The American west has always represented a land of vast and transcendental beauty. Even now, with national parks strangled by tourists hoping to capture a glance at purple paradises, the west’s mysticism remains embedded in the American psyche. Like an alternate universe accessible yet intangible, the west lingers on in the American mind.
Montana, the fourth largest state by size in the USA is home to large swaths of nationally protected land including the much lauded Glacier National Park. It is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the most bears of any of the lower 48 states. Wild habitats and wilder men’s histories have intertwined to form the rugged Montana ethos, with legends of mountain men and mounted native warriors illuminating imaginations.
John Steinbeck, one the most celebrated authors of the American literary canon famously said “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love.”
In a state largely founded lumberjacks, ranchers, miners, and cowboys, rugged masculinity is celebrated still today. There's a reason why they call it 'Man'tana. I briefly met this man, Big John, up at Polebridge in Glacier National Park during a July 4th Parade.
I must have driven past this barn 100 times, but had to pull over to snap a shot with the rainbow and the big sky as the backdrop. The barn may not have much in the way of walls but this farmer is doing a good job of keeping his freshly harvested hay dry.
In Montana I'm always on the lookout for wildlife anytime the trail emerges from a wooded area into an area with grass and shrubs. This young grizzly, probably 2 or 3 years old was foraging for roots among the grass and shrubs when I saw her. She looked at me, smiled, and kept going about her business, so I snapped a couple shots and did the same.
Whitefish is 65 miles from the Canadian border, and its population swells with Canadian tourists from Alberta during the summer months. These Canadian men had a few days off from their hitches in the oil rich Alberta Tar Sands. Local economies in northwest Montana benefit from the disposable incomes of well-off Canucks.
Just outside Bozeman is the Gallatin Nation forest with a great selection of of well groomed trails and easily accessible peaks. This photo is from Hyalite peak facing west.
The savage reality of living in most places in Montana is startlingly reminiscent of Marquez's magical realism. Everywhere there are signs that nature's robustness is unrelenting, with the power to reclaim established places and things.
Bighorn sheep can be seen all throughout Glacier National Park, especially near the continental divide. I was hiking to Hidden Lake when I came across a gang of about 6 bighorns grazing and relaxing. Lucky enough for a photographer, they like to stand absolutely still for periods at a time.
The northeast corner of Glacier National Park is far less traveled than most areas, with lush river valleys, abundant wildlife, and best of all - less tourists. The purple edible fireweed was in full bloom when Lia and I explored the area on a 3 day backpacking trip.
My buddy Tyler M. has been living off the grid since graduating school with an engineering degree back in 2008. He cultivates close to a half acre of vegetables to stay fed and has a wood stove for heat. He makes his way into town mostly for cigarettes, beer, and other food staples
Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park is a treasure to behold. Autumn is an especially colorful time, with the yellow Tamarack Larch speckling the landscape, just before the Montana winter hits.
I was hiking to the Mount Brown summit in early Spring when all of the sudden I had some comrades following behind me on the trail. Two mountain goats, shedding their winter furs had decided to take the freeway. I stepped aside and they passed, regarding me with the affectionate indifference of the wild.
Yellow glacier lilies and purple lupine thriving at Columbia Mountain, Montana, in the Swan Mountain Range, just over 8000 feet. Its a great day hike, around 11 miles round trip.
Having a partner who shares your interests is always ideal, especially when it comes to hiking and camping. Hiking alone can be fun now and again but exploring with your partner to me is the American Dream in a lot of ways.
This young lumberjack from Lincoln County, MT took home the gold in the beer stein holding contest in Whitefish, MT. My friend Alan picked him as early favorite in the contest. When I asked him why he thought so, he explained "He's the only one with his shirt tucked in."
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So what exactly does a Rocky Mountain Road trip cover? Well, the Rockies is a mountain range that spans from its southern tip of New Mexico all the way north to Western British Columbia in Canada.
In this post, we’re sharing a one-way route between Denver, Colorado all the way up to Jasper, Alberta.
We wanted to create a route that toured the most popular national parks and iconic locations in the Rocky Mountains and experience it all in the span of one epic road trip!
Here’s an overview of the national parks we will cover in this route:
Standing tall and shaped like the Pacific’s version of the “Burj Al Arab” (the sailboat skyscraper) in Dubai, this iconic beach is a photographer’s paradise. And as the caption below suggests, Rialto Beach may be the best “Kelped” secret of the Pacific Northwest coastline.
Here’s a scene right out of a Dr. Seuss book except it’s real life. I’ve seen a similar sight in Asia but who knew we had this here in the United States? The painted hills are a part of a larger area of the John Day Fossil Bed where you can find fossils of horses, camels, and even rhinoceroses. And by “you” I mean skilled paleontologists, of course.
Prepare for snowy roads when you visit the park in winter.
Some COVID-19 Precautions are Still in Effect.
The east side of the park remains closed. Winter road conditions traditionally close roads to vehicles, but in addition most of the east side of the park remains closed to all entry. Plans for the summer of 2021 are still underway and have not been finalized at this time. As soon as we know more information we will post updates here and in other locations on the park website.
Winter visitation is much lower than in the summer. If you do find yourself in crowded conditions please continue to maintain social distance, wear a mask, and follow other COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Winter in the Park
As is typical for this time of year much of the road access to the park has closed for the season. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open at the West Entrance. Depending on weather conditions the road will be open to Lake McDonald Lodge. Occasionally, in extreme conditions, the road may be closed at the foot of Lake McDonald. Limited winter access into the North Fork area of the park is still available as well.
Road Work and Project Construction
Road reconstruction typically requires warmer weather. In this part of the country that means road construction overlaps with the primary visitor season of May through October. Click here for details information on how this may impact your visit to the park.
The roads on the east side of the park are closed, as is typical for this time of year. Additionally most areas within the park, east of the Continental Divide, remain closed to all access due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, just outside the park. Non-essential travel on roads within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is prohibited.
Skiing and Snowshoeing
Winter recreation access is permitted beyond the vehicle closure on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Skiing and snowshoeing along the road is a popular winter activity. The snow is beginning to get too deep for hiking on the road. Guided snowshoe trips are not being offered this winter.
Loop B of the Apgar Campground is open for first-come, first served primitive camping. There is no water available and only vault toilets. Loop B will remain open for primitive camping through the winter.
Summmer 2021 Camping
Decisions are still being finalized to determine which campgrounds will open for the summer 2021 season. Fish Creek and Many Glacier Campgrounds are scheduled to open and are available for reservation through recreation.gov. The St. Mary and Rising Sun Campgrounds will not be open this coming summer.
Additional camping information is available on the park's Camping webpage.
Lake McDonald is currently the only lake open to boating. All boats must be inspected prior to launch. Obtain a boat permit from the Apgar Permit Center. Boating season closed on November 1, 2020.
Lodges, Restaurants, and Other Services
Glacier’s concessioners operating lodging, restaurants, boat rentals, horseback rides, and bus tours have closed for the season.
Private businesses in Apgar Village may be open periodically during the winter. Plan to bring food and other items you may need, just in case they are not open.
Trails and Backcountry Camping
Snow has begun to accumulate on park trails. Winter conditions are in effect throughout the park trail system.
From November 20th to May 1st, special backcountry camping regulations are in effect. Due to COVID-19 precautions, permits will be issued electronically by advance reservation only. Call 406-888-7800 and press 5 to leave a call-back number. A ranger will return your call within 3 work days. Permits may be obtained up to 7 days in advance.