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The 5 Best Places In America To ‘Bug Out’ When Society Collapses

The 5 Best Places In America To ‘Bug Out’ During The Apocalypse

Idaho. Image source:

Many people wonder where the safest place to retreat is should a major disaster hit, an economic collapse occur, or the power grid go down for an extended period of time.

In truth, there is no singular “safe place” where you are guaranteed to survive no matter what, but there are certain factors that make some regions safer than others.

In general, the bet regions to survive in the United States should meet as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Low population density (arguably the most important factor)
  • Away from the coastlines
  • Little risk of natural disaster (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.)
  • Plenty of fresh, running water
  • An abundance of wild game and edible plants that you can hunt or forage
  • Fertile land for growing crops
  • Long growing seasons
  • A current strong local or statewide economy
  • The ability to re-build an economy after a disaster (examples: farmer’s markets, mines, logging, oil sites, etc.)
  • Protected gun rights
  • A low crime rate
  • Lower cost of living/housing
  • Low property taxes
  • Away from nuclear/chemical power plants and military bases
  • Away from major cities that could be potential enemy targets

We’ve attempted to include regions throughout the US on our list. Let’s get started:

1. Idaho panhandle/western Montana

We’ll start out with what we feel might be the safest region in the entire United States: the Idaho panhandle/western Montana. The majestic mountains of northern Idaho and western Montana are rich in wildlife, edible plants, rivers and lakes. If you ever needed to find a retreat location in the wilderness, it’s perfectly possible to sustain yourself on natural resources here.

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The population density is thin, gun rights are strongly protected, and taxes are low due to strong conservative/libertarian politics. And, the ground is perfectly fertile for you to grow a field of your own crops and/or livestock if necessary. In comparison to other states and regions, the crime rate is also low and in the event of a long-term disaster, the economy could rebuild due to a thriving logging industry, silver mines in the mountains, and a great quantity of successful farmer’s markets.

The area may be a little too close to the West Coast than some may like, and northern Idaho in particular is close to the large Washington city of Spokane, which some feel could be a potential terrorist/nuclear target. But all in all, the Idaho panhandle/western Montana region meets almost all of our criteria, and at the very least it’s our highest recommended retreat area in the Northwest region.

2. Western Dakotas

Both North and South Dakota apply here, but we recommend the western halves of both states rather than the eastern sides (we’ll get to why in a bit).

The 5 Best Places In America To ‘Bug Out’ During The Apocalypse

South Dakota. Image source:

In general, this area offers a lot of benefits for outlasting the apocalypse. Most notably, it’s as far as possible as you can get from both coastlines, which many disaster experts feel are dangerous hotspots due to their thick population densities, risks of hurricanes, and major cities that could be nuclear targets.

It also offers excellent fertile land for growing crops (though admittedly, some areas have shorter growing seasons), and boasts sparse populations and strong Second Amendment rights. But there is still one negative factor that makes this general area a slight concern, and you’ve probably guessed it: tornados. Fortunately, the Dakotas, especially North Dakota, are at the lowest risk for tornadoes in the Midwest. (Oklahoma, for your information, is the worst).

But a slightly lesser risk of tornadoes isn’t the only reason why the western Dakotas are the most recommended area in the Midwest to outlast a disaster. Home/real estate prices in both states are extremely low, and North Dakota has actually de-populated in recent years. In order to encourage resettlement, some lots in North Dakota are even nearly free! In addition, there’s very low crime and low car insurance rates in both states, and the oil fields of North Dakota offer an attractive opportunity for rebuilding an economy in the aftermath of an apocalyptic-type scenario.

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One big negative to living in the Dakotas is that the winters here are brutal, and we don’t mean that lightly. But if you dress warmly and prepare your home and family well for it, you can get through it.

All in all, the Midwest is definitely a region to consider for outlasting a disaster, and the western Dakotas are arguably the best retreat area in the region to accomplish that.

3. Northern Arizona

Many people say that there is not one Arizona but two: northern and southern. Southern Arizona is noted for its vast and arid desert that is among the hottest and driest locations in the US.  Water is a huge concern in any disaster situation, and it’s simply difficult to find enough of it in southern Arizona (or any desert region in the US for that matter). And as gun friendly as the state of Arizona is, many disaster experts do not recommend that you live so close to the unstable border even if you do decide you can tough out the desert.

Fortunately, it’s a completely different story in the northern part of Arizona that is marked by sprawling pine forests and tall mountains that sometimes look like they should belong in the Northwest. The temperatures here are much more moderate and forgiving than in the southern half, the population is much less dense (there’s no Phoenix in the northern half), and there are plenty of good ranch and farming sites for you to raise your own livestock and crops in addition to suitable retreat areas.

When it comes to negatives, certain towns and cities in northern Arizona are expensive to live in. But keep in mind we’re trying to choose regions throughout the US. If you live in or near the Southwest, northern Arizona is the safest bet.

4. Northern New Hampshire/western Maine

The 5 Best Places In America To ‘Bug Out’ During The Apocalypse

Maine. Image source:

There are, unfortunately, fewer safe place in the eastern US than in the west. But, thankfully, there still some retreat areas to consider. Northern New Hampshire and western Maine are to the northeastern US what the Idaho panhandle and western Montana are to the west. Yes, the East Coast in general is a hotspot for nuclear threats and natural disasters. But northern New Hampshire and western Maine are safer.

This area is very rich in natural resources, sprawls of wilderness and wildlife. There are already strong hunting and fishing communities here, so you can self-sustain yourself on food if necessary. The population density is slightly thicker in New Hampshire, but it thins out in Maine.  In fact, the population density of western Maine is less than that of Colorado. The only natural disaster that really threatens you would be winter storms; the effect of hurricanes will hit the coasts rather than farther north. More government regulations exist in Maine than New Hampshire, which is more economically free.

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The biggest concern that disaster experts have with the area is its proximity to urban hubs like New York and Boston.

Just remember that no retreat area in the United States is perfect. But some places are better than others, and if you have no choice but to live in the Northeast in a disaster, northern New Hampshire/western Maine will be your safest bet.

5. Eastern Kentucky (specifically around the Appalachians)

Most survival and disaster experts strongly recommend that you live west of the Mississippi River if you want to live somewhere that’s safer from a natural disaster. But since many people do live east of the river, it’s not fair that New Hampshire/Maine be our only eastern location.

kentucky appalachia

Eastern Kentucky.

Perhaps your safest place east of the Mississippi will be eastern Kentucky, and specifically around the Appalachian Mountains. Western Kentucky is a hotspot for earthquakes and is much further away from the Appalachians.

Eastern Tennessee is another retreat options, but there are some nuclear sites there that you would be wise stay away from. Eastern Kentucky is far enough away from those sites.

Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains offer prime retreat locations for you to get away from a disaster. In the early days of American history, the Appalachian Mountains were a barrier that prevented our ancestors from moving westward for many years. Today, many disaster experts consider the Appalachian Mountains to be among the best locations to ride out a disaster, and there aren’t any active volcanoes in those mountains, either. People have been living off the Appalachian Mountains for years, so you could easily sustain yourself and your family.

The valleys of eastern Kentucky also offer very fertile land, as well as running water in the form of rivers. You’re also far enough from the eastern coastline to be safe.

What spots in America would you add to our list? Share your own retreat areas in the section below:

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  1. Good info. Here on the Canadian prairies we don’t have a long growing season but other things make up for it such as long summer days. While we can’t grow pineapples, oranges & avocadoes we can grow tomatoes, potatoes & raspberries. We also have low population, firewood, & people who are used to growing gardens, cold weather & pulling together to improve the community. Therefore one does not need to find everything on the list. Just do your best to get most of them

    • In such a situation two things will happen. First groups of bad people will sweep your area looking for food, etc. If you are alone or in small numbers you will die, be raped, etc.

      People will group up in order to survive. So your local community will come together, create ways to make food, have security, etc. When a bad group comes along, your numbers will keep you safe.

      Those who are alone will not survive if it gets really bad.

      So instead of focusing on individual survival, we should focus on how to create sustainable communities if this ever happens.

      Rules must be strict. Justice must be swift. The bad must be thrown out. Food and Water will be number 1. Safety, Defense 2. Sanitation, etc.

  2. All well and good, however what do we do with the 8 million starving ruthless people who will be joining us.
    I think I’ll stay home,”BUNKER-UP” a new phrase I just invented and defend myself in the empty neighborhood I just became owner of because everyone in frozen in North Dakota.
    Good info though

  3. Interesting that you should include the Western Dakotas on your list. There’s a couple of things that you missed in your assessment. The area is not subject to cold. Cold is too mild and weak a term to describe a winter in the Western Dakotas. It is a freeze the blood in your veins on the way to the barn, and your well solid kind of cold that often makes the Antarctic seem balmy. This is made worse by the more than occasional Ground Blizzard where the wind driven snow causes a zero visibility white out that can strip unprotected flesh from bones in minutes. The summer heat on the other hand will cook your brain in your skull though there is some question about that. Some say that the heat plus the humidity actually boil the brain cells in you cranium.
    The other thing that comes to mind is the possibility of a Yellowstone Blow out. If you have ever looked at a map of the projected ejecta from a cauldera eruption you will see that large sections of both states will be covered in enough volcanic ash to ensure that your body is preserved for millennia.
    The third thing that makes the area unsuitable in my mind is the effect of the wide open stretches of nothing that will surround a potential settler. The area produces a madness that almost deserves it’s own name. Humans are only with great difficulty able to stay human in such profound isolation as these areas afford. In addition, take a guess as to how successful one would be at convincing your children to stick around after they are grown or getting them and possible Grandchildren to even visit you in your retreat.
    All of these can be overcome (with the possible exception of the eruption) but the question does come up as to at what cost.

    • I agree. I lived there (ND) seven years, and although I loved it, I don’t think I could relocate there, especially as a bug out. Along with the above considerations, North Dakotans HATE home schoolers. They believe they are the be all-end all in education, and you cannot argue with them and win. Also, although there is a growing libertarian-minded population, the state as a whole is hardcore status quo. I always felt, at least in the cities and among commercial grain farmers, they were just a slightly more American version of Scandinavian socialism. They are VERY comfortable with government control, because they don’t see how their neighbors could possibly be a threat (your neighbor is probably in the state legislature or working for a government-related entity because the private enterprise is limited). Oh, and if the former Microsoft VP becomes governor, it won’t be any better. I know him personally, and he’s a neo-liberal, globalist, despite the rhetoric.

  4. Great article and I’m glad to read you didn’t list one of the most perfect locations in the nation.
    I have 30 self sustaining acres and am well prepared to live completely independent from the rest OT civilization if/when needed.. Totally off the grid with full electric power thru solar & wind. Very fertile ground with great supply of water and good growing season. Abundant wild game (deer & elk).
    Land is still readonably affordable but good parcels are getting more scarce and water rights are highly valuable.
    Take a guess where this is?

    • Sounds beautiful. I’m guessing Missouri or Arkansas

      • I could agree with South Missouri and northen Arkansas. Plenty of hills water, lakes and rivers and springs. Plus there are Game Reserves really close to the lakes. Access to some homesteads requires 4X4’s to get in there. Plenty of room for animals and even underground structures. SW Missouri is far enough away from the San Madrid fault to not be affected. Winters are mild with plenty of growing season.


  5. Should have included Texas. Gun rights supported, land available to the west of the cities, mostly ranching but can garden/farm with work. Rain varies across the state, recommend ponds and large cisterns. Folks are generally nice and mind their own business but generally neighborly in the country.. State will most likely bail if U.S. fails or goes crazy, even though it supposed to stay with country. The state as whole is conservative and will buck DC Rules, thus far no outstanding revolt but close. State can run on reserves of coal and oil and bulk of state is not connected to the power grid. It’s also major ag producer. I’ve read a number of fiction pieces that have Texas being taken over by Mexico and I can tell you that is wrong. I’ve got relatives who are Latino/Hispanic and worked with Mexicans from Mexico and they don’t want to be in Mexico, most will fight Mexico and any incursion made. Texas is notorious for fighting even when the chips are down. Texas Guard report to the governor and figure about half will show up in an emergency. Many Texans can handle themselves in any emergency. If it is a SHTF deal and Texas is making a stand on her own the state is loaded with Veterans, most of whom are gun owners. In all likelihood Texas would have the states directly north, east and west of her joining her. this why I’m heading home to Texas ASAP. Came to California for a “short” time to help step-sister and its been three years and counting. During the move my hubby back went out and now he’s awaiting surgery through VA. We’re counting down the days to go home.

    • As someone who grew up in rural Texas, I was happy that the article didn’t include my state. We have a lot of natural disasters. I live in Flash Flood Alley, Tornado Alley, and close enough to the coast to feel the effects of hurricanes. The causes and effects of the recent flooding of the Sabine River is an example of what can happen anytime and almost anywhere in Texas.

      On the other hand, more money flows out of our State and into the federal government than the other way around because we have resources. Texas would do better than most in SHTF, but it would not be an easy place in which to survive.

  6. i would agree with northern arizona. i’m about 45 minutes south of sedona in the verde valley and i don’t ever want to leave. kind of a retirement community. tons of ranching and farming. the jokes are that the average age is 80 yrs old and that it takes an entire community to come up with one set of teeth. the third joke is that the average age is coming down as the old folks die off and we’re getting a lot of kids because there’s nothing to do here but have sex. not entirely true though. we have at least 2 drive thru liquor stores that i know of, so add drinking to that list of “things to do”. we also have tons of vineyards and have earned a nickname of little napa valley… once again- drinking. if the drinking doesn’t interest you then you can join me kayaking on the rivers and creeks. lots of indian ruins in the area and great hikes around sedona. the verde valley is a high desert sitting at just over 3,000 ft elevation. for water we have the verde river, oak creek, clear creek, wet and dry beaver creek, fossil creek, and plenty of washes. surrounded by mountains, the forests are 20-30 minutes away in every direction. summer is around 100 degrees and in the winters we get about 1 light dusting of snow a year. arizona native, desert rat. love this state. we have every climate zone except for ocean front property. sincerely christian anarchist

    • Love! I live in Wikieiup but would love the kayaking there!

    • If you were going to actually “bugout” cheaply on a small piece of property with a tiny cabin in northern Arizona, what city, town or rural area would you choose? I live in Tucson and can’t see me staying here if all hell breaks loose. I’ve been to Sedona but cound never afford anything there. So where else?????

    • I was thinking the same. Just where I’m at. about 39 miles south of Sedona. Verde Heights trailer park

  7. I’m going for northern Michigan. Isolated by the great lakes with plenty of fresh water. Copper mining, logging, good growing season, lots of forest to hide out in. Good hunting, fishing and beautiful. And we have crazy Ted Nugent. Gun rights are protected. Cold winters but reasonable, lots of snow for fresh water. Lots of wild plants for foraging. I love this state.

    • Shhhh, don’t give away our secret. Get rid of the Big Mac and most of the trolls will not be able to get here.

  8. This is ridiculous. What difference do ‘Lower cost of living/housing’, and ‘Low property taxes’ make in a society that has collapsed?? They are irrelevant.
    And most of these locations do NOT have long growing seasons.

    • The reason, at least I think this is why anyway, he mentions the cost of living and property taxes being so low is because until, God forbid tshtf, you will have to continue paying these things and if you have property there and where you live now both, you might have an easier time coming up with the cash to do so.

  9. So the point of not settling in eastern Dakota was tornadoes? They aren’t honestly a big deal. Very few tornadoes tend to form in the northern part of the state and the Red River Valley. Also, the land is some of the most fertile in the world and the population is much lower that western Dakota, which has the oil patch. It is frigid in the winter and boiling in the summer but in between it’s decent.

  10. There has been no mention made of Alabama, but that is ok. Been here several years, people help each other, gun rights are protected, winters are mild in comparison, no property taxes if you are over 65, long growing season, plenty of wild game,what more could you want?

  11. I have a house with around 32 acres in remote mountainous Graham County NC. There is running water, forest, standing timber and arable land for crops and pasture along with fruit trees. Easily accessible yet away from the paved road it is a perfect retreat location. I can be reached at: therobinhode at

  12. Should have included eastern Utah and western Colorado. Ample water, rugged terrain and plenty of sun with pro-2nd amendment folks, and cold winter weather to keep out the riff-raff.

    • prevailing winds and fallout from all those missiles hitting everything from julesburg to the springs, chyenne and n. salt lake. and i wont mention western SD aka Ellsworth surely will be a target..good luck, flaming Gorge really will….

  13. I never see any southern states listed in articles like this. Our growing season is long and the weather mild. If you have to feed yourself by growing a garden I would not want to live anywhere that had a short growing season and horribly cold winters. Our animals do not freeze to death in blizzards! Southern states are normally gun friendly as well. There is plenty of rural land and the prices are reasonable.

    • Born and raised in Birmingham, AL. Would be great place, but crime is up in the cities these days and the heat, esp heat index with 100% humidity in summer, makes it really oppressive to live without energy-sucking A/C. Traditional A/C likely in low supply in TSHTF. Other than that, it is a great place. I wouldn’t mind moving back after 20+ years in CA.

  14. Southeastern Washington/ Eastern Oregon is my area. Lots of water, very few people, and long summers.

  15. The author missed some important location issues. It’s what you get from thinking about it instead of living it.
    1) The West is currently in general drought. Any areas with coniferous forests (pine, spruce, fir) will burn post SHFT. There will be no resources to fight fires. The West will burn from one end to the other, forest and prairie. Good luck living there.
    2) Tribe. Are you locating where you’re welcome? Are the people like you? New England and Appalachia are renown for resistance to outsiders. You and you’re will never be accepted. As to the Western mountains. I lived there for decades. The natives put NATIVE on their license plates. Know why? They don’t like or want newbies. That means you. The SW? Speak Spanish?
    I think the author shares common misconceptions. Gun rights and guns in general are not important. Guns are a survivalist candy, not much else. An always legal (even in Australia) 308 lever action has 99% of the defensive potential of an AR 223. Just doesn’t make as much noise.
    If you want to talk gardening then do so but don’t pretend to know what you’re talking about unless you live there. Most western states gardening requires soil modification and constant summer irrigation. How are you going to do that post SHFT? The answer is you can’t. How about dry winds or early/late frosts? The author is no Western gardener.
    There’s a good reason why some places are under populated lands. Find what those are before moving there.
    My choice for a survival retreat (note the past tense) was the upper Mississippi Valley. My closest neighbor is a mile away and friendly and life is easy.
    What you want post SHFT is EASY.

  16. PS
    1) Cold War FEMA documents indicate that they think Russia would likely hit military targets in the USA first and leave cities as hostages to deter the American counterattack.
    2) They also show that reconstitution of
    cities would be the federal government’s highest post-attack priority in order to reconstitute the economy — since most valuable economic assets (factories,etc) are near cities.

  17. PPS
    1) Note also that every US male can be drafted into the military and sent to work in disaster areas under military discipline.
    2) Although I am sceptical of the stories about the mothballed “FEMA Camps”. The entire US is already a FEMA camp — the inmates just haven’t realized it yet.

    • Therefore….?

      • 1) The point I had made in my first post (that did not appear) is that the President has enormous powers to commandeer property and labor in a disaster — powers granted to him early in the Cold War. In any national disaster possibly short of massive nuclear war or a large asteroid strike, the Executive Branch would survive and would invoke those powers. Including martial law, tight controls on travel, seizures of the grain silos/food warehouses,etc. If you don’t cooperate you don’t get your food ration. And if you think farmers would be immune, look up “Holodomor” on Wikipedia to see what Stalin did to the farmers of Ukraine.
        2) In the name of “recovery” the government would spread the massive pain around so that –With the exception of small, wealthy elites –everyone would be equally miserable.

  18. Hmmm. Not sure why my first post failed to appear. What I had noted was that — in a major nuclear war with Russia — Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas would be glowing in the dark under 15,000 rads of fallout radiation because the Minuteman ICBM silos are there and also because the silos require ground bursts that would create huge amounts of fallout.

  19. Bill (a NIMBY/Banana)

    Yer right- Southern Arizona is a terrible place to live- hot, cold, snakes, cactuses (cacti to us); people are unfriendly and too many (of us). Also the furriners are all evil (their food is lousy, also)—-please stay away from here- don’t even think of visiting. I hear southern Kalifornia is nice–try (or stay) there.

  20. In a shtf/war scenario,
    DO NOT count on growing food.
    Can you say snipers, nuclear fallout or hungry neighbors?
    You think growing food to survive is the government’s bright idea during a crisis?
    There was a report awhile back that came out on local news stations about a scientist living in a secret compartment of someone’s house.
    He said he was there for YEARS and lived off nothing but MREs.
    Point is build up years worth of storable food & water in multiple locations just in case your home gets compromised.
    In a crisis, if the military tells you to evacuate, you do it.
    Blend in.
    The nail that sticks out gets hammered.
    I would have contingency plans, food & water at home with bio & medical equipment.
    Build connections to have an alternative way to leave the country.
    Have bartering items at home and with you if you need to leave.
    Have property with hidden storable food & water, bio & medical equipment, bartering items and weapons & ammo at this property.
    Never expect to survive in a country that depends solely on food imports.
    I would recommend staying in-country.
    During any crises, realistically, you might have to work to sustain your family.
    I would like to say get beach front property in Uruguay with a filter that can turn salt water to pure water but realistically if the world went into chaos,
    you might not survive the trip through central and South America.
    Building a connection to leave the country via boat or small plane would be dangerous but up to you.
    Can you say pirates & anti-aircraft guns?
    The North is too cold and most places too dangerous without power to keep warm.
    The West is to dead & isolated.
    Missle silos are prime targets.
    The South is not only too hot, but to dangerous as it is.
    Imagine in a shtf scenario.
    The East is perfect but have a boat on property and have emergency supplies in the boat as well.
    Some states being partially if not completely underwater in the distant future is a possibility.
    No matter where you are,
    you can survive by being prepared,
    having contingency plans & connections,
    and having alternative property.
    Most of all, tell no one of what you have.
    A while back a report came out of veterans saying they would raid peppers during a crisis for their goods.
    Don’t get too friendly with anyone.
    Don’t trust anyone, even now.
    Today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies.
    People turn during crisis.
    Develop athleticism & marksmanship.

  21. well worded thoughts and realities. What is your ideal location where one could be isolated but still have access to running water and electricity? Decent weather? I heard once from a military buddy that Alamagordo, NM, had idyllically pleasant weather year round. that being said, the area is militarily ripe so it wouldn’t be safe. And perhaps fir many more reasons that I don’t know. But point is the thought of a place where sissies like me could have basic access to amenities, livable climates and safely beautiful landscape. is this an “ice water in Hell” question. I ask this sincerely as I am totally uneducated in facts but the thought of “bugging out and away” has been in mind for years. Sick if crime, hate, natural disasters and awful news. Thanks for reading and/or insightful, respectful responses.–Will

  22. When shtf you need people now is the time for making friends have meet & greet. 10-20 be nice for a small community in the hills I guess. I see it said east NH and west ME. Lots hills and the winters are not nice. That means someone or several be cutting wood full time just to keep even 4-5 people for the winter. I was thinking the mountains of some southern states away from cities. Lot of people looking for food & water if shit does happen.

  23. Great advice ! Send those folks to the coldest driest places you can find ! I’ll be suffering away in Hawaii eating mangoes and papayas and wild pigs and fishin for dinner, while NOT freezing my nose off ! OK gotta go beach now. In my shorts and sandals…. lol

  24. Super silly.. the cities will fall FAST.. BUT, dont plan to head up into those KY hills..or Any hills.. the people already there dont want You there- and they are a better shot than you, believe me.

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