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25 Family Destinations That Redefine Unplugged

Epic adventure spots where the families thrive and cellphones go to die.

Erin Thiem

Peace, quiet, and beautiful landscapes — these are the things that make the best family vacations. Clearly, group texts, work emails, and even ’grammable moments detract from the experience. And yet, with annoying consistency, they creep in to spoil the vacation. The best way to get rid of the interruptions once and for all lies in the choice of venue. These 25 remote locales around the U.S. offer a true technology detox, thanks to at-best spotty cellphone service for miles around, paired with grand adventures like fossil hunting, mountain biking, off-roading, and stargazing. So pack up, turn off your phones, and get ready for a great, uninterrupted family adventure.

Ellijay, Georgia

Mulberry Gap, in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, has no cell coverage but miles of singletrack to keep mountain bikers busy. If biking isn’t your thing, choose from swimming holes, you-pick farms, and hiking trails. Stay in one of 10 cabins or pitch a tent on site (camping from $19, cabins from $65) and enjoy family-style, home-cooked meals in a barn.

Nearest civilization: The town of Ellijay, 12 miles away.

Off-road alert: Nearby Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has the most Forest Service roads designated for Motor Vehicle Use in the state.

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Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

There’s a tiny bit of cellphone coverage in an upper cabin at Alpine Lakes High Camp, but the majority of the property has no service. Stay in one of nine A-frame cabins (from $150) neighboring the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and spend your winter days cross-country or downhill skiing (Stevens Pass ski area isn’t far away) or your summer days hiking, mountain biking, and lake swimming. Due to rough, rugged roads, leave your car and they’ll shuttle you eight miles into camp.

Nearest civilization: The Bavarian town of Leavenworth, 18 miles away.

Best place to catch brook trout: Chiwaukum Lake.

Green Bank, West Virginia

Wireless devices aren’t allowed in Green Bank, which is located within the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area home to the world’s biggest radio telescope, which is sensitive to cellphone interference. Visit the Green Bank Observatory to check out the telescope and learn about radio astronomy. Rent one of four cabins at Shalimar Farm (from $100), a 700-acre working horse and cattle farm with riding trails out your door.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 213 miles.

Don’t miss: The Green Bank Star Quest, a family-friendly four-day stargazing party and campout taking place June 26–29.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

You could take your family on a 17-day river trip down the Grand Canyon — OARS leads a raft trip down the entire length of the Colorado River (for kids age 12 and older; from $5,458) — and you won’t have a lick of service the entire time. Too much of a time commitment? Booking a room or bunk at the elusive Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon where pay phones are the only way to call out, requires scoring a permit a year in advance. Instead, sign up for OARS’ rim to river four-day hiking trip (for kids over age 14; from $1,759) and they’ll snag a room at the lodge for you.

Nearest airport: Flagstaff, 81 miles away.

Coolest canyon view: You’ll find the best views at Tuweep overlook, which requires high-clearance vehicles along a remote road to reach.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Soon after you enter Mesa Verde National Park, you’ll find all cell signals happily disappear. All the better for you to turn your attention to the 5,000 archeological sites here that were once home to the Ancestral Pueblo people and 600 cliff dwellings. There’s camping at Morefield Campground or book a room at Far View Lodge (from $110), which is open from April to October and has wifi but no TVs or cell service in the rooms.

Nearest civilization: Durango, 56 miles away.

Rare birds you’ll spot on the Knife Edge Trail: Peregrine falcon or golden eagles

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Berlin-ichthyosaur State Park, Nevada

TravelNevada

Kids love Berlin-ichthyosaur State Park because it’s part old ghost town, dating back to 1890, and because it has fossil remains of Ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile that once lived in the ocean that covered Nevada 225 million years ago. (Scope them in the park’s Fossil House.) The park has 14 campsites (from $15).

Nearest civilization: The town of Gabbs, 20 miles from the park.

Splurge stay: Choose to stay near Eureka, 100 miles away, at Hot Springs Ranch, an off-the-grid retreat in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park has minimal cellphone coverage throughout the park and little in the way of wifi connectivity. (The Park Service recommends checking out their bookstore in the visitor’s center for entertainment.) Stay in a room or cabin at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge (from $115), 10 miles from the west entrance to the park, or for hardier visitors, hike 7.6 miles on the Highline Trail to reach the backcountry Granite Park Chalet (from $108).

Nearest civilization: The gateway town of West Glacier, 10 miles from Lake McDonald.

Don’t miss: The huckleberry milkshake at Eddie’s Cafe, on the shore of Lake McDonald, is simply unforgettable.

Ely, Minnesota

Located in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness — where cell coverage is not a thing — Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge is a haven for winter visitors (from $975 for three-night, all-inclusive trip). You’ll spend nights in cozy lodging and days exploring snowy trails with a team of dogs leading the way. A wood-fired sauna, snowshoeing, and the northern lights complete the trip. Come December through March.

Nearest civilization: The town of Ely, 10 miles away.

Don’t miss: Be sure to visit the International Wolf Center, where you can see a wolf pack in a wooded enclosure.

Benton, California

Megan Michelson

Benton, in the eastern Sierra Nevada far from a cell tower, once housed 5,000 people during its mining heyday in the 1860s. Nowadays, the only thing here is the reason you’re coming: Benton Hot Springs, an inn and campground where each campsite comes with its own tub of warm, spring-fed mineral water. Kids can soak in the tub and ride bikes around the campground; you can finally finish that book you started a year ago.

Nearest civilization: The ski town of Mammoth Lakes, 42 miles away.

Closest history lesson: Grab a walking tour pamphlet at the front desk and hike the short trail from the campground to the graveyard to learn about mining history in the area.

Kula, Maui

You’re not far from the beach in Maui’s Upcountry — the higher-elevation inland area on the western slope of the island’s Haleakala Volcano — but you won’t come here for sand and surfing. You’ll come to escape the crowds — and your phone (there’s limited service, thanks to the shadowing of the volcano). Get an Airbnb or stay at the rustic Kula Lodge (from $275). Need a beach? Baldwin Beach Park, on Maui’s North Shore, is 14 miles away.

Best place to watch the sunrise: Make a reservation and you can watch the sun crest over the top of the Haleakalā Volcano and nobody will be able to Instagram it.

Coolest farm tour: Children under 12 are free at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm — and there’s a treasure hunt on site.

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

Visit Nebraska

Aspiring geologists, rock climbers, and outdoor explorers will appreciate Toadstool Geologic Park for its moon-like surfaces and fossil remains among the badlands. To get here, drive 15 miles down a gravel road — cellphones don’t work in these distance grasslands. A small campground at the park contains six sites (campsites from $5 a night) and trailheads for three hiking trails. Don’t miss the Forest Service–constructed sod house for a glimpse of what life was like for early American homesteaders.

Nearest civilization: The town of Crawford, 18 miles away.

Closest pizza: Grab a slice post-hike at Hitch-N-Post Pizza in Crawford.

Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont 

Marius Becker/Leave Nice Tracks

Vermont Huts Association operates remote, primitive huts across the state. In 2018, they added the new Chittenden Brook Hut (from $110) deep in the Green Mountain National Forest where cell service is non-existent. In the winter, ski or snowshoe 2.2 miles to reach the hut and there’s backcountry skiing off Brandon Gap out the door; in the summer, drive or hike in a couple miles via the Long Trail and the Chittenden Brook Trail.

Nearest civilization: The town of Rochester, 8 miles away.

Coolest lake to swim in nearby: Lake Dunmore, 17 miles away.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

At Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, there’s no cell service and no light pollution, so the stargazing is amazing. The park is filled with goblin-shaped sandstone formations, so it looks like you’ve landed on Mars. Hike six miles of designated trails within the park or just wander amongst the features. Get in the Wild offers guided rappelling and canyoneering into slot canyons. Stay in the park’s 30-site campground with yurts (from $30).

Nearest civilization: The town of Green River, 49 miles away.

Don’t want to set up camp?: Utah Camping Co. will deliver and set up a camp trailer or tent for you, with all the fixings.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Made up of 70,000 acres of clay badlands, sky-scraping peaks, ice caves, and rivers, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a rugged and remote chunk of land — with little in the way of cell service. The park’s North Unit sees less traffic — camp at the first-come, first-served Juniper Campground (from $14) for a glimpse of the northern lights, drive the 14-mile scenic road through the badlands, and bike a section of the 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail.

Nearest civilization: The town of Watford City, 14 miles away.

Wildlife you’ll spot: bison, big-horn sheep, beavers, and if you’re lucky, golden eagles.

Garner State Park, Texas 

Smack in the Texas Hill Country River Region, Garner State Park has 11 miles of hiking trails, cabins and campsites (from $35), and the Frio River for fishing, tubing, or paddleboarding. At night, gaze at the Milky Way from your sleeping bag or join the locals at the concession stand for an old-school jukebox dance party, a tradition dating back to the 1940s. Cell coverage is limited to certain zones, depending on your carrier.

Nearest civilization: The town of Uvalde, 31 miles away.

Where to watch millions of free-tailed bats ascend into the night sky: The Frio Cave, 14 miles from the park.

Beech Mountain, North Carolina

At 5,506 feet above sea level, Beech Mountain is the highest-elevation town on the East Coast. As you drive up the road toward the mountain, you’ll quickly lose bars on your phone. In winter, Beech Mountain has lift-accessed skiing and snowboarding; in summer, you can hike to a waterfall, ride bikes down the mountain, do rooftop yoga, or check out the local brewery. The Beech Alpen Inn (from $99) has rooms atop the mountain.

Nearest civilization: The town of Boone, 24 miles away.

Best time to go: June, when they offer lodging deals for families and tons of activities for the kids.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Open June through September, the Grand Teton Climber’s Ranch, which is owned by the American Alpine Club, is a haven for climbers and mountaineers heading into Grand Teton National Park. But it’s also a sweet spot for families. There’s no cell reception or internet at the ranch and families can stay for $27 per person a night and hike straight into the park without getting into a car. The property has a communal kitchen and dining area and a comprehensive climber’s library that’s fun to browse.

Nearest civilization: The town of Jackson, 17 miles away.

Make yourself useful: Show up June 3–7 and you can volunteer during Work Week, where skilled and unskilled volunteers do routine maintenance in exchange for free room and board.

Wallowa Mountains, Oregon

Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains are surprisingly rugged — it looks like mini Switzerland juts up out of the plains. If you want to really unplug, visit the backcountry Minam River Lodge (campsites from $38), on the shores of the Minam River and only accessible between May and October via an 8.5-mile hike or horseback ride or a 15-minute chartered flight. Once you’re there, hike to alpine lakes, take a horseback ride, or chill in the wood-fired hot tub or riverside sauna.

Nearest civilization: The town of Enterprise, 18 miles as the crow flies (there are no roads).

Foods you can forage: wild huckleberries and edible wild mushrooms.

Eklutna Lake, Alaska

You wouldn’t know you’re less than an hour from Anchorage when you set up camp at Eklutna Lake — the place feels way out there and your phone is nil. Rent a kayak from Lifetime Adventures and paddle out into this stunning, blue-green lake sourced from the Eklutna Glacier. Hike or ride on the trail along the northeast side of the lake or hike the Thunderbird Falls Trail, a two-mile trail with a view of a 200-foot waterfall. Pitch a tent at Eklutna Lake Campground (from $15).

Nearest civilization: The town of Wasilla, 26 miles away.

Coolest backcountry cabin: You’ve got to kayak or canoe to reach the Kokanee Cabin ($80), built in 2016 on the southwest shore of the lake.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri

Patty Wheatley-Bishop

Welcome to the Missouri Ozarks, 150 miles southwest of St. Louis. Home to the protected Current River and Jacks Fork River, you can paddle canoes or kayaks for days if you want, setting up camp on gravel bars by the river. None of the park’s campgrounds (from $19) or riverside camp spots have any cell coverage, but you can check voicemail from your cabin at the River’s Edge Resort (from $89).

Nearest civilization: The town of Van Buren, where park headquarters is located.

Kids will love: Tadpole collecting in the shallow eddies of the rivers. The park gives out river exploration kits with field guides and nets.

Allegany State Park, New York

At over 65,000 acres and the largest designated state park in New York, Allegany State Park, in western New York’s Enchanted Mountains, has mountain biking in the Red House Area with 24 miles of trails and bike rentals on site. Stay in a tent, a 1940s-era cabin, or a more modern cottage within the park (campsites from $18). Around 70 percent of the park doesn’t have cell service.

Nearest city: Buffalo, 64 miles away.

Coolest place to hike to: Thunder Rocks, which has kid-size boulders to climb and two-story-tall rocks.

Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, Idaho

Zachary Collier/Northwest Rafting Co

You’ll come to Idaho’s roadless and cellphone-free Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness for the river that literally runs through it: the Salmon River. This designated Wild and Scenic river has one of the best multi-day raft trips in the country, thanks to continuous Class III rapids, steep canyon walls, spectacular campsites, and hot springs that dot the banks. Northwest Rafting Co. leads a six-day trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon (from $2,495) best suited for kids aged 7 and up.

Nearest civilization: The town of Stanley, a few miles from the put-in for the river trip.

Look out for: River otters, swimming alongside your raft.

Matinicus Island, Maine

Situated within Penobscot Bay, Matinicus Island has fewer than 100 year-round residents and little in the way of tourism — you won’t find cell service, restaurants, a grocery store, or high-end lodging here. But you will find cottages on a sandy beach from Matinicus Island Get Away (weekly rates from $1,275) and an old-fashioned Maine vibe where lobstering is the still the way of life. The whole island is only two miles long, so you won’t need a car here.

Nearest civilization: The town of Rockland, 22 miles away on the mainland, accessible by ferry.

Don’t miss: The island’s lone bakery, where you can pick up a loaf of bread baked by a writer/baker named Eva.

San Cristobal, New Mexico

Much of the high-elevation desert town of Taos has cell service, but if you head to the outskirts, you’ll find pockets that don’t. Like at Taos Goji Eco Lodge and Farm, which has quaint log cabins (from $130) on a 40-acre goji berry farm and zilch in the way of high-tech connectivity (don’t worry: there’s a landline phone for emergencies). Visit the farm animals, pick berries, and head into town for green chile burritos and hiking trails.

Nearest civilization: The town of Taos, 11 miles away.

Bridge worth visiting: The nearby Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the fifth highest bridge in the U.S., which spans 650 feet above the Rio Grande.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Paul Joyner

Pigeon Forge is known as the home of Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park. And yes, your kids will probably want to go there. But you can also come to this mountain town to get away from it all. Sleep in a well-stocked canvas tent at Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains (from $149) — where there’s no cell service, no wifi — and chefs prepare all your meals at camp and guides take you fly-fishing, rafting, and zip-lining.

Nearest civilization: Knoxville, 40 miles away.

Nearest national park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just 20 minutes away.