I’ve always been interested in the state welcome signs you pass on the highway when you cross the border into a new state. On family trips when I was younger, I used to memorize the signs I knew were coming every time we crossed a state line. Since these formative years, I’ve expanded my travels westward, and I’ve grown fascinated with the different branding and colors and imagery that go into every sign. So for any road-trip planner out there, here are my favorites.
Montana went through a ‘rebrand’ a few years ago. Out are the classic, 1990s-style blue metal signs in the shape of the state, and in are these new colorful printed signs covered in state-related imagery. The signs differ from border crossing to border crossing. Depending on which side you enter form, you may get cowboys (like I did here), an elk, a lake or snow-topped mountains, among others.
For whatever reason, western states have really taken state welcome signs to a whole new level. While most eastern state signs could easily be overlooked as just another highway sign threatening you that the speed limit is "enforced by airplane," state welcome signs out west tend to feature brightly colored imagery and unique typefaces on massive, extravagant structures, some of which even incorporate wooden logs, cast iron, chains and stone bases. Take this Welcome to Colorado sign, for example — it’s just fun to look at.
There’s something about the simplicity and subtlety of the Nebraska sign that fits with the state. Even the slogan here, "… the good life," is humorously generic. Like many others, the Nebraska border signs differ depending on where you’re crossing: This one here, at a border shared with southern Wyoming, depicts Chimney Rock, near Scottsbluff, a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.
There isn’t a whole lot in Wyoming, and the "Welcome to Wyoming" sign manages to somehow make that appealing — it looks like it came straight out of the 1800s. Imagery of the Teton Mountain Range as seen from the Snake River Overlook serves as a backdrop to the massive ‘WYOMING’ wordmark shown in classic western font. Being a perpetual road-trip planner, I’ve taken every opportunity I could to drive through Wyoming in my travels over the past few years. The "Forever West" slogan sucked me in the first time I visited, and I’ve never once been happy about having to leave the great state of Wyoming on any of my visits since.
*Side Note: I just got back from yet another trip to Wyoming — these signs have been replaced!
For all of its quirks, the state of Utah has by far the best branding and tourism marketing in the country (and it doesn’t hurt that their ads feature a classic 60-Series Toyota Land Cruiser). Travelers are met with colorful signs at every border crossing. Depending on the region from which you enter, you may see imagery of a skier, the famed Delicate Arch, a dinosaur, Lake Powell, Zion National Park or even the Salt Lake City skyline if you’re making your entry via the airport. Utah’s "Life Elevated" slogan effectively describes the state as well, alluding to its rich geography and extreme adventure opportunities. A well-planned, cohesive effort, if there ever was one. So good, in fact, that I sold off all of my belongings and moved here. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He managed to work in the auto industry for a while without once crashing a corporate fleet vehicle. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.