There are moments where Yellowstone can feel positively crowded: Standing with the masses waiting for Old Faithful to perform, or jostling with drivers in an animal jam, for example. But the truth is, the vast majority of the park is empty, at least when it comes to people (bison, wolves, bears, elk—now that’s another story). In fact the park is so empty, it’s home to the only place in the entire Lower 48 where you can get more than 20 miles from a road. So when award-winning author and adventurer Mark Jenkins set off on a quest to find the most remote place in the Continental U.S., naturally, he found himself journeying through Yellowstone.
“In the middle of nowhere, you can’t call for a pizza or an ambulance or check into a hotel,” Jenkins wrote in a classic story for our sister publication, BACKPACKER magazine. “And you definitely can’t drive there. You have to walk, or maybe ride a horse. The romance and risk of remoteness implies, nay, insists upon having to take care of yourself.”
So Jenkins and his hiking partner geared up for an 80-mile, multi-day backpacking trip to reach the spot a geographer helped them pinpoint as the middlest-of-nowhere one could possibly find. “I promised not to share the exact coordinates,” Jenkins wrote, “but I will say that the most remote point in the Lower 48 is located on the Two Ocean Plateau in south-central Yellowstone National Park.” Along the way, the duo had dazzling wildlife encounters, pushed themselves physically, and stopped in for a visit at the Thorofare Ranger Station, the most remote cabin in all the national parks outside Alaska.
Most visitors probably have neither time nor inclination to go as far as Jenkins did to find solitude and wilderness. The good news? Escaping the crowds and earning that “middle-of-nowhere” feeling is as easy as taking a hike into the park’s vast backcountry. As one former park employee told us, “Once you’re about 5 miles from a road, you’ll hardly see a soul.”
And if you want to know exactly what Jenkins found in the absolute middle of nowhere, you’ll just have to read the story.