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After shooting waterfalls on my first day in Glacier National Park, I shot the sunset at Goose Island Overlook. This is one of the most famous sunset spots in the park and although the view was excellent, I was treated to a total no-show of a sunset. A black and white treatment turned out reasonably well.
I spent a calm, cool night at a campground just outside the gates and woke up bright and early to beat the crowds to Logan Pass. Labor Day Weekend is one of the last weekends that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open and the crowds were out in full force. I secured my parking spot and then set off quickly up the Hidden Lake Overlook trail. The boardwalk cut a jagged line through a meadow of wildflowers and wrapped around the base of Mt. Reynolds towards a ridge. At the top of the ridge, the trail cut through some stubby pine trees and ended at a stunning vista of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain.
The haze visible behind the mountain is smoke from the brand new wildfire near Avalanche Lake. More on that later.
Descending from the overlook, I quickly ducked off the trail and into the Hanging Valley area. For a couple weeks at the end of the summer the park service opens up Hanging Valley to off-trail exploration. Tightly gripping my bear spray, I set off down the valley, following a rocky, slimy stream bed. I was looking for Triple Falls, a popular but hard to find slot canyon near Logan Pass. Three streams empty into the small canyon, making for an engaging foreground to go with the stellar mountain backgrounds all around. After about an hour of mucking around in stream beds and snowfields, I finally stumbled upon the falls. This late in the summer, only two of the falls were running, but it was still a blast to find and explore an area I’d seen and heard so much about. I covered Triple Falls in my Waterfalls of Glacier National Parkpost and you can check out the rest of my shots there.
I hiked out following the stream downhill and back to the Logan Pass Visitor Center. I drove west and downhill, heading for the Avalanche area. The western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was as magnificent and scary as the east side. The road is carved into the side of the mountains and at many places there are barely enough room for two cars to pass side-by-side. Couple this with attention-stealing views and it’s a bit risky.
I arrived at the parking lot for the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake only to find that a fresh wildfire had closed the trail to Avalanche Lake. I was beginning to get a bit fed up with the crowds, totally booked campgrounds, and the wildfires and decided that I was going to head back to Bozeman that night. Fortunately, I decided to walk the Trail of the Cedars first. Trail of the Cedars is a wide, accessible path that winds for less than a mile through towering cedars (surprisingly…) and along the banks of Avalanche Creek. At the end of the path I found one of the classic views of Avalanche Gorge that I had been hoping to shoot. I scrambled out onto a rock outcropping and managed to salvage a little bit of my afternoon in the shot that heads up this post and the portrait orientation to the left.
It was a long, smoky, six hour drive back to Bozeman but well worth it. I can’t wait to get back to Glacier, hopefully with some other photographers, to explore the miles of trails and countless landscapes that I missed out on. I’m pretty sure I could spend a whole summer shooting and hiking here and not get bored.
If you like what you see here, you can support my work by sharing this post on your social media pages or using the thumbnails below to purchase prints, cards, and canvases of these images. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the locations or any of the pictures from this trip. You can either leave a comment below or shoot me an email.
I finally made it to Glacier National Park last weekend. I’ve been dying to go ever since I moved to Montana three years ago. It’s a 6 hour drive through lots of empty farm coutnry from Bozeman, but it was completely worth it.
I pulled into the park just after 1pm on Saturday. Predictably, all the campgrounds were full so I drove around the tiny gateway town of St. Mary, MT and found Johnson’s of St Mary, a large private campground on a hill overlooking the town and St Mary Lake. I staked out my campsite, dropped off some gear, and drove back into the park.
St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls
My first objective was St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. I only had the afternoon to hike and I was solo. Not being particularly thrilled with venturing too far into the woods without a partner, I stuck close to the road. The trailhead for St. Mary Falls is 10 miles down the Going-to-the-Sun Road at the head of St Mary Lake. The trail quickly plunges through deep forest down to an intersection with the Continental Divide Trail. After barely a mile and a half of hiking, the trail crosses the river at St Mary Falls. It’s a gorgeous, albeit crowded location. It’s well worth leaving the trail and common viewpoints and scrambling around on the rocky banks of the river to get closer and different views of the falls.
The top of the falls are a little tight and choked off by the surrounding rock walls. In order to eliminate this restriction and to get a different composition, I crossed back over the bridge and walked underneath.
Past St Mary Falls, the trail continues uphill for less than a mile. The hike follows the river and there are numerous waterfalls along the edges of the trail that are not marked or frequented.
After a total of about 2.25 miles of hiking, the trail levels off at Virginia Falls. These falls are much higher and much more dramatic than St Mary Falls. There are multiples levels and steps to the falls, and tons of small pools and drop-offs. It’s a fun area to explore around, although it was mobbed with kids and their families when I was there.
You can check out the GPS tracks for my hike to St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls here: 9.1.2012 St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls on Garmin Connect.
The next day I woke up early and drove up the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. The parking lot fills quickly and I was trying to beat the crowds for my morning hike. I set off up the Hidden Lake Trail at around 9:30 AM. I topped out at the Hidden Lake Overlook and then turned around and started back down to the trail. My objective for the morning was Triple Falls, an awesome set of three creeks that all spill into one small slot in the bedrock. The location is a somewhat closely guarded secret and no one will quite tell you where it is. After about an hour and a half of tramping around in creeks and on snowfields, tensely looking over my shoulder for bears, I finally stumbled onto Triple Falls. The leading image in this post is one of the first shots I took. The water was absolutely frigid and the spray inside the slot was intense, so I didn’t linger very long. I can’t wait to get back though, as this would have been a killer location for a sunrise or a sunset.
I’ve got a ton more pictures from Glacier that I’m still working on processing and those should be posted within the next couple days (Posted Here!)as I find the time. In the gallery below you can check out all the waterfall pictures and buy prints and cards from these shots. The leading image in particular would make a fantastic canvas to hang up on the wall.