Glacier National Park in Autumn for Women 2022 Trip Report

By Melissa Scott on Oct 28, 2022

Fall in Glacier National Park—one of my favorite times to be there! It was such a treat to be able to share Glacier with a wonderful group of women photographers this past September. The mornings and evenings were crisp while the days warmed up nicely to reveal splendid scenery and abundant wildlife!

Our journey began with dinner in Whitefish, Montana, where we set the stage for the days to come. Early mornings to beat the crowds and catch first light on the mountains, meals in the field so we didn’t miss any good light and photographing wildlife safely were a few of the topics we covered that evening. Everyone went to bed that night anticipating an exciting week ahead.

We were up and off to the park well before light to be in place along the Going to the Sun Road before the sun touched the mountain peaks. Our first stop was a place along the road known as “the Loop.” We set up and waited for the first rays to hit Heaven’s Peak. This was our time to practice using graduated neutral density filters as the contrast between light and shadow ramped up. The use of this tool would play a large part in our photography for the remainder of the trip and after everyone felt comfortable with this, we moved on up the road toward Logan Pass.

We made a few stops along the way to capture morning light on these west side valleys before calling it a morning and heading back down to the Lake McDonald area for the afternoon. A beautiful sunny day lent itself to breaking out the polarizing filters and capturing the brilliantly colored rocks gracing the shallow edge of the lake. With the warming of the day, even a few butterflies showed up for us to photograph. I am fairly certain I have never captured a Morning Cloak resting on rocks near the edge of the lake and it made for a wonderful composition. After getting settled at the lodge and having a nice dinner, everyone was fairly tuckered out, but a few made it down to the lake’s edge for a little sunset session before calling it a night.

The next morning, we headed out to the old growth cedar forest before breakfast. We had some fun with slow shutter speeds along Avalanche Creek and looked for patterns amongst the richly saturated colors of the forest along the boardwalk. Upon return to the lodge and a quick breakfast, we packed up and headed to the east side of the park. Wildfire smoke added a new dimension to our day, so we took advantage of a layering effect across the ever more distant ridge lines as we came into the Many Glacier valley. Given the somewhat smoky conditions, we decided to take a short stroll to look for wildlife and were gifted with a very healthy black bear feeding in the cascara buckthorn a safe distance—but nicely close—to the trail! We truly enjoyed his uncaring attitude as we all snapped away as he went about his business! After he decided to move off, we continued to our destination and were delighted to have a cow moose feeding in the lake. What a day!

Sunrise the following day was spent close to the hotel along the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. It was a muted sunrise, but we had lovely reflections and pastel colors as the sun brightened the landscape. Later, we boarded one of two boats that would take us to the far end of Josephine Lake where we spent a few hours searching for subjects that caught our eyes. As we walked back around Swiftcurrent Lake toward the hotel, we found a cooperative group of Common Mergansers to photograph. We had lunch at the hotel then headed back out for a drive to see what might be found. Again, a black bear was sighted above the road but was a bit too far off for a quality photographic stop though we did linger to admire it for a while. Later, we wandered back out in hopes of another moose sighting but to no avail.

Our final morning in Many Glacier found us once more out hoping for some wildlife. We arrived at our lake not only to find 1 moose but three. A single cow close to one end and a mom with a calf near the other. We chose to quietly move down the shoreline—but up in the trees so as not to disturb them—to get set up for a nice long session capturing them grazing on the plants growing on the bottom of this shallow lake. It was the final day of the season for the Many Glacier Hotel and it was interesting to watch the hotel team as they said goodbye to their final customers of the year and started buttoning up the lodge for the winter. We spent more time near the lodge photographing Swiftcurrent Falls before departing and had an exciting “close” encounter with another black bear that happened so quickly no one got a shot of it

We moved back into the St. Mary area but stopped for some artsy photos of a lovely grove of aspen along the road. A picnic dinner gave us the opportunity to get up to Logan Pass area again for the evening and we hit the jackpot!! A nice group of mountain goats were hanging about near the road and we had an awesome time capturing some interesting behavior among the diverse sex and age groups present. We had kids of the year bawling for mom while a very mature adult male pushed all the younger ones around looking for the best forage. What a fantastic experience! Then, on the way back down to the hotel, the evening sky lit up with the colors of the sunset enhanced a bit by the lingering smoke.

Breakfast the following morning was at Logan Pass. We wandered off looking for our goats again but no luck, so we spent our time capturing some beautiful landscapes from near the visitor center and along the trail to Hidden Lake. A few of us went all the way to the overlook and were gifted with a brief look at a grizzly bear while others practiced some macro shots of the remaining wildflowers near the trail. The bighorn sheep did not want to cooperate but were sighted up near the cliffs above the pass. On our way back down the east side, we stopped at Lunch Creek where we found a very cooperative pika, a beautiful patch of late season wildflowers and several species of butterflies foraging for the last bit of nectar. Another productive day in Glacier National Park!

Our final full day in the park found us at the iconic Wild Goose Island overlook for sunrise. It was a great day to capture the sun’s rays slowly lighting up the valley and, to once again, practice the use of our HDR and graduated neutral density filters. Before heading back to the hotel, we took a brief drive up the Hudson Bay Divide to look for a few final shots of the St. Mary Valley. Our drive south took us out onto the prairies east of the park on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. We found the tribe’s cultural bison herd near the road so spent some time photographing them before moving onto East Glacier Park, Montana for a quick lunch. The afternoon hours found us on the shores of Two Medicine Lake grabbing a few shots of the glacially sculpted terrain and discussing the settings we may use for the possibility of night sky photography later.. Our hopes of a clear night were not to pass, however, so we shared a glass of wine on the back deck of Glacier’s oldest grand lodge and toasted to a trip well-traveled.