I have a high resolution digital elevation model (DEM) and a line shapefile displaying a bicycle track. The DEM has 1 meter resolution. The line shape is something like 25 km long.

What I need is a detailed elevation profile of that track, let's say one coordinate every 1 meter.

What I've tried so far is to convert the shp file to gpx files and used tools like gpsvisualizer or gpxplot to plot elevation profiles of the track. I used a great circle calculation afterwards to find out the distances between the points.

simple elevation profile

The distance between single points varies from 3 to 700 meters which makes this plot useless. The main problem is that the conversion of line shape to GPS coordinates only generates the corners of the line but not points in-between somewhere on the edge of the line.

I'm wondering is there an easy way how to use my elevation model (available in AutoCAD files format adf) to intersect it somehow with the line shape to plot some detailed elevation profile both in numerical (lat, lon & elev. or x, y & z) and graphical ways?

I need this to do further analysis on the given bicycle track.

  • What projection/spheroid does your DEM use? Jun 10, 2013 at 18:35

2 Answers 2


If you want to use the same method you are currently employing you could Densify the line first. This will produce more vertices, which will increase the number of elevation points used in your profile. You can specify a maximum distance between vertices (e.g. 1 per meter).

enter image description here


If you have ArcGIS with the 3D Analyst extension, you could use the Interpolate Shape tool.

From How Interpolate Shape Works:

The Sample Distance is a floating-point value used by lines and polygons. The Sample Distance is used to control the frequency at which interpolation occurs along lines and polygon boundaries. Output vertices will be spaced no farther apart than this distance. Generally, the smaller the sample distance, the higher the frequency, and the closer the output feature geometry conforms to the surface.

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