United States Glacier National Park

34 spots Public

Chuck Haney

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 National Park was created in 1910 to preserve over one million acres of unspoiled wilderness. More than 730 miles of hiking trails provide access to soaring peaks, mountain meadows, verdant tracts of forest and fish-filled clear lakes.

There are two main access points to the park. Highway 2 which skirts the park’s southern border and has the lowest crossing in the Rocky Mountains (5,213 feet) at Marias Pass. The scenic highway provides access to the open prairie landscape near East Glacier and the only east to west access of the park until summer. Going to the Sun Road is an enthralling engineering marvel that bisects the heart of the park in its 52-mile length. The narrow roadway hugs mountainsides while it twists and turns to the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet at Logan Pass. Many visitors to the park come specifically just to drive on the famed road.

Traveling the epic Going to the Sun Road is a treat in itself and there are numerous pullout roads that offer stunning views, wildflowers, waterfalls, and possible wildlife sightings.

There is much history in the over 100 years that the region has existed as a national park. The red jammer buses, historic ranger stations and lodges just add to the charm of place called the “Backbone of the Earth” by the local Blackfeet Native Americans who have called this home for centuries.

Glacier National Park 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 to 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.

Wildflower 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 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 that has 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.

Yes, there is something special exploring such a magnificent landscape where glaciers have carved out stunning valleys that are still home to wild grizzly bears. Glacier National Park is a place to be both humbled and inspired by.

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