The Best Remote Vacation Spot in Every State
Sometimes the best vacations are the ones that don't just allow us to get away from home, but to get away from other people as well. Luckily, we Americans live in a sprawling country full of remote wilderness areas and other escapes from modern civilization. The next time you're craving an escape, wherever you live, consider checking out these sublimely isolated destinations.
Believed to be the nation's longest alpine river, the deceptively named Little River winds through the top of northern Alabama's Lookout Mountain for 12 miles, creating spectacular bluffs and scenic views that change color dramatically by the season. Whether you're just driving the Little River Canyon Parkway or stopping to camp, see waterfalls, or climb boulders at Mushroom Rock, the 15,000-acre wilderness makes for a lovely visit.
It isn't hard to find remote places in America's largest state, but Adak Island is hard to get to even by Alaskan standards. Among the westernmost Aleutian Islands, Adak has a population of just over 300, is covered in snow throughout most of the year, and can only be reached by a biweekly Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage. The town of Adak has several lodging options, and the island itself offers incomparable opportunities for hunting, fishing, and birdwatching.
Located deep within the Grand Canyon, Supai Village has been home to the Havasupai Tribe since 1300 A.D. and is today known as the most remote village in the continental U.S. Visitors must compete for overnight reservations and travel 8 difficult miles by foot or by mule before reaching the breathtaking town rimmed by red canyons and fed by the turquoise Havasu Falls.
Thanks to development throughout the Southeast, this wildlife refuge in southern Arkansas ranks as the world's largest green tree reservoir, meaning the 65,000-acre hardwood forest becomes flooded in fall and winter. Campgrounds and lodging are available in the town of Felsenthal, but the best way to explore the wetlands is by boat to fish, birdwatch, and find Native American archaeological sites.
For a glimpse into California's Gold Rush past, look no farther than the ghost town of Bodie east of the Sierra Nevadas, maintained as a historic park in a state of "arrested decay" with even building interiors still stocked with goods. One of the Golden State's budget-travel gems, the once-booming mining town costs only $8 to visit and is accessible only by a 13-mile dirt road, with lodging available in nearby Bridgeport.
Unlike many of the state's other ski towns, Crested Butte has managed to hang on to its remoteness, thanks mostly to its dizzying 12,000-foot elevation and location within Gunnison National Forest. The area offers a walkable mountain town and a distinguished ski resort on the mountain's opposite side, not to mention the limitless options for outdoor recreation in summer.
It's not as easy finding remoteness in a state linking the metropolitan areas of Boston and New York City, but the Canaan Mountain Natural Area in northwest Connecticut boasts 2,000 acres of remote Berkshire forest teeming with rocky summits, streams, and wildlife. Lodging can be found in nearby towns such as Falls Village along the Appalachian Trail.
There's little else but water, marshes, and migratory birds in the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, featuring a 12-mile wildlife drive, boardwalks, dirt trails, and the occasional 30-foot observation tower for visitors. The sights and critters in these mid-Atlantic wetlands change seasonally, so check ahead to see what animals may be out when you visit. Dover offers the best options for lodging nearby.
Canoers and kayakers generally take at least eight days to paddle through Everglades National Park's Wilderness Waterway trail, which requires permits to explore. Only for experienced boaters, the area is a maze of mangrove creeks connecting two parks' visitor centers 99 miles apart, with campsites in between including beach sites, ground sites, and "chickees," which are elevated wooden platforms with roofs.
The largest wildlife refuge outside of the western states, the Okefenokee Swamp is a 400,000-acre refuge from human civilization especially notable for its populations of amphibians, reptiles, and also endangered species like gopher tortoises and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Visitors can explore the area for the day by car, bike, motorboat or canoe, or stay overnight in one of the creekside camp shelters.
Though just a 15-minute flight from Oahu, Moloka'i Island remains beautifully undeveloped, with no traffic lights or buildings taller than a palm tree and a population of mostly Native Hawaiians. In terms of sights, here visitors can find the world's highest sea cliffs and longest fringing reef, as well as go trekking through the rainforest waterfalls and sacred ancient sites of the Halawa Valley. (Pro tip: Check out these genius moves for seeing the Island State on a budget.)
There's no shortage of remote wilderness in this Rocky Mountain state with more peaks over 10,000 feet (and fewer tourists) than any other, but the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area stands above as the largest such federal area outside Alaska. Visitors to this rugged, 2.4-million acre backcountry must endure a week's worth of hiking to reach whitewater rapids, steep mountains, and river canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Visitors to this southern Illinois natural area can explore thousands of acres of Ozark wilderness in between tasting-room trips along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Aside from wineries, there are options for rustic cabin lodging and forest trails including the locally famous Little Grand Canyon.
Nicknamed the "Little Smokies," Indiana's most visited state park still has plenty of room to get off the grid within its 16,000 acres of rolling hills and color-changing deciduous forests. Visitors come for the fall foliage, fishing, and horseback riding opportunities and can stay at the rustic Abe Martin Lodge or in several cabins and campgrounds constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Amana Colonies were first settled by a persecuted sect of German immigrants called Pietists, who developed seven self-sufficient, culturally distinct villages founded on handicrafts and Old World agriculture techniques. Today, the colony is a National Historic Landmark popular with tourists for its many independent artisan shops, hearty food, and intimate B&Bs.
A fraction of the tallgrass prairies that once dominated the North American continent can still be explored at this national preserve, served by a 15-mile gravel road and more than 40 backcountry trails. Visitors can search for roving bison herds in the daytime and lodge at ranches or B&Bs in nearby Strong City.
Spanning into northern Tennessee, this park encompasses the Cumberland River and its tributaries, which have carved the surrounding rocks over millennia to create dramatic gorges, bluffs, natural bridges, and hoodoos. There are five car-accessible campgrounds within Big South Fork, as well as numerous opportunities for kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and whitewater rafting.
One of the most remote places in the continental U.S. and a recent landing point for tropical storms, Cocodrie is a tiny unincorporated fishing village amidst the marshes of southern Louisiana's swampy Terrebonne Parish. There's not much to do here except eat at the marina restaurants or charter a boat to catch your own Gulf Coast fish, shrimp, and crab.
Take a ferry 12 nautical miles from the mainland to reach Monhegan, a nationally preserved rocky island little more than a mile in area with just over 60 full-time residents. More numerous are the visitors, who can check out the local art galleries, hike the grassy coastal hills, and go lobstering with help from the harborside fish house.
This small Chesapeake Bay island has been getting smaller due to erosion, so visit while you still can via the passenger-only ferries from Point Lookout or Reedville, Virginia. Settled by the British in the 17th century, Smith Island is a great place to fish or birdwatch and retains its own distinct culture, including a regional dialect and delicious culinary specialties like soft-shell crab and the eight-layered Smith Island cake.
Sometimes an island and sometimes a peninsula depending on the shifting sands, Monomoy is an 8-mile sandbar at the southern elbow of Cape Cod teeming with migratory birds, sand dunes, and fresh and saltwater marshes. The best way to explore is by one of the ferries from Chatham, which let visitors see marine wildlife as well as an abandoned Monomoy fishing village.
It costs $32 per adult and takes two hours to ferry to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, a tourist destination with a rich history of Mormon and then Irish settlers. Throughout the year, visitors here can enjoy kayaking the Beaver Island water trail, hike miles of scenic coastline and trails to inland lakes, or stay out late for a glimpse of the northern lights.
The best thing to do in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is, well, canoe. The rugged, waterlogged area straddling the Canadian border contains a vast network of boreal forests and glacially carved bogs as well as 12 hiking trails and more than 2,000 campsites. For real remoteness, visit in winter for ice-fishing or dog-mushing across the million-plus acre wilderness.
Part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Petit Bois Island can only be reached by private boat, and therefore remains a premier location for catching sight of rare wildlife, especially birds. Once there, visitors can set up primitive camps on level beaches at no charge and appreciate the island's unspoiled coastal environment and dark skies.
Spanning 29 counties and encompassing more than one-tenth of all the state's forested area, this national forest is a sprawling complex of canopied Ozark wilderness noted for the large Greer Spring and panoramic views along the Glade Top Trail National Scenic Byway. There are 350 miles of streams for kayaking and 750 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, or biking, plus wilderness camps to stay overnight.
Typically, the only ones who make it to this far-north district of Glacier National Park are backpackers on the Continental Divide Trail and Canadians ferried over the border from an adjoining national park. Book a guided overnight hike or buy backcountry permits before setting off to see the area's dramatic mountain scenery.
This region of mixed-grass prairie accounts for more than a quarter of all land in Nebraska, so there's plenty of room to escape human civilization in favor of wetlands wilderness where wild turkeys, badgers, coyotes, and many more rare species roam. Catch glimpse of the preserved ecosystem all along the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, or for a more in-depth exploration, camp near the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
There are no paved roads within 20 miles of Jarbidge, an old mining town remote even by the standards of northeastern Nevada. About a dozen residents remain to run the town's visitor facilities like a hotel and trading post, and the town is encircled by 65,000 mountainous acres of the Jarbidge Wilderness Area ideal for backcountry exploration.
Occupying a vast corridor of northern New Hampshire, Pittsburg is technically New England's largest town, but it's more famous as an ATV and snowmobile destination, with state- and club-funded trails spanning into Maine, Vermont, and Canada. Non-thrill seekers visiting Pittsburg can still enjoy scenic covered bridges, camping, fly fishing, and mountains vistas like the fire tower on Mount Magalloway.
Though still within sight of the Atlantic City skyline, this roadless tidal wetland is one of the most active flyways for migratory birds in North America, and shuts down to visitor use during nesting season, from mid-April to July. At other times of the year, visitors can reach the area by boat or explore other areas of the larger Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge by car or foot trail.
It's easy to get lost amidst the 275 square miles of shifting white gypsum sands at this New Mexico landmark, renowned for hiking, horseback riding, or even sledding down the dunes. Lodging is available in nearby Alamogordo and Las Cruces, or you can obtain a cheap permit to camp in the backcountry under the monument's breathtakingly dark skies.
Within Adirondack Park, a vast but much-visited region of mountains in upstate New York, this wilderness area boasts the state's confirmed most remote point, more than 5 miles from the nearest road. The area is also popular for rock climbing, cross-country skiing, and paddling along the Adirondack Canoe Route, while nearby resorts towns like Lake Placid offer more manmade amenities.
Though the deserted fishing village of Portsmouth Island may be more remote, Ocracoke actually has enough facilities to accommodate an overnight stay, and a nice one at that. Accessible by three public ferries, the harbor village comes alive in the warmer seasons and is surrounded by scenic Atlantic dunes and salt marshes. It also has one of the best beaches in the America.
Medora is a town of just over 100 people within the Little Missouri National Grassland and serves as the southern gateway to the Badlands and strange rock formations of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The town has a rich history tied to the 26th president reflected in its evocative Old West architecture and an annual musical revue.
This region degraded in the 18th and 19th centuries due to poor timbering and agricultural practices, but today the land is preserved and reforested as Ohio's only national forest, open from April through December and featuring 600 miles of trails accessible by foot, bike, horseback, and ATV. There are popular camping areas in the forest and more-sophisticated options in Athens.
Once a favored bison hunting ground for Native Americans, this flat, white geological marvel is now a national wildlife refuge supporting more than 300 species of birds and 30 mammal species. Visitors can take driving tours or extended hikes along the near-featureless plain, dotted with animal tracks and ruins of an old military bombing range.
Within the Willamette National Forest near Portland, this worker-owned co-op and retreat destination boasts remoteness in terms of geography and technology, as they restrict internet and phone service. Reservations are required to visit for the day or stay overnight at this self-sufficient resort, whose other unique offerings include organic vegetarian meals, daily well-being programs, hikes into the surrounding wilderness, and clothing-optional hot spring soaking.
This 30,253-acre wild area is the largest roadless area in Pennsylvania, but visitors can view some of the state's most mature pine forests along eight named hiking trails, which follow old railroads used for logging in past centuries. Primitive and car camping areas abound in the surrounding Susquehannock State Forest, as do recreational opportunities for mountain biking, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding.
Named one of the Western Hemisphere's 12 "Last Great Places" by the Nature Conservancy, Block Island is both a wildlife hotspot and popular summer tourism destination 13 miles south of the Rhode Island mainland. Block Island's 1,000-person population may triple during the Fourth of July parade and other annual events, while more than half the island remains protected for plants and animals that disappeared from other parts of New England decades ago. A year-round ferry connects the island to Point Judith, with summer-only service also from Newport, New London, and Montauk.
Traveling by boat is the only way to access most of this national wildlife refuge, made up of salt marshes and barrier islands whose only signs of human civilization are historic lighthouses. The largest is Bull Island, which contains the waterlogged forest of Boneyard Beach and can be accessed by regular tours or a $40 ferry from Charleston or Myrtle Beach.
There are two parts to South Dakota's stunning Badlands National Park: one, the fields of sharply eroded rock pinnacles, and two, the nation's largest undisturbed stretch of grass prairie. Paved and unpaved hiking trails let day-trippers see the park's many geological marvels and large mammals, while front and backcountry camping is available in remote areas to get even closer.
With the Appalachian wildlands of Great Smoky Mountains National Park often inundated with tourists, plan a trip to Cherokee National Forest in the north instead, where you'll find similar wildlife and natural sights without the crowds. There are high-end resorts and primitive campsites alike, as well as recreational opportunities for trout fishing in the forest's many stocked streams and rivers.
One of the nation's least-visited national parks is also among its most stunning, encompassing more than 800,000 acres of desert flora and fauna, archaeological sites, and Rio Grande-sculpted canyons along the Mexican border. Local outfitters and lodging options in the nearby town of Terlingua help visitors explore the solitary mountain range by foot, bike, car, or canoe.
It's easy to find remoteness in the patchwork of national parks that is southern Utah, but Amangiri offers much the same solitude and red rock vistas in a more luxe, privately owned environment. Straddling the unsettled Arizona border at Canyon Point, the five-star resort features modernist accommodations overlooking untouched miles of southwestern desert and makes a great home base for exploring nearby protected areas like Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.
This area of rolling northern Appalachians protects a large portion of its remote state from further human development, and there are plenty of campsites or remote rural hamlets to house visitors between hikes. For a memorable overnight stay, try booking one of the Green Mountain Club's affordable, though primitive cabins on the nationally designated Long Trail.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests combine to create one of the largest swaths of protected land in the nation in Virginia's mountainous western portion. Beyond thousands of acres of old growth forest and the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, the parks also include the state's highest peak at the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, where visitors can stay in rental cabins, horse camps, or traditional campsites.
This summertime resort of floating cabins sits on a 23-mile long alpine lake within the uncrowded North Cascades National Park. Of course, visitors can also forego the unique resort and hike or kayak along Ross Lake's considerable length, dotted with backcountry campgrounds all the way to the Canadian border.
Green Bank isn't especially far from other towns, but it's spectacularly isolated in terms of radio signals. Transmissions are heavily restricted within the area's National Radio Quiet Zone, which means many people come here to escape their alleged suffering from a little-understood phenomenon called electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Aside from exploring the scenic Appalachian surroundings, most visitor activities center around the renowned Green Bank Observatory and science center.
These 21 islands just off the Bayfield Peninsula in Lake Superior are best known for their windswept fields, sandstone sea caves, historic lighthouses, and well-preserved wildlife habitats. The only island not included in the national lakeshore is Madeline Island, which visitors can reach by ferry and use as an overnight launching point to explore its more remote neighbors offering primitive campsites and overnight mooring for a small fee.
Wyoming is home to the most remote mainland spot in the continental U.S., located somewhat counter-intuitively within the larger confines of the well-traveled Yellowstone National Park. Get away from the crowds by visiting in winter or better yet, hiking along Yellowstone Lake to reach the park's roadless southeastern corridor.
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