by Emma Hickey
The average American spends 5.9 hours a day consuming digital media via cell phones, computers, and streaming services. The internet is a blessing! It connects people in a way that we’ve never before been connected and it democratizes information by making it widely accessible. That being said, the internet is also a curse. Humans aren’t built to be connected to each other in such a constant way. It can also distract us from our immediate worlds and in the year of 2018 you don’t need me to tell you it can also spread false ideas and tribalist mentalities. Every sword is doubled-edged, after all.
Sometimes, you just need to unplug. Maybe you need time in nature, away from technology. Maybe you don’t care about nature, you just want a relaxing vacation where people can’t contact you. Maybe you want to spend more time with your family in a place that requires everyone to be present. It’s harder than you think in today’s hyper-connected world. The internet and cell phone coverage stretches far and wide across the US, but there are still a few pockets without it. Take a look at these 5 vacation destinations in the US (and one in Mexico that picks you up in the US!) where you can truly get off the grid.
Green Bank, West Virginia
In the mountains close to the eastern border of West Virginia sits a town called Green Bank, where nearly every kind of wireless connectivity is prohibited. That’s right, not only is there no wifi, you’re also not allowed to have cell phones, cordless phones, garage door openers or remote controlled cars. Green Bank is located inside of the National Radio Quiet Zone, which was created in the 1950’s to protect telescopes from the interference of electromagnetic waves. Today, Green Bank is home to the world’s largest steerable radio telescope, and “scientists from around the globe use the telescope to explore the universe, searching for signs of extraterrestrial life.” Green Bank is the perfect town to visit if you want a true escape from electromagnetic fields, and the technological devices that spread them, of all kinds.
Sequoia National Park, CA
The National Park Service maintains over 84 million acres of land across the United States, so it’s no wonder cell phone service doesn’t cover all of them. Of course there’s poor cell phone service at the bottom of Badwater Basin in Death Valley, at the base of the Grand Canyon, or on the backcountry trails of Yosemite. Still, the lodges and tourist centers at these parks typically have cell phone service and wifi. However, that is not the case at the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park. There’s no cell phone coverage there and while there is limited wifi, they do mean limited. You can access the internet in a common area only and the bandwidth doesn’t allow for downloading or streaming. If you’re not up for camping but still want the disconnectivity of it all, check out Wuksachi Lodge.
Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico
Located about 1.5 hours north of Santa Fe and 1.5 hours south of the Colorado border is Ghost Ranch, a 21,000 acre ranch, education and retreat center. Ghost Ranch’s greatest claim to fame is as a muse for Georgia O’Keeffe, the famous American painter who lived on the ranch’s property and painted its landscape more than she painted anything else. The ranch is also a paleontological hotbed with many active fossil dig sites in its borders. While two buildings on the ranch have wifi—the cafeteria and the library—it’s otherwise a wireless deadzone with no cell phone coverage and one payphone. As long as you avoid logging online at the library or cafeteria, you’ll be completely unplugged at Ghost Ranch. Plus, while you’re hiking O’Keeffe’s famous Chimney Rock, riding horses through the high desert terrain, or walking one of Ghost Ranch’s labyrinths, you’ll forget to miss the outside world.
Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park
Acoustic ecologist and professional sound recordist Gordon Hempton wrote a book called One Square Inch of Silence in which he searches for a place free of human noise. It sounds easier than it is. Hempton specifically defined his goal as finding a place with “no audible human noise intrusions of any kind for a minimum of 15 minutes.” He drives across the country looking for such a place that fits his criteria, and in the end he only finds one—the Hoh Rainforest inside Olympic National Park. If you’re looking to disconnect not only from technology, but also from humanity, a camping trip in the Hoh Rainforest may be for you.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in America. It spans both Tennessee and North Carolina, with the majority of tourists visiting the Tennessee side. The North Carolina side, with its Welcome center based in Cherokee, has just as much to offer in terms of natural beauty but there are far less people. Like all National Parks, the cell phone coverage is spotty once you’re inside, so if it’s a total break from the world you’re looking for, make sure to visit the less-populated North Carolina side instead of the Tennessee side.
Rancho Los Baños in Sonora, Mexico
If you have an American phone plan, once you go outside the bounds of the country it’s much easier to find places to unplug simply because your cell phone provider probably doesn’t extend that far or because you don’t want to pay the exorbitant international fees. Still, if even you’re not plugged in while traveling, you’re probably surrounded by people who are. Not at Rancho Los Baños along the Sierra Madre mountain range in Sonora, Mexico, which is a working dude ranch. All electricity at Rancho Los Baños is provided by solar power, and there is no cell phone service, wifi or internet. There’s also transportation to the ranch from Phoenix, Arizona, making is an easy-to-get-to out of country experience.