Book Review: Motorcycling Montana, Beartooth Highway and Northern Rockies

A must-have for riding in Big Sky Country

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor
I’m proud to call the state of Montana my home. I moved here not only for the beautiful scenery in every direction, but also for the incredible and uncrowded riding roads. In my opinion, there are few roads in Montana that don’t offer picture-perfect views.

Motorcycling Montana Book Review State Border
I took this photo in 2003 while entering Montana along the western border. This was my second motorcycling tour of the state, one year before I became a resident.

WRN readers often ask me what they should see and where they should go when visiting Montana by motorcycle. I usually respond, “Montana is the fourth largest state—there’s so much to see and do that I could write a book!”

Well, fortunately one enterprising journalist who rides a motorcycle and lives in Montana did write a book. His name is Cole Boehler, and the book is called “Motorcycling Montana.” With three decades of riding and two decades of newspaper publishing under his belt, Cole is the perfect person to put this kind of guide together.
Motorcycling Montana book review cover
“Motorcycling Montana” is a motorcyclist’s bible for riding in Big Sky Country. The 500-page, spiral-bound, softcover book divides the state into six regions, offering plenty of options for motorcyclists new to riding in the area.

“Motorcycling Montana” organizes routes by dividing the state into six color-coded regions—the same region designations used by the Montana Tourism Department—providing a simple way of planning a trip to Montana. The six regions, each with distinctive characteristics, are Glacier Country, Russell Country, Missouri River Country, Custer Country, Yellowstone Country, and Gold West Country.

Motorcycling Montana book review Glacier
Montana is home to two of the top 10 designated scenic byways in the United States. One of these is Going to the Sun Road, the main route through Glacier National Park. I took this photo near a pull-off during a ride on this road.

Each region’s section starts out with an overview of things like demographics, economy, weather, laws, and the region’s history. That might be too much information for some riders, but as Cole explains in his introduction, excerpted below, every piece of information in the book was chosen for a reason:

What we don’t give you is tons of minutia. You won’t find mile-marker-to-mile-marker descriptions of every segment of every highway. We have seen motorcycle guides like that and have showed them to fellow riders who all wail, ‘Too much detail!’ We do give you the important information you need to make good basic decisions, but allow you to discover the intimate details on your own, which is an essential part of the touring experience in our view.
I like this approach to touring. I think following a step-by-step travel map written by someone else takes too much time away from enjoying and discovering the ride on your own. That’s why you won’t find those kinds of touring stories on WRN, either.
Motorcycling Montana book review Yellowstone Country
“Motorcycling Montana” is filled with color photos of motorcycles in the state, so there’s no question that this author and his contributors have ridden these routes.

When you arrive in Montana, a sense of exploration and adventure comes over you. It’s the same feeling that the original explorers had when they journeyed to the territory in search of gold and other natural resources 150 years ago. The route guides in “Motorcycling Montana” allow riders to experience that sense of exciting self-discovery. In my opinion, that’s what makes a motorcycling trip so exciting.

There are some gems in my neck of the woods, Yellowstone Country, near Yellowstone National Park, and I was curious to see if Cole included them in that section in his book. Indeed, he did. For example, one of the top 10 designated scenic drives in the United States is the Beartooth Highway, located in Yellowstone Country and a day ride from my home. One of the roads leading there is Highway 78, which goes through the towns of Absarokee and Roscoe. If there weren’t so many amazing roads to choose from in this area, I’d say Highway 78 is my favorite road in Montana, so I was pleased to see that Cole highlighted it as the route to access the Beartooth Highway from Interstate 90, as opposed to the more popular and heavily traveled Highway 212 out of Billings. That’s just what a motorcycling guide is supposed to do—steer you away from the crowded access routes and onto lightly traveled roads with winding pavement and the kind of scenery that makes you gasp every time you round a corner.
Motorcycling Montana book review Shields Valley
Here I am on Highway 89 in the breathtaking, wide-open Shields Valley with the Crazy Mountains behind me. The Montana roads I used to vacation on, like this one, are now right out my front door.

Each region’s section ends with a subsection called “Gravel and Alternatives,” aimed at riders who want to ride off the beaten path (literally). These routes include frontage roads, gravel routes, and roads with few services.

This first edition of “Motorcycling Montana” was published in 2011, with a second printing in 2012. You’ll find advertisements in the book, but the businesses are relevant and helpful for planning a trip to the area. I wasn’t bothered by the ads—in fact, I discovered a few shops I want to visit.
Cole writes in a conversational tone that makes you feel like you’re getting advice from a friend. And really, that’s what Montana is all about—friendly hospitality, strangers waving to each other, and absolutely stunning scenery all around.
“Motorcycling Montana”costs $29.95 and is well worth it for all the valuable information you’ll find packed inside. Visit to order.

Please note that the photos of me used in this article are not in the book. I simply included them to show you some photos from my Montana road trips, including routes that are featured in the book.

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3 thoughts on Book Review: Motorcycling Montana, Beartooth Highway and Northern Rockies

  1. Hi Genevieve, I have been reading for about three years. I am a widow for four years now and all my kids are gone with their own families. I have a small hay/milk goat farm. I lived in southeast Colorado for many years. I met my husband when I moved back home to Florida, and he taught me how to ride at age 47, and I still ride the bike he bought for me, a Yamaha V Star Cruiser 650. I ride it each year down to my grandson’s birthday near Davie, Fla. I am proud to say I ride the interstates all the way there. I have traveled Montana, and each time I read of you and Betsy I get homesick. So I am going to sell my place and move to Montana, hopefully. I am now 55 years old and still ride.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sheila. I say, you only live once and if you don’t have a lot of ties to one place (or even if you do) go where your heart is called and where soul feels alive. All my family lives back east, in Florida and Massachusetts—I have lots of siblings, a big Italian family—yet I choose to live in the wide open spaces of “God’s country” because that is where my heart sings. There are trade-offs to everything you do, everywhere you live. We must figure out what compromises we can live with, and ones that we cannot.

  2. Hi Genevieve, I have read this article many times and just ordered the book “Motorcycling Montana.” We were out in Montana in 2012 and rode Route 78 from Red Lodge to the little town of Fishtail. Stopped in the General Store there and carved our names in the picnic table with the million-plus other folks who stopped in there. We are heading back out to Montana and to Oregon in July of this year, so I can’t wait to get the book and look up some new places to venture to. Thanks for Women Riders Now as it keeps me sane through the long winter months.

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