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What’s the Most Remote Place in the USA?

Deep canyons of the Main Salmon river
Olivier Fecteau/Shutterstock

Sometimes you just want to get away from, well, everyone. If you’re in the United States of America, that’s a pretty easy task—there are gorgeous National Parks and wilderness areas scattered across the entire country. But what if you wanted to really get away—what’s the most remote you could get? Let’s find out.

But first, let’s talk about what we mean by remote. There are a few different projects that have attempted to find the most remote places in America, including Project Remote and the Washington Post using data from the Malaria Atlas Project. They’ve all used different definitions of remote, so the exact answers change a bit, but they converge on the same general places.

Project Remote went for really remote. They’ve tried to find (and visit) the “point that is the farthest straight-line distance from a road or an otherwise isolated human settlement.” In most states, it’s not actually that far; only an average of 6.6 miles from a road and 1.05 miles from a designated trail.

The Malaria Atlas Project was more interested in travel time than physical proximity as befits an organization concerned with providing health services around the world. They crunched a load of data to work out how long it would take you, on average, to travel between any square kilometer on the earth “based on its transportation types, vegetation, slope, elevation, and more.” That’s the data the Washington Post used.

Also, there’s one more definition we’ll look at. But that won’t be relevant for a while yet. So, let’s find out, where’s the most remote spot in the USA?

Answer: Alaska

Look, the answer is Alaska. You knew that; I knew that. Alaska is a beast apart when it comes to the wilderness. But that’s a boring answer, so instead, we’re going to focus on the Lower 48 (because Hawaii is also really remote from the rest of the US).

Now, let’s get on to the fun answers.

The Most Remote Town

The most remote town in the contiguous United States of America (with several caveats) is…Glasgow, Montana. This small town of fewer than 4,000 people is over four and a half hours drive from the nearest metropolitan area: Billings, Montana.

The Post defined a town as somewhere with more than 1,000 residents and a metro area as somewhere with more than 75,000 residents, so, if you wanted to re-run their extensive analysis with slightly tweaked numbers, you might get a somewhat different result. But for now, I’m giving the crown to Glasgow.

Either way, it’s a tiny town in the middle of absolutely nothing. I can guarantee your ex won’t have any friends there.

The Most Remote Spot

If it’s people you’re trying to get away from, then you need to head away from towns, no matter how small, and out into the wilderness. Here though, we’ve got a bit of competition.

Project Remote and the Washington Post’s runner-up were both in the same general area: near Yellowstone in Wyoming. Project Remote found a spot in the park that was 21.6 miles from the nearest road—the furthest possible in the Lower 48. It took them a week to hike the 75 miles in. However, even there, they were only half a mile uphill from a cabin and trail. The Post instead highlighted Shoshone National Forest, which is just to the east of Yellowstone. You might be able to find something further from a cabin there.

But, if you want really remote, I think the Washington Post’s top pick is probably going to do it. While it’s 17.6 miles from the nearest road, according to Project Remote, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho is a nightmare to get in and out of. And much less popular than Yellowstone.

Grab a canoe, and you’ll really get away from it all.

But What About the World?

Point Nemo

The USA is big and pretty barren, especially compared to super built-up areas like Western Europe, but it’s not the remotest place in the world by any stretch. For that, we have to look further afield—and out to see.

On land, it’s hard to be genuinely far from other people. Once you take the vast oceans into account, however, you can really get away from it all.

The most remote town in the world is Edinburgh of the Seven Seas on Tristan da Cunha (that it’s also named after a Scottish city is entirely a coincidence). The 250 or so people live 1,350 miles from the nearest other human settlement, St. Helena, 1,511 miles from the coast of South Africa, and 2,166 miles from the Falkland Islands. Put simply, it’s slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic—with nothing else around. The only way out is by boat.

But still, even in Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, there are people around. If you want to get as far away from other humans as possible, you need to set sail for Point Nemo in the South Pacific. It’s far away from regular shipping lanes and aviation routes, and over 1,600 miles from the nearest land. If you were there, the closest other humans would sometimes be the astronauts in the International Space Station, 250 miles overhead. Now that’s what I call remote.

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like the New York Times and on a variety of other websites, including Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »