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  • Writer's pictureAndi Johnson

Solo Camping in the Tetons

It was the summer of 2020 and I had to get the heck out of my house! After months of looking for a job, having worked in the event world prior to the pandemic, with little to no bites, I decided to hit the road. The allure of escaping onto the open road and experiencing the beauty of nature was too strong to resist. At the time I was living in Colorado and had never seen the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, Banff, Idaho, Washington, Oregon... you get where I'm going here - pun intended, lol. Over several posts, I will be sharing all the ins and outs of my solo road trip in the summer of 2020. This post will be specifically about the Grand Tetons.

Andi Johnson, selfie in suv

Before we delve into my trip to the Tetons, here's a little background on me... When I decided to embark on this journey, I was single, had an SUV, and needed(!!) the great outdoors. Having grown up in Southern California, I was spoiled by living 1 mile from the beach. Because of the proximity of the mountains to our home, my family and I would go camping nearly every other weekend in the mountains. So, you could say I was no stranger to camping. However, I had never camped solo before, but I was pretty confident in my abilities. I also was a girl scout and participated in several group campouts, I'm an avid hiker, and am fiercely independent. So I felt pretty confident about my plan to head out for 2 weeks and car camp across 6 states. But despite numerous hours of researching and planning, over the next 12 days, I would find that this was way harder than I thought it would be.


 

So let's get into it!



cast iron pan with chili heating up over a campfire

Being that we were in the middle of the pandemic, this made planning and prepping a little more challenging than other trips I had taken. Many places were still in flux on whether they would be open due to staffing shortages, and health precautions. One great resource was Trip Advisor, to find all the things to see and do in and around the park. Prior to the trip, I precooked food, freezing some items to help prolong the shelf life of them. This is in huge part because I have food allergies and in times past, have struggled with nutrition while on the road. One of those meals was an easy , nutritious, tasty 3 bean chili, because who doesn't love chili over a campfire?!


view through the passenger window of grasslands with rocky mountains rising in the background

The beauty of a solo road trip is that you are free to take your time and make your own schedule. I decided to head out bright and early at 3:30 am, where I left Denver, Colorado for my 11-hour drive. Although this may feel like a daunting prospect for anyone traveling alone, I had been trekking back and forth between Colorado and Texas over the past year to visit friends and family. So I was ready to take it on! As I took in the landscape around me, I marveled at how I went from the mountains of Colorado to the prairie lands of Wyoming.


empty road leading to the Grand Tetons

The landscape began to shift the closer I got to the Grand Tetons National Park (GTNP). About an hour or so outside of the Park, I stopped at the rest stop to use the facilities and stretch my legs. As I was taking it all in, I came across what would be the first of many bear sightings on this trip, a safe distance from the rest stop as a single bear crossed the road. To say I was excited for what would come next was an understatement!

I then hopped back in my car and continued on. I didn't have an online reservation, so after entering the park, I drove through a couple of campgrounds before finally settling at Signal Mountain Camp. This campground is nestled right on Jackson Lake, which I believe is one of the most stunning spots. The campground was at about half full, and I landed an epic spot that was centrally located to the facilities, had plenty of shade and privacy, and direct access to Jackson lake.


After setting up my things and getting my bearings, I took a walk down to the lake to take it all in. Unbeknownst to me, the photo below was captured by my neighboring camper, whom I would later meet. In my experience, one of the most beautiful things about a road trip is the opportunity to meet new people and gain fresh perspectives.


Backside view of Andi Johnson with Jackson lake and the Grand Tetons in the background

Sitting by the campfire that first night, I struck up a conversation with my neighboring campers. We began sharing our respective journeys and our love for the outdoors, and at that moment she shared this photo with me. It was a simple interaction, but it left a lasting impression on me. I realized that despite the chaos that was going on in the world, there is still so much beauty and goodness to be found. Thanks to social media, I am still connected to these beautiful souls I met. One is an Osteopathic Manual Therapist, named Kylie, and her partner, Manas is a phenomenal drummer who shares his gift with others not only with downloadable songs, and concerts, but online lessons as well.


Selfie of Andi Johnson with the Grand Tetons and rushing river in the background

Over the next few days, I hiked and explored the Tetons, and the surrounding area. I was able to connect with myself without the distractions of others and news outlets, reflecting on all I had persevered through, and what I hoped for the future. I was also able to meet some incredible people while exploring GTNP. For instance, I met a group of climbers who had just trekked the Cascade Canyon Trail, and their stories from the trail inspired me to hike it the next day. But one of the most amazing things that happened is"meeting" infamous Bear 399 and her 4 cubs, not once but several times! I honestly felt honored to have gotten to experience that - in a safe manner. During thse bear encounters, I never felt scared or worried as the staff at GTNP worked tiresly to keep not only park visitors safe, but the wildlife safe. It is worth noting that within my research, was educating myself on what native wildfire I could encounter and how to be prepared and alert at all times.


During one such memorable encounter with a park ranger, we chatted about the impact of the pandemic on the park. She shared with me the importance of preserving our natural spaces and the impact that we, as humans, have on the environment. As I had worked for an environmental non-profit, and having been raised to be mindful of our planet, having another’s perspective about the impact of travel and tourism is something that I continue to carry with me. It was a humbling conversation, and it solidified for me the importance of being mindful of our impact on the planet.


sunset after a storm over Jackson lake with the Grand Tetons in the background

After a few magical days in Grand Teton National Park, it was time to move north to Yellowstone National Park, just a short, majestic drive up the road. The Grand Tetons will always hold a special place in my heart and mind. The tranquility and striking beauty of Wyoming, as well as the conversations and perspectives of others, will be with me for years to come. Despite this having been a solo car camping trip, I never felt lonely at the Grand Tetons National Park. So, if you get the chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to explore the Grand Tetons.

 

Notable Hikes and Scenic Drives:


Bradley and Taggart Lake Loop is a little over 6 mile loop trail and offers stunning views, and you can dip in the lake to cool yourself off on a hot summer day.

Lake Solitude via Cascade Canyon is a feat to take on at almost 15 miles, with a difficulty level of "hard". But it if you're able to take it on, it is one of the quintessential hikes.

Selfie of Andi from Roam with Andi, with the Teton range and Mormon Row barn in the background

Located in the park is Jackson Point Overlook (drive) sets you up to look out over the valley and mountain range.

Take a drive down highway 191 that runs parralell to the Park to stop at Mormon Row, Blacktail Pond overlook, Glacier view turnout, Schwabacher Landing, Snake River overlook, J.P. Cunningham Cabin, and so many more epic lookout points.









 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you have any questions about car camping, going on a solo trip, or anything related to Wyoming and The Grand Teton National Park, drop them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you. Check out my ultimate packing list for a car camping trip, and check back later for the other legs of this road trip.

Andi, from Roam with Andi, standing in front of a waterfall in Grand Teton National Park

*The Trip Advisor link listed in theis post is an affiliate link. As an education professional, any time you can use my links, goes a long way in helping support me. So I greatly appreciate you!


*Remember to drive safely, be alert, and take breaks in well-lit parking lots when needed.


*Recreate responsibly; do not approach wild animals, stay at least 200 yards away from wild animals, and be sure to pack out what you bring in.


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