Do I need a GPS to hike the Montana Trail 406?
Increasingly, modern smartphones are used by MT406 hikers as their GPS units. Smartphones can provide inexpensive alternatives to stand-alone GPS.
If you choose not carry a GPS-enabled device on the MT406, then you will need strong map reading, route-finding and compass skills.
A combination of both paper maps and a GPS-equipped smartphone with the OnX Backcountry App is highly recommended and very important for the particularly challenging sections of trail. Other popular apps include: All Trails, Gaia, Avenza, and Topomaps can be used with the GPX data for each section downloaded from the MT406 Website.
Always keep in mind the failure modes of any technology: batteries become depleted, screens crack, water can cause damage, and devices can simply fail without warning. The MT406 Association recommends you outfit yourself with a combination of back-up navigation tools.
While a GPS-enabled device is not essential to enjoy the MT406, it can aid navigation by verifying ‘point position’ in confusing areas of trail, such as the intersections of forest roads. Additional digital maps can also be downloaded to your device which show a larger area than that shown on the MT406 maps, which can be useful to plan an emergency egress from trail, or to simply identify distant mountain peaks, all without adding to one’s ‘carried weight’ burden.