It’s a great idea to keep state road maps or a road atlas of your home state (and surrounding states where you may travel). Keep them in your vehicle as a backup for your GPS navigation system!
Planning to travel the highway networks and lesser roads that traverse the United States? Well, you need road maps for those states.
They’re more than a feeling of nostalgia from days gone by before GPS. You can still get those folding state road maps at some rest areas, visitors centers, usually the first one after you cross a state line on a major interstate. Sponsored by state transportation and tourism bureaus.
Hard-copy state road maps or a state road atlas can’t be beat! Here’s why…
A GPS navigation system is terrible at viewing “the big picture”, so to speak. The screen is too small. There’s no good topography perspective. Tedious to zoom in and out. Instead, compare that to detailed state road maps or a road atlas where each page shows lots more information! There’s no comparison in that regard.
Sure, a GPS can be very convenient for routing you from point A to point B. And it can zoom in very nicely to reveal detailed street views, and of course your present location. But there’s nothing quite like visualizing with a state road map or atlas that you can hold in your hand and flip the pages.
It’s also good preparedness to have road maps and/or topographical maps, or a up-to-date road atlas.
State Road Maps – Folding versus Road Atlas
Those free folding state maps are good navigation aids for traveling the interstate / intrastate networks.
But when you need to travel more extensively, more detail, a commercial road atlas may be a better choice!
I do use, and appreciate, my own vehicle’s built-in GPS navigation unit. However I have a personal preference for reading quality maps while getting a feel for the terrain or region and its roads. I find that a GPS unit and its relatively small screen size (compared to a road atlas page!) does not provide a large enough perspective. There’s nothing like opening a road atlas (they all have topographical perspective too) and viewing the lay of the land.
I keep several state road maps / state road atlas maps in my truck. They cover not only my own state, but the various states around me (and one for the entire USA). Theoretically I could travel anywhere in the U.S. without a GPS, without issue.
I have updated the following list of all 50 state road atlas maps (links below). They are the most up to date based on my research as of this publish date. Most are from DeLorme, some from Benchmark, and USA Atlas by Rand McNally.
Best USA Road Atlas
I have traveled all across this country, east to west and north to south. Prior to my first big trip, I wanted to get the best road map of the USA. Well, a map would be huge. So, better yet, a road atlas of the USA. After a bit of research, I chose the following. This is their latest update:
Rand McNally Large Scale Road Atlas USA
(view on amzn)
Looking for the latest folding / folded map equivalent? This may be the best road map of USA:
Rand McNally Folded Map
Best Road Atlas For Each State
Also of interest, a book called Next Exit. Lists services located at USA Interstate exits nationwide. Gas, food, lodging. shopping and other facilities.