I'm looking to generate elevation profiles from a number of GPX traces (which I also have GeoJSON conversions of). I have 20m resolution DEMs of the area, in GeoTIFF format. Ultimately I want to generate a static image that combines a number of these elevation profiles, but I'll be happy if I can get something like a CSV of elevation values sampled at regular intervals.

Summarised, how can I turn:

  • 1+ vector paths (.gpx or .geojson)
  • 1 DEM (.tif)


  • 1+ .svg (raw plot, no axes or labels); or
  • 1+ .csv

using only command line tools. I have managed to achieve this manually using QGIS (and the Profile Tool plugin), but need to automate it. I'd prefer to avoid writing code - but Python is much preferable to R. A workflow that added elevations to the GeoJSON file would be better than nothing. I'm really not looking to implement a sampling algorithm from scratch.

OS X or Ubuntu are ok.

(Note to moderators: there seem to be lots of similar questions, but many of them are just "how do I get an elevation profile from this GPX file". The key differences are that I have the suitable terrain file already, and I need to automate this for dozens of files.)

  • I've since discovered the Mapbox Surface API. I believe the source is open but I don't know how to deploy it locally. Jul 12, 2015 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


If you load your LineString gpx/geojson

ogr2ogr -f "PostgreSQL" PG:"dbname=" linestring.geojson

and DEM tiff into PostGIS (replace XXXX with EPSG code, eg for WGS84 use 4326)

raster2pgsql -d -C -I -M -s XXXX -t auto dem.tiff dem

you can then use ST_Segmentize to add extra vertices at the resolution of your DEM (gdalinfo's Pixel Size), then ST_DumpPoints to convert the LineString to a bunch of points,

CREATE TABLE line_points AS select (ST_DumpPoints(ST_Segmentize(wkb_geometry, 5))).*, 0.0 AS ele from line;

then ST_Value to get the elevation at each point,

CREATE INDEX ON line_points USING gist (geom);
UPDATE line_points SET ele = (SELECT ST_Value(dem.rast, geom) AS ele FROM dem WHERE ST_Intersects(line_points.geom, dem.rast) ORDER BY ele LIMIT 1);

then update the geometry to include the elevation

UPDATE line_points SET geom = ST_MakePoint(ST_X(geom), ST_Y(geom), ele);

then ST_MakeLine to reconstruct the points with elevation back into a LineString.

CREATE AGGREGATE array_accum (anyelement)
    sfunc = array_append,
    stype = anyarray,
    initcond = '{}'
CREATE TABLE linez AS SELECT ST_MakeLine(array_accum(geom)) AS geom FROM (SELECT * FROM line_points ORDER BY path) AS line;

Export back to GeoJSON/CSV/etc:

ogr2ogr -f GeoJSON linez.geojson PG: linez

This could be optimised to generate multiple profiles in bulk, so you're only calling each SQL statement once.


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