5 Hidden Photo Gems in Glacier Country
by Bob McGowan
There are many spectacular and iconic photographic gems inside Glacier National Park that you may be familiar with: Going-to-the-Sun Road, Trail of the Cedars, Avalanche Lake, Grinnell Glacier, and many, many others. All of these areas provide incredible opportunities for beautiful image-making.
We thought you might be interested in some lesser known (but still stunning) vistas that will take you off the beaten path a bit. Without further ado, here are five of my favorite spots that make great photo ops at certain times of day.
Want a totally off-the-grid experience? Want to indulge in huckleberry-infused culinary delights? Want to photograph an enclave completely stuck in time in the middle of mountainous terrain? If you answered "Heck, yes!", then Polebridge is your place. With a mercantile/bakery, saloon, outside music venue and cozy cabins, there are plenty of images to capture here. Located just outside Glacier National Park boundaries, this is a must-see-and-experience type of place. Note: Be prepared for gravel and dirt roads.
And while you’re out there, a little further up the road from Polebridge in the most northwestern upper reaches of Glacier National Park is the grandiose mirror pond known as Bowman Lake. A stunningly symmetrical site to behold, this glacier-made beauty perfectly reflects the surrounding forests and mountains to a seemingly point of infinity. Personally, I can’t enough of the shear artistic serenity of this place.
Just outside the southwest corner of the park, the town of Whitefish is a terrific artsy tourist destination. One of its landmark attractions is the beautiful Whitefish Lake. Sunrise or sunset around the rim or on the lake itself will provide breathtaking vistas. And from the west side looking toward Big Mountain and the Whitefish Range on the northeast side of the lake provides dreamy reflections during the photogenic twilight hours.
Whitefish Mountain Resort, a.k.a. Big Mountain
And speaking of mountain vistas — and especially of interest to those who enjoy winter sports — there's Whitefish Mountain Resort. At the peak elevation of 6,800 feet, the views to the west of the snow-covered peaks in Glacier NP are unrivaled and seem to roll off into the distance forever (well, at least into Canada). Of course, doing so during sunny weather would be ideal for such an endeavor, so plan accordingly and get up there on a crisp winter day when the weather is cooperating.
Highway 83/Swan River Valley
About 40 miles south of Glacier NP is the bucolic town of Big Fork, where the Swan River drains into huge Flathead Lake. Just north of Big Fork, heading south on Hwy 35, the junction with Hwy 83 East is the way to go. Along the way, enjoy the stunning distant views of the Swan Range to the northeast, ideally captured at sunset. Continue on 83 and it will eventually bend south through the Swan River Valley. This route gains access to a string of some of the more stunning mountains, forests and lakes in Western Montana, in my humble opinion. Check out Holland Lake if your wanderings take you that far east.