One cant help but to conjure up the imagination of sitting in the front of a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate and staring out the cabin window as the temperatures drop below zero and the snow starts to fall. Life on the continental divide on the border of Glacier National park is no different, with an average snow fall of 22o inches, last year 334 inches fell. First, I cringe a little knowing that once the snow starts it typically wont stop for 7 months and then my heart starts to race a little bit, hands get sweaty and everything starts to spin. My life seems to go into a complete metamorphosis, my baseball cap turns into a thick wool hat that makes my head look uncomfortably small, my t- shirts have since gone. My winter clothing simply makes me look and feel like Ralphie” in a Christmas story, only with bigger snow shoes! After the initial shock of knowing winter is coming, a sense of excitement follows. I know as a wildlife photographer, even though there is snow on the ground and the forests may seem silent, they are very alive. If you venture in and around Glacier National Park and you can capture some amazing shots. In some instances you may have to throw on some snow shoes! Keep in mind, most bear attacks are due to photographers encroaching within the animals circle of fear and all of these areas listed are good areas to spot bears but be aware.
A great place to see about every animal in the park would be a hike to Bull head lake and Poi lake but you need to get in there before they closed the road down to cars. Even if they do, throw on your winter boots or snow shoes and walk in and you may see just about every animal in the park, moose would be the top of the list going to bullhead and bears on the way to Poi with a chance to see bighorn sheep.
This place never stops surprising me, its one of my favorite spots to search for elk and grizzlies. As you drive in off the road look off to the right in the meadows, especially Two dog flats or Otokomi trail above rising sun. Keep in mind there are always grizzlies here so be cautious and bring pepper spray if you venture off to the bush!
The two medicine road usually will still be open allowing you to get some great shots, head towards the campground by Pray lake and Upper two medicine lake area. Be on the look out for elk, moose, bighorn sheep and bears.
This area is true wilderness that doesn’t seem to get much notice, its not so easy to hike into in the winter but lots of surprises. This area is great place for the elusive Lynx, Pine marten and elk inhabit his place most of the year. Just head straight down a very steep incline to get down into the valley and follow trail towards Elizabeth or Cosley lakes.
The caveat here is to go to the inside north fork road after it closes to traffic, its pretty area and a great place to look for wolves. They are there but don’t get worked up if you don’t see them since most people never see them. There is a whole lot of cover here for animals to watch you, but as always just be patient.
If you walk reservoir road and just keep walking and you will connect to scenic point trail you will be surprised by the landscape. This is a great place for small and large critters, moose, elk, bears, and big horn sheep. If your a birder this is a great place for pygmy and great horned owls. Keep in mind at low light conditions this is one of a hand full of places I see mountain lions so be on the look out.
Ted Chase is a professional wildlife photographer born and raised in Montana. Ted and his wife Marabeth run the award winning Summit Mountain Lodge and steakhouse on the border of Glacier National Park. They are known for their destination weddings which include premiere lodging and fine dining. Their location offers a great launching point for anyone looking to explore Glacier National Park. visit: www.summitmtnlodge.com