Is it possible to model the easiest pathway through a landscape between many points (rather than just two)?

I want to carry out a cost-path analysis, I would like to display the easiest pathways through the entire study region (not just one route but all)- by taking into account slope and proximity of sites to rivers or valley floors.

I have a DEM raster (obtained from UK ordnance survey - Landform-panorama). River systems were in the form of a polygon shapefile, which I have converted in to a raster layer. The lat/lon coordinates of the 10 sites where added to the DEM raster as a feature class.

I am using ArcMap 10.1.

1 Answer 1


In order to perform this task in ArcGIS 10.1, you will require the Spatial Analyst Extension which can perform analysis on rasters including Least-Cost Path.

ESRI has created a series of tutorials to get you started with Spatial Analyst. The last of which creates the optimal route to a site. If you follow the tutorial you should be on your way to finding the optimal route for all ten of your sites. The results will look something like this:

enter image description here

It sounds as if the rasters you're missing are the slope raster as well as the distance rasters to rivers and valley floors (wouldn't valley floors usually contain some sort of waterway?) You should be able to easily create these with Spatial Analyst.

If you don't have access to Spatial Analyst, you should be able to create them and perform the analysis using open source GIS such as QGIS or GRASS. The tools needed are available in those, and you could just adapt the tutorial for use in those programs.

  • Hi, thank you so much, I really appreciate it! I do have access to Spatial Analyst, and I think I know how to create the slope raster but I am not really sure how to create distance rasters to rivers and valley floors from the data I already have - which is a polygon shapefile of River systems that I have converted in to a raster layer. Can this be used to create distance rasters for both rivers and valley floors (given, as you pointed out, valley floors usually contain some sort of waterway)? And if so, how? As always any advice would be massively appreciated!
    – user19622
    Dec 1, 2013 at 6:48
  • to carry out this analysis is it necessary to convert polygon to a raster or can it stay as a shapefile?
    – user19622
    Dec 1, 2013 at 7:25
  • If you go through all four tutorials, you'll learn all the tools you need for this analysis. Including the euclidean distance tool. All of this analysis will be done using rasters.
    – Fezter
    Dec 1, 2013 at 10:45
  • I followed the steps using my own data, but at the end of the 3rd tutorial it would only display the results of the slope and not the rest (distance to rivers and sites). in the original question section have included 2 images, the model steps and the output.
    – user19622
    Dec 1, 2013 at 11:45
  • I can't see any the edits to your question. Could you please try again?
    – Fezter
    Dec 2, 2013 at 23:06

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