As our wild places shrink, it becomes ever harder to find beautiful, yet remote backpacking destinations. With the combination of growing industralized cities and the impact of social media, getting out into nature and away from people and technology becomes harder and harder. There are places, though, where peace and quiet is readily available.
The four places below, in my opinion, are some of the most pristine locations that I have had the pleasure of backpacking into. There are plenty more places throughout the United States – like the Sierra Nevada’s in California – but I haven’t had a chance to explore those yet. The Wind River Range, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the San Juan National Forest (and surrounding areas), and the Sawtooth National Forest are an epic array of beauty, solitude, and wonder.
Most of these are tucked away from major metro areas, making them less populated than our National Parks. They are also harder to get into – rugged terrain, high elevations, many miles from any civilization. These remote backpacking destinations are not places for the average or casual hiker.
Remote Backpacking Destinations
Wind River Range
Nestled in the middle of Wyoming, the Wind River Range is still one of the few empty places in the US. The combination of it’s location and difficulty create a natural barrier from overpopulation of visitors. It however, is not immune from the world. Over the last decade, it has seen it’s popularity rise. Locals would surely tell you of the the increased stress on the land, but also the increased tourism dollars the wild places brings in.
The two best places for remote backpacking destionations in the WWR are Titcomb Basin and Cirque of the Towers. Both strenuous, a person with little experience backpacking should not try this as their first attempt. Don’t only look to these for inspiration, however. There’s an entire range with lakes and jagged peaks to be explored and one could surely spend years here before getting bored.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Outside of Seattle, this is the easiest place to get to, yet still has plenty of places allowing you to rid yourself of life’s daily vices. You can reach the Alpine Lakes wilderness multiple ways, both being about two hours from the city. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is home to the Enchantments – one of the most stunning places in this country. And due to that, it’s highly regulated and caps the number of people who can sleep here each night.
I can’t possibly name every location in this area, but search around on All Trails to find some truly incredible remote backpacking destinations.
San Juan National Forest
In the southwest corner of Colorado and 8 hours from any major metro area, sits the San Juan National Forest. A supremely stunning mountain range full of alpine lakes, it’s a place where dreams are made. Here, the peaks rise over 14,000 feet and backpacking destinations bring you over 12,000 – a elevation higher than over 75% of states. Due to an intricate road system, you can drive your car (or 4×4 in most cases) to incredible heights. This means that to reach summits or backcountry areas, your hike won’t necessarily be too far.
Three of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in this area are at most 4.5 miles long one way. The true battle you’ll face is elevation and that is one that only you will know how you’ll fare. If you do backpack here, understand mountains create their own weather, what the effects are of high elevation symptoms, and how you being there will impact an alpine tundra zone.
Sawtooth National Forest
Much more remote than the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but less so than the Wind River Range, the Sawtooth National Forest sits in the bottom third of Idaho. A long spine of jagged peaks and treasured lakes, this area is seriously one of the hidden gems in America. Not too many people travel to Idaho but when they do, I’m sure they are like me and have fallen in love.
With so much space and so few people, the remote backpacking destinations are truly endless and create the perception you are the only one there. I’d suggest Alice Lake and Saddleback Lakes for those going. These may be a bit more crowded but if you aim for a week day, I think you’ll be in nature heaven.
For three of these four (sorry Apline Lakes Wilderness), your night skies will be otherwordly, giving you a glimpse of the milky way our ancestors saw hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Soak it in and imagine what life would be without metro areas that span miles and miles.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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