Despite the continuous development in America, there is an enormous amount of untouched wilderness remaining, thanks to national parks and other conservation efforts. The continent-spanning size of the United States makes it home to multiple ecosystems. Mountains, deserts, grasslands and several types of forest can all be found in the contiguous 48 states.
Here are three of the best places to experience the deep wilderness as untouched as possible, in several different biomes. These places do have one major thing in common, though: they are truly remote and each has its dangers. Make sure you are fully prepared and can stay in touch with civilization by bringing a satellite phone with you.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There is a reason Great Smoky Mountains are the most popular American national park: It’s home to one of the most beautiful and untouched deciduous forests in existence. The park covers over half a million acres of the southern Appalachian Mountains along the Tennessee/North Carolina border. The forest is so thick that a haze forms above the canopy from moisture and hydrocarbons released by the trees, which is what gives the Smoky Mountains their name.
Over nine million people visit every year, but you wouldn’t know that from the trails; the park is so large you might never see another person. Instead you can take in the purified air of the deep woods where you can find over a hundred species of native trees. In fact, the Smoky Mountains are home to some flowering plants that grow nowhere else in the world. Wildlife is also abundant, including bears, so make sure you’re aware of your surroundings at all times!
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Named Oka Fenoke (“waters shaking”) by the Creek tribe of Native Americans, the Okefenokee Swamp is also called the Land of the Trembling Earth. Located at the border of Florida and Georgia, these stunning 400,000 acre wetlands are home to a huge variety of plants and wildlife. Birds fill the cypress forests and alligators swim between floating islands of peat. The refuge boasts boardwalks, canoe trails, and remote camping areas with no light pollution.
The Okefenokee is not really a swamp but rather a type of peat bog that must undergo occasional wildfires to remain healthy. The last fire was in 2011 and burned more than 75% of the refuge, but the ecosystem has fully recovered as part of its natural life cycle. It is one of the few wilderness areas that defeated all attempts at development and so it remains pristine. Exploring among such rich, primeval beauty will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the age of dinosaurs.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is more than just a forbidding desert— although it is very forbidding indeed. This is one place you should absolutely not visit until you are completely prepared with knowledge, supplies, and a means to get help. Scorching heat and trackless wastes can cause Death Valley to live up to its name. You may think you can avoid the heat by visiting in the winter, and you can, but you will be trading it for frigid temperatures that have been known to drop as low as 15 degrees F.
That being said, Death Valley is home to some truly unique scenery that will stick in your mind forever. Scrubland, salt flats, oases and peaks combine into a vision of what seems to be an alien planet. Desert plants and wildlife are abundant in some areas, while others are devoid of most life. Even these “dead” areas are home to beauty and mystery, like sand that sings and rocks witnessed to move on their own, both due to complex environmental conditions. Nothing about this place is forgettable, not even a simple sand dune.
These are by no means all of the remote wilderness areas in the United States; there are many more untouched places with their own unique qualities. Now that we’ve piqued your interest with three very different locations, you may want to start planning an eventual trip! Don’t forget that we strongly recommend you carry a satellite phone when journeying away from civilization, as even the most careful explorer can experience a turn of bad fortune. For traveling the U.S.A. you will be best off with the Iridium or Inmarsat networks as their global coverage includes all 50 states.
Have fun and be safe!