Trip Report: Glacier National Park (hiker)- July 2021

Glacier National Park is located in northwest Montana and was established as the 10th national park in 1910 by President William Howard Taft. Along with Waterton National Park in Canada, these two parks combine as the world’s first International Peace Park and were dedicated as such in 1932. Additionally, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Glacier National Park is split into western and eastern sections by the Continental Divide, with its Triple Divide Peak as the hydrological apex of the North American continent. The Columbia River drains into the Pacific Ocean, the Saskatchewan River into Hudson Bay, and the Missouri-Mississippi river drainage into the Gulf of Mexico.  

Ben Blankenship

Glacier Park boasts a remarkable diversity in ecosystems, elevation, weather, flora, and fauna. Exciting potential for photographers and hikers alike on our second July Glacier tour, this time the ‘hiker’ itinerary. 

On our first evening together, Ben Blankenship and I meet our group of eight at the elegant ‘Wine Room’ inside the Grouse Mountain Lodge, in White Fish, for orientation and dinner. We go over what to expect during the exciting week ahead, answer questions, and enjoy a delicious meal together.  

Michael Wichman

Early the following morning we head to Lake McDonald for our first sunrise shoot. Situated in Lake McDonald Valley in the western end of the park, this is the largest and longest lake at Glacier Park at nearly 500 feet deep and 10 miles in length. A variety of foreground options are available, leading to some excellent compositions from our group.

Michael Wichman

After a tasty and filling breakfast at Eddie’s Cafe in Apgar Village, we head to Avalanche Gorge to hike ‘Trail of the Cedars.’ This location does not disappoint. Many of us use ND filters allowing for slow enough shutter speeds to blur the beautiful blue water as its power and persistence carve the crimson rock to a smooth polish. 

The ‘Going to the Sun Road’ gains 3,500 feet in elevation as it careens over Logan Pass and onto St. Mary Village. We enjoy lunch at Snowgoose Grille and check in to our rooms at St. Mary Lodge. Our sunset shot is at an off-the-beaten-path location on St. Mary Lake, the second largest lake in the park. Here, multi-colored rocks in the foreground and smokey mountains in the background create the scene.  

Michael Wichman

The morning of day three we head to Hidden Lake for a 1.5-mile jaunt up a boardwalk to a viewing platform. We set up here and are treated to the setting moon juxtaposed with the rising sun. With nary a cloud in the sky, Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain dominate our lenses. On our return trip, we pass a family of mountain goats right alongside the boardwalk. They are likely seeking refuge from predators in the presence of humans or other species likely to scare away the potential predator. Before we return to our vans we take a side hike on the Continental Divide Trail. 

Marmots! These yellow-bellied marmots are entertaining to watch and shoot. One of these furry creatures splays out on a boulder as if warming its belly and sunning its back. Hilarious! After a much-needed break, we head to the Wild Goose Island viewpoint. This is one of the most iconic photography locations in all of Glacier. With some decent atmosphere, we eagerly await the light to unfold. Click-click.

Michael Wichman

The next morning we proceed to the banks of Swiftcurrent Lake, adjacent to the Many Glacier Hotel. This historic hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway between 1914 and 1915. We set up alongside this beautiful lakeshore, with colorful rocks and tree snags in the foreground and Grinnell Point, Angel Wing, and Mt. Wilbur providing a perfect background. 

After breakfast, we go on a short hike to Fishercap Lake, in search of moose. None were there upon our arrival, so we hunker down and play the waiting game. Ben takes some of our group an additional 1.7 miles to Redrock Falls. I remain back at Fishercap. After about 30 minutes, a mother moose and her calf run across the narrow outlet of Fishercap Lake. They were only within sight for a few seconds, so none of us were able to get photographs. Ben’s group returns shortly with nice feedback on Redrock Falls.

After lunch, and a short break, we head out on our big hike to Grinnell Lake Overlook. It is approximately 4 miles to reach the overlook, with roughly 1,200 feet of elevation gain. The entire hike is spectacular. Once we depart Swiftcurrent Lake we walk along the banks of Lake Josephine.

Ben Blankenship

As we hike further and ascend to higher elevations Grinnell Lake comes into view. Stunning! Fireweed abounds. The turquoise blue waters of this glacial lake play tricks on the human eye. Several waterfalls careen down from Grinnell Glacier, creating a mystical mountain scene. We carry on to our spot. The sun is about 30 minutes from setting behind the ridgeline to our right. Sunbursts! Shortly thereafter some guests start pointing towards the lake. Moose! A female moose has entered the lake and is swimming across it. Wow! They are much faster swimmers than their gangly land walking style would indicate. Quite the massive wake behind her.  

On the morning of day five, Ben conducts a Lightroom workshop and Image Review. This was a highlight for me, as it brought the group closer together, created space for us to discuss some of the better images we had processed and felt like a final kumbaya.  

For our final sunrise shot, we head back to Wild Goose Island, then to West Glacier, via the Going to the Sun Road. What an amazing and fun-filled week! Thank you to each of the eight guests, to Ben Blankenship, and to the wilderness that is Glacier National Park. 

Glacier never disappoints.

Michael Wichman








Michael Wichman is a photography and wilderness guide based out of Flagstaff, AZ.  His first trip below the rim in Grand Canyon was in October 2004 and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s passionate about all wild and scenic places, with a love of capturing images, hiking, and climbing. With nearly 10 years of professional guiding and trip leading, Michael continues to be dedicated to lifelong learning, and an avid reader of all things associated with Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Katmai, and many wilderness areas in the Western US.  In addition to wildlife and landscape photography, his favorite topics are geology, Native American culture, and Pioneer-era history. Michael also loves meeting new people — of all backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. He finds shared group experiences extremely enriching, especially when that experience is in nature. Michael earned a B.A. in psychology from UCLA, where he worked with children with autism. He also studied at Northern Arizona University, focusing on Environmental Science & Policy in the Southwest. Michael looks forward to the opportunity to provide quality photography instruction while sharing adventures with you.

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