State road maps. I still consider them a must-have, rather than sole reliance on GPS. Call me old fashioned.. But unfolding a state road map – that crinkling sound – and holding it in your hands.. It’s more than a feeling of nostalgia from days gone by before GPS. It’s still a great tool while traveling the highways and byways. Preparedness anyone?
(Latest maps linked below)
It’s a great idea to keep state road maps or a road atlas of (at least) 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 may need road maps for those states.
Did you know that you can still get those folding state road maps at some highway rest areas or visitor/welcome centers (usually the first one after you cross a state line on a major interstate)?. They’re free – sponsored by state transportation and tourism bureaus.
Whenever I’ve driven a road trip beyond my own area, I’ve made a point of stopping at these ‘welcome centers’ and collecting their road maps.
State Road Maps / Road Atlas Advantage
- A GPS navigation system isn’t real helpful for viewing “the big picture”, so to speak. The screen is small comparative to a map, or page of a road atlas.
- Maps may provide a better topography perspective.
- A state road map or road atlas can be viewed anywhere, and quickly – no power source required.
- GPS screen ‘zoom in and out’ (buttons or finger-pinch) compared with detailed state road maps or a road atlas where each page shows lots of information.
- It’s also good preparedness to have state road maps and/or topographical maps, or an up-to-date road atlas.
Sure, a GPS can be very convenient for routing you from point A to point B. I do value my vehicle’s GPS, and similar phone apps. They can zoom in very nicely to reveal detailed street views, traffic, 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.
State Road Maps – Folding Paper Maps 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, a commercial USA road atlas is a convenient choice. I like the spiral bound USA road atlas for easy page flipping.
You can also get a Road Atlas for a given state. There’s way more detailed information than a folded paper map.
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.
With all that said, 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 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.