Is there an easy path to visualizing LIDAR data in QGIS?

I have some USGS LIDAR data in .las format downloaded from http://lidar.cr.usgs.gov/. This means I have both the .las and metadata in .xml format. I am aware liblas, but not how to apply it to this task. I am running on Ubuntu 11.04 with QGIS 1.7.0-Wroclaw.

A similar question for ArcGIS is: Converting LiDAR data to raster (DEM/DSM) for ArcGIS input?. I just need to get a sense of this data and the registration. Conversion to a DEM would be OK if I can visualize it.

  • The lasview.exe tool (README) that Bryce mentioned has a shorter LAStools.org URL now ... (-: Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 13:05
  • this is a old question, but still relevant, yet with old answers at the top. just a note here at the top: it pays off to scroll down for newer answers.
    – Honeybear
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:12

8 Answers 8


QGIS 3.18+ supports point cloud visualisation natively.



As stated in Peter's answer: QGIS 3.18+ supports point cloud visualisation natively.

Some documentation for reference:

Original answer:

Additional alternatives to visualize LiDAR point data or LiDAR DEMs within QGIS were also reported in the following posts:

Additionally, the following question asks for ongoing efforts in allowing LiDAR .las files to be visualized in the 2D main window in QGIS.


There is a LAS toolbox for QGIS. However, a better alternative for Linux/Unix systems is the open-source library SPDLib. SPDLib can process the LAS files (discrete-return and full-waveform), and create DTM/DSM's from the point cloud.

To view the point cloud, the .las file must be converted to an SPD file (using the spdtranslate function), which can then be opened in SPD3DPointsViewer. The viewer itself also runs on Windows.


GRASS has a documentation section on LiDAR in their wiki. Give it a read; you can use libLAS to import LiDAR data into GRASS, and then use many of the GRASS tools once it's in there.

  • Is there anything more digested or step-by-step? There are a lot of gaps to bridge there...
    – Bryce
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 1:53
  • So far I'm having some good results with lasview.exe from cs.unc.edu/~isenburg/lastools , which is at least letting me verify the data is reasonably good.
    – Bryce
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 2:03
  • 1
    GRASS 7 is offering v.in.lidar: grass.osgeo.org/grass70/manuals/html70_user/v.in.lidar.html
    – markusN
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 16:07
  • Hi Bryce, I don't know of anything more 'digested' and am far from a LiDAR expert. I suspect you should be able to piece some of that stuff together and at least get started, learning the rest as you go. Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 19:13
  • 3
    Lastools are a great candidate to be added to the QGIS processing framework. Anyone interested in supporting its implementation?
    – gioman
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 14:09

Use Point Cloud VIZ 2.1 where you will be able to import and export the lidar. Exporting the lidar has 2 options. The bare earth option, or all points options. Once exported you can import the *.vrt file in QGIS. The data will come as a geotiff where you will be able to manipulate further (contour, shade, etc.)

  • I can't find a way to open las files from the menu File > Open processed files.... It seems that the only files supported are plf.
    – Hakim
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 16:09
  • 1
    Go to File > Process > Process Lidar Data. There you will choose the LAS file that you want to process. Once completed then you will go to Open Processed Files
    – Francis
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 13:11

QGIS does not currently have a really good way to visualize point cloud data (i.e. as of 2018). Instead, I would recommend the excellent, open source plas.io web app. plas.io allows you to visualize the point cloud data with the ability to adjust particle size, point density, intensity, color, and a host of other features.

For example, the screenshot shows a point cloud visualization of Half Dome in Yosemite NP. I typically use the web app to visually scan the point cloud data to check for things such as scan line overlap and point density prior to processing.

enter image description here


I used GRASS in QGIS. Step to see LAS file are:
  (1) Processing on the menu bar
  (2) Toolbox
  (3) Find v.in.lidar or r.in.lidar under GRASS
  (4) Run

  QGIS Desktop 3.6.0
  GRASS 7.6.0
  OS: Windows 10

  • 1
    This steps work fine in QGIS 3.14, as of August, 2020. Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 15:00

If you install QGIS with OSgeo4W then you can choose to add PDAL Library. It is a completely open source (not like LasTools). Then you can download model (within qgis) from internet using Pdal or you can use pdal from command line (the documentation : https://pdal.io/ and https://pdal.io/tutorial/reading.html).

  • Current (Nov 2019) osgeo4w pdal package has a compatibility problem. I had better luck installing with conda, see gis.stackexchange.com/questions/262321/…, though that was for command line use and not within Qgis. Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 19:33

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