Glacier & Waterton: An International Treasure

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Glacier & Waterton Photo Expedition

Itinerary Map
Our Photo Expeditions are limited to 10 guests and guided by a naturalist Expedition Leader who is also an expert nature photographer and instructor. (Departures with more than seven travelers will travel with two Expedition Leaders.) Photography workshops are included throughout, with field tutorials for capturing memorable images of landscapes, wildlife, wildflowers and more. No matter your ability level, your guide is by your side with personalized tips and coaching, to help you take your nature photography to the next level.

Day 1: Kalispell, Montana

Arrive in Kalispell and transfer to our hotel in nearby Whitefish, where our Glacier National Park & Waterton Lakes photography adventure begins with a welcome dinner this evening.

Day 2: Glacier National Park — Trail of the Cedars / Going-to-the-Sun Road / Lake McDonald
Drive east this morning to Glacier National Park, one of the most treasured natural landscapes in the United States. Famous for its ice-carved valleys and dramatic mountain peaks, Glacier contains some of the most pristine natural ecosystems left in the Lower 48 states. We'll have abundant opportunities to see and photograph many of the species that call it home, including the mountain goat, the park's emblematic animal.

Our focus today is the west side of the park, and we begin with a walk on the Trail of the Cedars. The Lake McDonald Valley is on the interior edge of the of the Pacific Northwest maritime climate zone, and the area marks the extreme eastern range of moisture-loving trees such as cedars and western hemlock. These tall conifers, plus Douglas fir, blanket the mountain flanks west of the Continental Divide while ferns and mosses grow in their shadows. A footbridge over Avalanche Creek provides dramatic view of Avalanche Gorge, with opportunities to photograph the rushing cascades. Later, we experience our first trip up the west side of the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, as far as Logan Pass. An engineering marvel completed in 1932, the narrow byway twists and climbs around Glacier's rocky spine all the way to the Continental Divide. Descend to spend the night at Lake McDonald Lodge, a historic hostelry inspired by Swiss alpine architecture. Explore the lakeshore to admire the multicolored rocks in the clear water, or relax in front of the massive stone fireplace in the hotel's famous lobby.

Day 3: Going-to-the-Sun Road / Many Glacier
Spend the morning exploring more trails on the west side of the Continent Divide. Waterfall spray creates rainbows as streams pour off rock precipices, while serrated peaks poke the blue sky, and we'll stop frequently for photos of the scenic splendor. From this lush lower elevation, we ascend the Going-to-the-Sun Road once more, traversing the Continental Divide in the heart of the park. As we continue down the east side, learn about the Lewis Overthrust fault and the region's tumultuous geological history, studied by scientists from around the world.

This afternoon we enter Many Glacier, one of the park's classic glacial valleys.  Keep an eye out for black bears and grizzlies feeding among the bushes in avalanche chutes, mountain goats and bighorn sheep perched on cliffs, and elk grazing in the meadows. Our destination for the next two nights is Many Glacier Hotel, built in 1915 as a grand Swiss-style chalet in the "American Alps," in the vision of the railway barons behind its construction. It sits on the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake overlooking a panorama of crenellated peaks.

Day 4: Many Glacier—Swiftcurrent Lake Cruise & Hike to Grinnell Lake
Scoured into a broad U-shape by rivers of ice that retreated some 10,000 years ago, Many Glacier features ragged crags, waterfalls that glissade from icy ledges, and alpine lakes set like gems in the rocky backdrop. We see why the Blackfeet gave the name "Backbone of the World" to the greater Glacier Park ecosystem. On a narrated boat tour across Swiftcurrent Lake, photograph the panorama of Mount Grinnell, Angel Wing and surrounding peaks. Learn about the geology and ecology of our environs as we get within view of Grinnell Glacier, an experience future visitors may be less likely to have as climate change hastens the melting of the park's permanent ice features. Depending on the angle of the sun, the lake may appear opaque turquoise, the result of glacial silt suspended in the water as it flows down the mountain from Grinnell Glacier. On an easy hike to Grinnell Lake, look for wildlife and raptors soaring overhead. These features bear the name of George Bird Grinnell, an early American conservationist, explorer and founder of the Audubon Society. He was so inspired by the scenery during his first trip to the area in 1885 that he spent the next two decades working to establish it as a national park.

Days 5 & 6: Waterton Lakes National Park
After a final morning in the Many Glacier area, we head north across the Canadian border to spend two days photographing Waterton Lakes National Park. As Glacier's sister park, Waterton shares a border and an ecosystem, as well as joint UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In 1932, these two parks together became the first International Peace Park. Here where Alberta’s prairies meet the peaks of the Rockies, Waterton is a continuation of Glacier's stunning landscapes, and opportunities abound for photography in this less-visited region. With our Expedition Leader, explore a sampler of enticing trails that capitalize on the panoramic vistas at every turn, including a short stroll to tranquil Akimina Lake. Look for moose on this walk through marshy forest—they’re often seen munching on vegetation at the bottom of the shallow lake.

We also enjoy a cruise aboard the M/V International on Upper Waterton Lake, cruising south to Goat Haunt, Montana, at the lake’s end point just over the U.S. border. This historic vessel first began taking visitors to admire the views of waterfalls and sheer mountain cliffs in 1927. As we ply the sparkling blue waters, look for bears, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and bald eagles. From our hotel, wander around the small townsite where deer and bighorn sheep often graze upon the lawns.

Day 7: Glacier National Park—Going-to-the-Sun Road / Logan Pass / East Glacier
After a final morning in Waterton Lakes, return to the American side of this International Peace Park via the Blackfeet Reservation on the park’s eastern edge. Then it’s time to climb to the alpine heights once more as we reach Logan Pass on the Continental Divide. On top, we hike the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail over tundra thick with white bear grass, glacier lilies and other wildflowers. Look for abundant wildlife, including bighorn sheep and the shaggy white mountain goat that is the Glacier Park’s emblematic animal. Listen for the whistle of hoary marmots darting among the rocks, and keep an eye out for black bears and grizzlies feeding among the bushes in avalanche chutes.

Descend to spend two nights in the village of East Glacier, the eastern gateway to the national park. Here where the prairie meets the peaks, early train travelers on the Great Northern Railway disembarked at East Glacier Station over a century ago to discover the wonders of the new Glacier National Park, established by President William Taft in 1910, preserving a million acres of alpine summits, glacier-carved valleys, pristine turquoise lakes and streams, and dense ancient forests for all to enjoy.  
 
Day 8: Boat Cruise on Two Medicine Lake / Blackfeet Cultural Presentation
Board the historic boat Sinopah for a morning cruise on Two Medicine Lake. The oldest boat in the park’s fleet, Sinopah was built in 1926 for the Glacier Park Hotel Company, the tourism subsidiary of the Great Northern Railway. After lunch, delve deeper into the natural and cultural history of Glacier and the Two Medicine Valley with a member of the Blackfeet Nation. Our guest speaker  meets our group at Running Eagle Falls, a place that is significant to the tribe, to share the cultural heritage of the Blackfeet people who have been integrated with this landscape for centuries. We also drive over a portion of the Blackfeet Reservation today, admiring the multicolored rock layers of the mountain walls as we learn about the Blackfeet Nation’s ancient connection to this land and its creatures. Wildlife abounds here, including moose, elk and deer that graze on tall grasses in sunny meadows, plus mountain goat and bighorn sheep, grizzly and black bear, gray wolf, lynx, mountain lion and wolverine. By later afternoon, we return to East Glacier where we gather for a farewell dinner.

Day 9: Kalispell / Depart
This morning our Glacier National Park photo tour concludes as we get an early start for the drive back to Kalispell via Highway 2 , where we meet departing flights this afternoon.

Physical Rating: Moderate

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