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How to Hike Solo At Must-See National Parks

Last Updated on September 20, 2022 by Molly Egan

Teton National Park – Paintbrush Canyon

You’ve decided to adventure solo – Welcome to the memorable experiences ahead! The best solo adventures and hiking awaits. Especially in the Wild, Wild West! There are many National Parks in the West; however, we recommend these three for ease in access and ability for all: Yellowstone National Park, Teton National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

How do you hike solo?

Easy. Follow the steps below to ensure a good hike!
  1. Bring Bear Spray and Bear Bell
  2. Break in your hiking boots (the waterproof kind!)
  3. Wear appropriate clothing – sunblock, SPF, hats, wool socksĀ 
  4. Check the weather! Recommend Clime App (or NOAA)
  5. Research the trail and map out your hike
  6. Tell a friend where you are going and when you expect to be back (cell service won’t be an option)
  7. Download trail maps (Avenza is best) to know where you are at all times
  8. Bring snacks and a hydration pack
  9. Have fun!

What are the Best National Park Trails?

Here are the top hiking trails. The following have the most amazing views, and best of all – minimal crowds!
  1. String Lake at Paintbrush Canyon, Teton National Park
  2. Lost Lake, Yellowstone National Park
  3. Five Lakes Loop, Rocky Mountain National Park (secret insiders tip!)
  4. Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park
  5. Highline Trail, Glacier National Park

String Lake, Paintbrush Canyon, Teton National Park

Teton Mountains from Teton National Park Hiking Trails

This trail is amazing for its varied terrain, views, wildflowers, animal sighting possibilities (moose, bear, deer & birds), and the refreshing cool-off in the lake! We recommend String Lake Trail and start with the East portion of Jenny Lake Loop Trail (4 miles, 550ft., 3hrs.)! Sign me up for awe-inspiring views in addition to three lakes – Jenny, String, Leigh!

The Paintbrush Canyon Loop is 20.6 miles with over 5,000 elevation gain – challenging, long yet amazing – and begins at String Lake. This String Lake Trail loop is an attainable taste of Paintbrush Canyon for all. As a solo hiker, you will feel comfortable and awed simultaneously.

Lost Lake via NPS

Lost Lake, Roosevelt, Yellowstone National Park

The best trail in Yellowstone National Park is the Lost Lake Trail! It’s a peaceful hike to a secluded lake, where you’ll see a petrified tree and wildflowers. Why do we love it? It is easy, has a reasonable distance, and has low elevation gain (3 miles, 2 hrs., 600ft) – great for all ages, families, and solo!

Emerald Lake at Five Lakes Loop, Rocky Mountain National Park – image via x

Five Lakes Loop, Rocky Mountain National Park

The best hiking trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is the Five Lakes Loop Trail (7 miles RT)! Depending on the effort you’d like to exert and the distance take a look at which falls and lakes you’d like to see as well as elevation to pick your exact trail path.

The recommended short distance instead of a loop is to head up to Emerald Lake and pass both Dream and Nymph Lake here. (3 miles RT). Surprise yourself with nature’s beauty hiking solo.

Glacial lake view on Pawnee Pass Trail

Pawnee Pass, Roosevelt Forest (Next to Rocky Mtn Nat’l Park)

The best solo hiking trail when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is Pawnee Pass Trail in Roosevelt Forest and next to National Park. Why? A serene solo hike away from the overcrowded trails in Rocky Mountain National Park is magical!

This is our secret insider tip to hiking solo and amid beautiful landscapes of the national parks and national forests. You pass so many glacial lakes (Long, Isabelle, Pawnee, Mirror, Crater) that it’s euphoric!

We recommend continuing on FS 1 Trail to finish at Crater Lake before turning back if you have the time. Since this trail is less crowded than the touristy Rocky Mountain National Park – you’ll have a blast!

Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park

View from Grinnell Glacier Trail

Have you seen a glacier in person or a turquoise lake of a former glacier? You need to put this on your list. It’s a great hike for all levels with many rewards and opportunities to turn back!

This will take approximately 5 hours (round trip) or more if you have a slower pace and stop to take in all the views!

You’ll start near Many Glacier Hotel and pass two lakes before the ascending begins. For those that want to shorten the hike by 2 miles – take the boat across both lakes!

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park

View from Highline Trail

The Highline Trail lives up to all the hype and is a long trail worth your while! Start early at Logan’s Pass and make your way to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook for an unbelievable view and photo opportunity!

Recommend eating at Granite Park Chalet – either bring your food or pre-order food! Treat yourself before descending down the loop – it can get quite warm with tree cover or shade.

All in all this trail is nearly 14 miles one way – Logan Pass to Loop Trail bus stop – and well worth every minute!

Teton Mountains from Jackson Lake

Tips for Best Hiking Experience

When hiking in the Summer months, afternoon rain is nearly guaranteed to occur. Therefore it is best to start the hike as early as you can (within reason, not everyone is a morning person, plus jet lag). Consider the time it will take you to hike it, then add an hour on as things often take longer than expected.

It’s advisable to be done with your hike in the early afternoon – between 1pm and 2 pm – to maximize your time and not encounter a thunderstorm or rain. If rain is forecasted bring a light rain jacket or waterproof clothing layers.

Your cell phone will not have service! It’s recommended to keep it on airplane mode and wifi off to maximize your battery.

Hiking at Crater Lake

That being said. Download map apps such as Avenza, National Park Service, and State map apps – such as CO Trex for Colorado.

Check the weather when planning your hike and the morning of your hike! It’s always changing. The clime weather app by NOAA is highly recommended. Also, a forest fire may impact the air quality.

Are there fees or passes needed for entry? National Parks typically have fees and The Rocky Mountain National Park requires timed entry reservations.

Paintbrush Canyon at Teton National Park

Conclusion

Take precautions on your hike with weather and have appropriate gear such as bear spray, a hat, and water. Remember these hikes are higher than sea level so take your time, use sunblock, and hydrate!

Enjoy the beauty of the US National Parks and National Forests – whether hiking solo or in a group!!

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