Montana has around 73,000 miles of public roads.

Of those roads, only around 40% are paved, according to a 2000 report by Montana State University titled "Gravel Roads Part II, Back to the Basics". Authors note: this report has everything a layman would ever want to know (and then some) about gravel roads. Ever wonder why your gravel road in Montana gets potholes and washboards so fast? Give it a read.

Based on the figure above, around 50,000 miles of public roads in Montana are unpaved. Many small towns in Montana still have numerous gravel roads inside city limits too (*cough* Laurel) and in rural parts of the state, country roads are almost all gravel.

Read More: How Many Miles of Roads Are in Montana? Pack Your Bags

Wait... Elon didn't invent electric cars? Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
Wait... Elon didn't invent electric cars? Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Montana got its first paved road in 1921.

You can thank the bicycle industry for the initial push for better roads across the United States, as the new-fangled automobile quickly captivated the public's attention.

The Montana Historical Society notes that bicyclists launched the Good Roads Movement in the 1880s, a campaign for quality roads. The auto industry joined the initiative in 1900.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Take a car to Yellowstone Park!

The Good Roads folks eventually mapped out what was known as the Yellowstone Trail; a road from Massachusetts to Puget Sound, WA. This crude road first connected Minneapolis to Gardiner, Montana in 1912, largely following the routes of established wagon trails.

Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images
Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images

Pavement couldn't come fast enough to Big Sky Country.

Historians wrote that in the 1920s Montana had some of the worst roads in the nation. Some would argue that little has changed. Early automobiles had narrow tires that dug deep into the dirt roads, leaving huge ruts even when it wasn't muddy, and the spinning friction of the wheels caused far more damage to the surface than horses and wagons.

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To make things even more difficult... snowplows weren't used in the Treasure State until the 1930s. From 1904 (when there were just seven automobiles in Montana) through the 1920s most Montana drivers would park their cars in the winter and revert to horses for transportation.

Seatbelts, not so much. Canva

The first hard surface road in Montana didn't happen until 1921. It was just nine miles of concrete between Butte and Anaconda according to this Montana Standard article. By 1928 there were 50 miles of paved highways in Montana and by 1941 Montana had just over 7,000 miles of paved roadways.

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Gallery Credit: Stephanie Gull

5 Of Montana's Best Road Trips

For those looking to hit the highway, Montana has over 70 thousand miles of open road and many of those roads lead to some of the most beautiful places in the world. If you love a good road trip and want to spend time with family or friends, here are 5 of the best Montana road trips.

Gallery Credit: Derek Wolf

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