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Exploring Glacier National Park in Winter

There’s nothing better than waking up in a tent in Glacier National Park in winter, covered in morning dew, smelling like campfire from the night before. Mornings like these remind me of when I was a child, and when my grand parents used to take my little brother and I camping when we would visit for the summer.

Road Trip through Glacier National Park in Winter

It rained on us most the night and we woke up in a blanket of fog. The crisp air washed over us as we exited our tent. Today was the day we would explore Glacier National Park. The only problem was that we couldn’t see anything. We could smell the fires from the early risers around us, and after a quick stretch, we started a fire of our own and made some coffee. The morning ritual is one my favorite things about being in the outdoors. There’s something about drinking a cup of coffee and cooking by campfire that just feels so refreshing. As we finished up our breakfast, we packed up the car and hit the road.

Mapping our road trip through Glacier National Park

We drove through the park in search for our first stop, taking intermittent breaks along the way. We even went a bit off road.

Originally, I wanted to stop by Two Medicine Lake for sunset the night before, but we ran a bit later than expected. We decided we would visit it first thing since it was only about 45 minutes from camp. The downside? It was in the opposite direction of our planned route. Thankfully, by the time we got there the fog had let up a little bit. There was still hope!

When we arrived at our destination, we grabbed the cameras, map and Rumpl blanket before walking out to the lakeside. The range of mountains beyond the lake were still covered in fog, emblematic of Glacier National Park in winter. It was about 40 degrees with a slight windchill and the overcast weather was taking its sweet time to move along. At this point we weren’t sure if we would were going to be able to see anything all day. The sight-seeing sides of us were a little disappointed, but the adventure sides were still overly excited just to be out in nature. We skipped some rocks on the lake then sat down in this grassy area to plan our next stop.

Hiking at river's edge in Glacier National Park

We explored around the water a little bit just before we took off to continue on our route. Looking at the forecast for the rest of the day, we didn’t have high hopes of actually seeing anything. We took this as an opportunity to throw any planned schedule we had out the window. Normally, foggy and overcast weather is my favorite time to shoot. However, this trip was about seeing and enjoying all of these beautiful landscapes. It’s hard to do that with fog in your way.

Since the weather was getting the best of us, we decided to go to one last location before we headed in early, back to camp.

As a photographer, when I shoot landscapes, I’m constantly amazed by the views I get to enjoy. For that moment in time, I feel small. Looking at mountain tops that put any skyscraper to shame. Deep valleys and bodies of water that seem endless. Pulling up to Many Glacier, I instantly had that rush. Here we had the beautiful Swiftcurrent Lake in the foreground and right there in the background being wrapped up in the fog was Grinnell Point. We took a short walk down to the water and sat there for a while, enjoying the view. I will always remember moments like these. They can never be taken away and they will be moments I will cherish forever.

Moody afternoon at Glacier National Park in winter

After sitting in awe, hanging around for an hour or so, we decided we would head back to camp to get some warm food in us. We got back to camp in about an hour with just enough light left to make dinner. We grilled up some veggies and had some cider given to us by Maya’s brother who works for Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider which is local to Portland, OR.

Campfire meal at Glacier National Park

As the sun dropped we slowly let the fire burn down, smothered it and went to sleep. Tomorrow we would wake up to continue our road trip, heading five hours north from Glacier National Park to Banff National Park.

Words and photography by Silas Sao