Residing next to a national park has its advantages. Within a few minutes I can be exploring and photographing in one of America’s most beautiful and spacious national parks and I have done so with much gusto for nearly 30 years.
Glacier has two distinct regions as the Rocky Mountain divide does more than guide its meltwater and rainfall to either the Pacific, Atlantic or Arctic Oceans. It exposes two distinct landscapes; the western side of the park is heavily forested while the eastern flanks are more open country with a mix of prairie, foothills and mountains.
I prefer to be on the park’s eastern side. When the clouds hanging in the mountains are exposed the sun’s first rays, they often result in colorful sunrises with variations of reds, oranges and yellows. Hopefully, the wind is calm as terrific reflections in lakes such as Swiftcurrent, St Mary and Two Medicine can yield stunning images.
Wildflowers season usually starts by the end of June and the peak of the blooms follows the change in elevation. I like to begin photographing the prairie wildflowers in the Many Glacier and St Mary valleys in early July, and then head up to Logan Pass in August to follow the bloom up higher. There are great wildflower opportunities right along the boardwalk on the route to the Hidden Lake overlook. (Please remember to stay on the boardwalk and not trample the fragile alpine environment.) The iconic bloom of beargrass is cyclical, a good year is about every seven years. Hopefully this will be the year as the white puffy stalks add a sense of magic to the land.
Best bets for wildlife include the easy hike to Fishercap Lake in the Many Glacier Valley where moose are often spotted feeding in the shallow lake; the Logan Pass area which has a healthy populations of bighorn sheep, mountain goats and large mule deer; while bears can often be seen along the roadways in the Many Glacier Valley. Be sure to use caution, do not approach wildlife and carry bear spray.
On the park’s western side, I prefer the sunset lighting on Bowman Lake in the remote northwestern corner of the park. The rough road may deter some, but to me camping, paddling my kayak and capturing a calm reflection of the lake are some of my favorite Glacier experiences.
The views over Lake McDonald at sunset are also not to be missed. The best spot to photograph the mountain peaks over the lake are at Apgar Village. You may want to try your hand at night-time photography here.
Traveling the epic Going to the Sun Road is a treat in itself and there are many pullout roads that offer stunning views, wildflowers, waterfalls and possibly wildlife. Avalanche Gorge is one of the most photogenic spots on the western side and best shot on a cloudy day.
I suggest lacing up the hiking boots and seeing some of the park’s backcountry where you can get away from the summer crowds and really get the true essence of Glacier. The short summer season can get extremely busy with tourists. Book rooms early and also employ that strategy when exploring with your camera as the parks magic often reveals itself at 5:30am!
I often host a summer photography workshop in July. Consider joining me this summer to share in my wealth of park experience to get you to the right spots at the right times for memorable images. This year we will spend Saturday evening visiting the nearby North American Indian Days celebration where we will learn how to photograph fast moving rodeo action and capture portraits of the dancing contestants in colorful regalia. My students have always raved about attending this event