By on August 20, 2019

2017 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited Sahara - Image: Jeep

For no reason in particular, your author found himself researching the various attributes and eccentricities of Greenland these past couple of days. Again, no reason. And while Greenland itself is pretty sparse and remote, you can’t actually drive very far from what passes for civilization in that big island sort-of country. Something to do with fjords and glaciers and such.

If you’re looking to really get away from it all behind the wheel of a vehicle, there’s better choices closer to home. And, obviously, further. But maybe you already know that…

This Greenland business came about not long after a TTAC chat room discussion about the most isolated place any of us has ever reached via car. Essentially, the furthest point, by road, from any settlement that appears on a map.

The answers were varied. Yours truly wins on account of being a wandering Canadian who doesn’t easily grow bored. In my case, that point would be either somewhere on the Mackenzie Highway in northern Alberta or in the Northwest Territories, or perhaps that oft-mentioned trip up the Trans-Labrador Highway. Adam pinpoints a spot in the desert Southwest. Our managing editor points to Iceland, with a caveat that, while rugged and remote, the locale wasn’t that far removed from Icelandic civilization. Corey, it should be noted, doesn’t drive anywhere.

Jerkwater, Indiana doesn’t count!

And while all of us expressed regret that we’ve never taken the long road to Alaska, you don’t have to head northwest to find the most isolated piece of roadway in North America. You need to head north by northeast.

The Trans-Taiga Road, a thin ribbon of phone- and gasoline-free civilization pushing deep into the subarctic swamps and forest of northern Quebec, holds the distinction of being the most isolated road in eastern North America, and its terminus is the furthest point accessible by road from any settlement on the continent. As you’d imagine, this driving challenge is something your author finds alluring and irresistible. Maybe GM will lend me a diesel Colorado 4×4… with a truck cap for sleeping purposes.

To get to the end of this road, you’ll probably need that all-wheel traction and, if you’re at all sensible, a supply of fuel and probably two full-size spares. Water, food, coolant and oil, and perhaps a gun would be in order, too, if for nothing else than peace of mind. The road is not paved. To get to this free-of-Twitter locale, one must first drive 452 miles north of Montreal to the start of the James Bay Road, a route that already ranks among the most remote roads on the continent. After some 338 miles on that road, you hang a right and drive another 414 miles to the Caniapiscau Reservoir — an enormous man-made lake from which Quebec and much of New England draws its electricity. Both roads owe their existence to our postwar need for cheap, plentiful energy.

The fishing is apparently great up there, too, but the swarms of black flies could probably carry off a moose.

While this isolated spot is truly remote (462 miles from the nearest settlement), there’s also places called Africa and Asia, large swaths of which host almost no human population. And yet roads exist. Maybe you’ve ventured out into the Sahara before or perhaps plunged into the taiga forests of Siberia in a Lada Niva or atop an adventure bike (note: we’re hoping for a Niva story). Then there’s all-overland Antarctica, where if you don’t let most of the air out of your tires, you’re dead. And that’s no guarantee of safety.

So, B&B — in your many adventurous years on this planet, what’s the furthest you’ve ventured from civilization in a road vehicle?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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19 Comments on “QOTD: Is Your Destination… Isolation?...”


  • avatar
    jtk

    A long time ago we tried to drive from the south rim of the Grand Canyon back to Phoenix on fire roads. We got turned around by snow and mud that the rental Isuzu Rodeo couldn’t handle.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I did that one time too…in a Hyundai sedan rental car. It was a dry spring so mud wasn’t an issue. I always wondered when that rig went on the lift for its next oil change if the tech would notice all the scars on the floor pan.

      • 0 avatar
        jtk

        It definitely wasn’t too extreme for the Isuzu, it would’ve been fine with better tires and a better driver. But it was better than the highway, at least until the snow. I returned the Isuzu covered in mud from almost getting stuck up there, I figured they would charge me extra but they didn’t say anything.

  • avatar
    gtem

    We took a rental Lada 2107 out as far as the parking lot base camp of the Aktru Glacier, the nearest village is Kosh Agach (goo.gl/maps/VxREwqKDipQZgUJv7). We had 5 guys in the car with 5 fullsize backpackers packs, the little caruburated 1.5L Lada with 65hp and a 4spd really proved its mettle. Did well on the offroad sections including a 2 foot water crossing and a few boulder-strewn trails. Only casualty was one of the jacking points, got smashed flat on a rock.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I no longer remember the name of where the remote road ended in Guatemala when I was wandering around there in 1976 .

    Fairly decent road too, paved, right until it simply stopped .

    I never did make the AlCan Highway and am probably too old now, more’s the pity .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      It was almost all paved last time I was on it, and that was almost 20 years ago. I figure the AlCan isn’t much more than a long long drive now.

      Beautiful though. I’ll be doing it again for sure.

      Most isolated place I’ve been is Glacier National Park. The back side of it. A lot of rain that year but the Jeep we had was fine with the mud. At the end of the road was a lake with maybe 3 cars parked at it. Didn’t see a soul for the several hours we hung out there.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Thanx, I have been told by many who have driven it that it’s not a decently paved road by any means .

        I didn’t realize this thread indicated roads in the U.S.A. ~ God knows there are plenty that are far off the beaten track, don’t see anyone for a day or three .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    It wasn’t far from civilization, but when I lived in the Florida Panhandle I would often take weekend trips on long deserted logging trails of which there are many. You may not be far from actual civilization, but once you get lost on a logging trail you can feel pretty isolated.

    Those were the best times I ever had off-roading. I’ve never lived anywhere else where I experienced anything quite like it

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Dumpwater, FL, home of the $7 hotel room and meet the man who met Andy Griffith! (I pray someone gets the classic reference!)

    In my West Africa days, two absolute middle of nowhere places come to mind. The first was in the middle of nowhere Burkina Faso near a village named Bingo. The other was in Mali by the cliffs of Dogon Country. Both places had beauty that would take your breath away, some of the friendliest people around, and a breakdown could mean your life. Some “roads” were no more than what people could associate with Outback trails. Two ruts and not much else. Bring fuel and supplies, and a good camera. But it felt like the end of the world.

    It’s still bucket list material to take the northern highways of Yukon and NWT. That would be a drive!

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Summer of 1994, a friend and I decided to grab lunch in Cripple Creek, CO before heading back home from seeing the Eagles at Fiddler’s Green near Denver.

    The mountain gambling town was easy to find, but we got lost when trying to find the road that would lead us south towards Highway 50 to Pueblo. We wound up twice orbiting the perimeter of an enormous gold mine before finally locating the correct turn off at around 3:30 pm. It was an unpaved and rock-strewn trail, little more than a fire road and barely a lane wide in some places, full of switchbacks and cliff-hugging passes… and a sense of absolute disconnect from humanity I’d never known before, or since.

    It took us more than three hours to drive the roughly 70 miles to civilization, and it was nearly dark by the time we finally reached the highway. I’ve never been happier to see the lights from traffic. Oh, and our conveyance on this trip? A base model, auto-transmission Geo Storm.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Did about 100 miles on National Forest roads and fire lines from Lava Beds National Monument to Yreka, California with a convoy of 14 Chevy Avalanches.

    Nothing terribly hard but definitely off the beaten path. I’m guessing Avalanche 14 saw nothing on the entire trip but a massive dust cloud.

    I also bounced a FWD RAV-4 LE to Race Track in Death Valley National Park during the heat of the day. Nothing too technical again, but it is a near rock crawl in places.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’ve been to Madawaska, ME, and various Dog-forsaken places in Montana and Wyoming. That is as far from civilization as I have any interest in going.

    My idea of camping is slow room service.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Eh, I don’t have a very good answer to this. There are a ton of Forest Service roads in Washington, most of which can be navigated in a CUV with decent ground clearance. The farthest I’ve probably been from civilization in a car is parked at a trailhead on one or another of those roads. (Some of them really require a proper off-road vehicle to get through, and somehow I never drove any of those during my brief LX 570 ownership.)

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I explored the Blue Dome mining area as well as the forestry road up Big Southern Butte in Idaho using my ’72 VW Type 2. Horrible rutted roads and pretty intense climbs (the parking brake and being in first gear wouldn’t hold the van on the incline; it’d inch backwards slowly). Lots of great back trails around that area. Great fun. Drove the forestry roads in the same vehicle up around Mt. St. Helen’s before it blew – had to keep the window down to listen for horn blasts from runaway logging trucks careening down the one and a half lane dirt roads. Fun times. Never really needed 4wd in any of that but had to be careful not to tip that skinny top-heavy thing over sometimes.

    • 0 avatar
      CannonShot

      About 20 years ago I drove to the Big Southern Butte in my dad’s 1979 Mazda pickup, but once we got to the butte we hiked, rather than drove, to the top.

      Two weeks ago my buddies and I drove to Sleeping Deer Mountain in central Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. It’s an amazing 40 mile, 3 hour drive from Challis, Idaho into the wilderness area. It’s a single track forest road that somehow remains open to motorized vehicles even though much of it is inside the wilderness area. The road dead ends at a lightly used trail head. We saw no one other than a forest ranger on the last 20 miles of the road and no one but us at the trail head. We backpacked into an area where we had about 15 mountain lakes to ourselves. The drive out 4 days later was kinda sketchy because heavy rains had almost washed out parts of the road and wind had knocked down 5 or 6 trees that we had to move out of the road.But my buddy’s new Honda Ridgeline did great.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    As the article says, one can be pretty off the grid in Iceland, while not actually being that far from civilization.
    Finding the Hekla volcano Visitor Center closed, my wife said why not drive up the side of the volcano itself instead? Uh-huh. So, we take off over an F road toward the volcano, and then turn off onto a road that was not even marked on the maps as an F road, and headed over the lava fields toward the volcano. That we had little water or food with us, or little experience driving over lava fields, held little sway with my wife. For an hour or so, we made progress over the black wasteland, with our GPS device telling us where we were. Eventually, we hit a portion of road that seemed too steep for our RAV4, or at least for us city folk to drive up, so we parked at the foot of the hill, put on our windbreakers, and scrambled up the hillside. Once out in the biting wind, we decided that about fifteen minutes of walking was all we needed to do, so we took photos of the top of Hekla, and called it a day, heading back to the pre-fab Highland Center where we were staying.

  • avatar
    AJ

    The number one problem I have with planning those long trips out in nowhere is figuring the mpg? Last time I had more fuel then I needed… which was just added weight… which burns more fuel… haha.

  • avatar

    Well Not that far mileage wise but been down plenty of Dirt Roads in Maine. Grand Lake Stream is a cool one. Went down logging roads for hours North of Bangor with a friend not sure exactly where we went but eventually 8 hours later we got back to some form of civilization in Danforth Maine. On a side note When I lived in Maine I frequently traveled Rt9 (the airline) between Bangor and Calais, a little before they actually straightened it. Some where about halfway thru the 90 miles telephone poles stop for 5-6 miles and then start up again coming from the other direction.

    My favorite part of back roads travel in Maine were the places with no town names just numbers T19 T6 T8 etc.

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