I have downloaded a hgt file from EarthExplorer but when I try to load it on QGIS I get an error "GDAL provider cannot open GDAL dataset".

I was under the impression that hgt files were supported. It this a known issue? Is there any workaround?

  • 1
    I just tested with QGIS 3.6 and it displays SRTM .hgt files without any issue. So either upgrade to the current QGIS, or download the file again.
    – AndreJ
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


Keeping the original filename is essential because the HGT format is a very simple file format (simply a 3601×3601 array of short integers which represent the terrain heights) with no embedded metadata. There is nothing within the file to indicate which part of the Earth’s surface it covers, nor are any separate metadata files provided. The position is encoded into the file’s name. For example, the file N19W157.hgt covers a 1°×1° section of the earth at latitude 19° North and longitude 157° West. It is therefore imperative that these files are not renamed, as the only way to determine the coordinates is by parsing the file name.


I have actually found out what was happening. Renaming the file caused the problem. I have no clue why, but that's what caused the issue. When I kept the original filename, it worked perfectly.

  • It might be caused by different resolution. Us territory files has 1 arc second per pixel, and the rest of the world 3 arc seconds. It might be that QGIS is trying to determine resolution from name, and hit an error when you oopen renamed file. Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 17:01

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