Don’t GET LOST in Montana!

get-lost-in-montanaThe fact that the freezer is full of leftover turkey soup can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas is just around the corner, and you still don’t have a gift for the person on your list who loves to get lost on the backroads of Montana. Don’t worry, this isn’t a Sky Mall-esque blog full of ridiculous knickknacks. Get the adventurer on your list something they’ll actually use. Maps never go out of style.

Montana is a land of long roads and huge distances between towns. Driving isn’t the only way you can explore the state, but it is certainly the most common, even if you are just driving to the trail head to start your trek into the backcountry. However you intend to explore Southwest Montana, you need a good map. Here are some of my favorites, the price I listed is from the publishers’ websites:

Montana Road and Recreation Atlas, Benchmark Maps, $22.95
The Benchmark Atlas covers the entire state in enormous detail, with everything from Interstates to single lane forest service roads. It also includes bike, horseback and hiking trails. The landscape section provides a very accurate representation of the terrain, and the recreation section outdoes itself. In addition to maps with terrain, streams, property lines, points of interest, public land and access points, the atlas also gives recreation sites and points of interest in list form with brief descriptions. Although the most expensive of the three maps reviewed today, you definitely get what you pay for.

Montana Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme, $19.95
This is an extremely versatile road atlas, and the one that has a permanent place in our car. It manages to include an extraordinary amount of detail, and I have never found a road missing or out of place. The DeLorme Atlas includes waterways, landforms, terrain, and public land boundaries. It doesn’t have quite the same detail as the Benchmark when it comes to recreation and trails, but the lack of clutter makes navigating the roads even easier. The Atlas has detailed contour lines and marks out mountain ranges and hills, making it easy to orient yourself, no matter how far off the beaten path you are.

Montana Official Highway Map, Montana Department of Tourism, Free
Every few years, the Department of Tourism publishes an updated highway map that should form the core of your Montana map collection. It doesn’t have nearly the same detail as the two atlases, but it provides a good overview of the state. It includes all of the major roads and most of the other roads that you’re likely to go on. In addition, the map includes public lands, county boundaries, reservations and points of interest (from ski hills to geologic markers and everything in between). My favorite features of the map are the detailed mileage charts. A table in one corner lists the mileage between every town in the state, a small chart shows the mileages and estimated travel times between major towns, and the map itself includes tic marks with mileages. The back of the map includes a wealth of information on tourism, emergency services, and Montana driving laws. Best of all, the map is free-it can be found in any information center, most rest stops, and various gas stations and stores. Good as it is, the free price tag makes this a less than thoughtful Christmas gift.

*Get Lost (in Montana) is a program of the Montana Office of Tourism

Tags: books, travel tips, maps

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