicycle access

*/

[out:json][timeout:60]; 

/* Select road types to display */ 

(way["highway"~"motorway|trunk|primary|secondary|tertiary|unclassified|residential|track"]({{bbox}});  
); 

// print results 
out body; 
>; 
out skel qt; 

{{style: 

/* DISPLAY ROADS WITH NO SURFACE INFO IN KHAKI. Includes roads with no surface tag and those with informal, user-defined tags */ 

way{color:DarkKhaki; width:1.5; opacity:1}

/* DISPLAY ALL PAVED ROADS IN BLUE. The list below includes all officially-approved paved surface tags in OpenStreetMap */ 

way[surface=paved],way[surface=asphalt],way[surface=concrete],way[surface=concrete:lanes],way[surface=concrete:plates],way[surface=paving_stones],way[surface=sett],way[surface=unhewn_cobblestone],way[surface=cobblestone],way[surface=metal],way[surface=wood],way[surface=stepping_stones],way[surface=metal_grid] 

{color: MediumBlue; width:1.5; opacity:1.0}

/* DISPLAY ALL UNPAVED ROADS IN ORANGE. This includes all dirt and gravel roads, etc. The list below includes all officially-approved unpaved surface tags in OpenStreetMap. */ 

way[surface=unpaved],way[surface=compacted],way[surface=fine_gravel],way[surface=gravel],way[surface=rock],way[surface=pebblestone],way[surface=ground],way[surface=dirt],way[surface=earth],way[surface=grass],way[surface=grass_paver],way[surface=mud],way[surface=sand],way[surface=woodchips],way[surface=snow],way[surface=ice],way[surface=salt],way[surface=clay] 

{color: Coral; width:1.5; opacity:1.0} 

/* SHOW TRACKS USING BROWN DASHES */

way[highway=track]

{color: SaddleBrown; dashes:5,5; width:1.5; opacity:1.0} 

/* DISPLAY PRIVATE ROADS, AND ROADS WHERE BICYCLES ARE NOT PERMITTED, USING YELLOW LINES. */

way[highway!=track][access=no][bicycle!=yes],way[highway!=track][access=private][bicycle!=yes],way[highway!=track][bicycle=no]

{color: Gold; dashes:0; width:2.0; opacity:1.0} 

/* DISPLAY PRIVATE TRACKS, AND TRACKS WHERE BICYCLES ARE NOT PERMITTED, USING YELLOW DASHES. */

way[highway=track][access=no][bicycle!=yes],way[highway=track][access=private][bicycle!=yes],way[highway=track][bicycle=no]

{color: Gold; dashes:5,5; width:2.0; opacity:1.0} 
}}

4 thoughts on “Planning a gravel ride? This great map shows all paved and unpaved roads

  1. After over a week of research I finally have a way to plan my Adventure Motorcycling trips via dirt roads! THANK YOU!
    Can’t wait to contribute to OSM and learn to use Overpass-Turbo.

    Like

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