Ever feel like you need to escape the cell phones, traffic jams, and pollution of modern life if only for a weekend? Have you dreamed of having a hidden lake, stream, mountain, or island all to yourself? Well, you’re not the only one with such longings, but luckily for you there are plenty of options in the American West where you can quietly commune with nature, sometimes not seeing another person for days. While Yosemite and the Grand Canyon might be filled with tourists spoiling your solitude, here are five options where you can escape both civilization and the crowds of better-known parks or wilderness areas.
The High Uintas Wilderness tucked in the corner of Utah just below Wyoming is a few hours drive from Salt Lake City, but worlds apart. Go late in the season and you can watch Table Top Mountain reflected on the mirrored surface of Grass Lake (left) in total solitude.
Channel Islands National Park is located a short boat ride from Southern California, but is still one of the state's least visited locations. Composed of a string of distinct islands, they offer plenty of opportunities for isolated camping, hiking, and wildlife watching. Some places, like Potato Harbor on Santa Cruz Island, can only be accessed by boat.
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary protects nearly 1500 acres of underwater kelp forests and marine life surrounding the national park's four northern islands. There are endless opportunities for diving, snorkeling, kayaking, exploring undersea shipwrecks, and more.
Great Basin National Park is so isolated, it's the least visited national park in the continental United States. It rises from the barren surrounding desert several hours from Las Vegas, and visitors can explore caverns, climb mountains, touch a glacier, and see some of the oldest trees on the planet. Wheeler Peak, the second tallest mountain in the state, looms over Stella Lake, and can be summited in less than a day.
To really explore Great Basin National Park, strap on your pack and go exploring the backcountry. A little over five miles of hiking will lead you to Baker Lake nestled within a glacial cirque. Be sure to camp on the northern side of the lake, though, to avoid any unexpected rocks falling down the steep southern and western walls. The hiking loop also includes Johnson Lake and remnants of the since-abandoned mining operations in the area.
We've left the most isolated place for last. The Jarbidge Wilderness is located in northern Nevada just south of the Idaho border, but you won't regret the hour's journey over graded dirt roads to get there. The area features miles of hiking trails through unspoiled mountains and valleys. Don't be surprised if you're alone on the trails for days on end.
Services like food and very basic lodging are available in the nearby town Jarbidge, but the town is as small and isolated as the wilderness area sharing its name. And in case you were wondering, Jarbidge (not Jar-bridge, by the way) is a bastardization of the Shoshone language word for devil. The town has only around 100 or so permanent residents, so you won’t feel too crowded even when you come down from the mountain.