Digital Detox in the National Parks

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Posted by: Xanterra on March 22, 2016

Whether you are deep in the Grand Canyon at Phantom Ranch or perched on the South Rim at one of the historic lodges, the night sky is so dark that it’s easy to imagine yourself in another time when the first people roamed the canyon 12,000 years ago.

The Grand Canyon, like so many national parks, is a place to exhale, to experience the rejuvenating powers of nature, to step away and let nature dictate your schedule.

That’s why it’s a perfect place to embrace a digital detox, to go offline and savor the connections — to family, to nature, to deep reflection — that come with turning off the phone, leaving the laptop at home, and being unavailable to everyone but your sentient companions. At a time when the average American spends more than half of his or her waking life staring at a screen, this is more important than ever.

Here are five parks where you can replace the dings and dongs of digital life with the bounties of nature.

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is so isolated from technology and ambient light that amateur astronomers annually hold a sky viewing party at the South Rim because it’s so dark. Hike down to the bottom, take a rafting trip, or just explore the historic treats along the rim, including the Hopi House, Lookout Studio and Hermits Rest. Check in at the historic El Tovar, the first upscale hotel built on the rim, or four other lodges, each with a distinctive style ranging from the historic Bright Angel Lodge to the modern Thunderbird Lodge. Even if you want to connect, cell and Internet service is slow and spotty due to the rural location and restricted bandwidth.

For more information and reservations, visit grandcanyonlodges.com or call 888-297-2757.

Glacier National Park

Remote and stunning, Glacier National Park calls itself the Crown of the Continent. You could spend a week here on your detox and still not see it all. With 700 miles of trails, a hike is a must. So is a drive along Going to the Sun Road, 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides in northwest Montana. The lodging choices include the historic Lake McDonald Lodge, built in 1913, the Rising Sun Motor Inn, built in 1940, and the Village Inn at Apgar, built in 1956 with stunning lake views. If you’re too tempted to check in to your digital life, Glacier National Park is a perfect choice to unplug; cell and Wi-Fi connectivity are extremely limited.

For more information and reservations, visit glaciernationalparklodges.com or call 888-297-2757.

Mountain in Death Valley

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

The extreme reigns at Death Valley National Park’s 3.3 million acres from the lowest spot in North America, Badwater, 282 feet below sea level, to Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park at 11,049 feet and a perfect place to watch the sun rise or set. The park is so removed from civilization that it’s one of the only Gold Tier-designated International Dark Sky Parks in the United States where stargazers can actually see the Milky Way with the naked eye. Bonus this year: with abundant rain and an El Niño winter, the spring desert bloom season is spectacular. Best of all: Cell phones generally don’t have service in the park except at the resort hotels. The place to stay is The Oasis at Death Valley, nestled in an oasis and featuring the historic, AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and the family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley.

For more information and reservations, visit oasisatdeathvalley.com or call 800-236-7916.

Zion National Park

Zion is a natural theme park with a seeming never-ending variety of rides. Hike the Virgin River through the Narrows with walls 1,000 feet high, go canyoneering through breathtaking slot canyons, climb the sandstone cliffs, or backpack over 90 miles of trails in the park’s 146,000 acres. Zion Lodge, offering 76 rooms, six suites, and 40 cabins, is the only lodge in the park. While there is cell phone reception at the lodge and in nearby Springdale, it is spotty throughout the park. So grab a walking stick and take an undisturbed hike up the Virgin River with its wondrous views. Just leave your cell phone behind.

For more information and reservations, visit zionlodge.com or call 888-297-2757.

Yellowstone National Park

What better place to disconnect from modern communications than Yellowstone, the world’s first national park?

Grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk prowl the grounds so it’s a great place to store the selfie stick and break out the serious camera. Whether it is snowshoeing in winter, fishing in the warmer months, or day hiking, there is a long list of activities to clear your head. The lodging options are as varied as the activities – from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge to the historic Old Faithful Inn, dating to 1904. There is cell phone service only in developed areas with lodging, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to tell the time by the eruptions at Old Faithful Geyser?

For more information and reservations, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.


Written by: Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison has flown barrel rolls with the Navy's Blue Angels (he didn't barf), climbed and slept overnight in a 243-foot-tall redwood (he didn't fall), and gone one-on-one with Muhammad Ali (he didn't flinch). His award-winning stories have appeared in Smithsonian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Private Clubs, This Old House, National Wildlife, and numerous other publications.

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