Glacier National Park in Montana – Mirrors at Lake McDonald

May 2016 – After enjoying a bit of the cowboy life and ranching life of the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, and then taking a zippy day trip over to charming Philipsburg, we took our RV north to Glacier National Park. This park is tucked right up against the Canadian border in northern Montana.

Lake McDonald Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park, Montana

It was early May, and the main road through the park, the Going to the Sun Road, wasn’t completely open yet due to avalanche activity in the appropriately named Avalanche Creek area.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Dawn lights the snowcapped peaks at Lake McDonald

But the road was open as far as Avalanche, so we took full advantage of doing a few drives up and down its length.

Dawn Glacier National Park Lake McDonald Montana

Early morning reflections.

We had been to Glacier National Park once before, back in the late summer of 2007, and we had dashed through the park so fast that we didn’t even notice the large and beautiful Lake McDonald that greets visitors coming in from the southwestern entrance. Oh my!!

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Lake McDonald.

The early morning air was very brisk when we drove alongside this stunning lake one morning, and the trees stood utterly motionless and silent. Hardly a breath of wind stirred their leaves.

Trees at Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Trees hung over the shore at Lake McDonald

The thick woods were lined with a lush carpet of moss, and the sun filtered between the trees.

Trees on Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

The woods were thick alongside the Going to the Sun Road

The water was like a mirror, reflecting everything in its depths.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park RV travel

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And it was so clear that we could see each and every stone on the bottom perfectly.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

The lake created perfect reflections with a few rocks peeking through from under the water

We stopped at McDonald Falls where the water coming down from the mountains rushed past us in a blur.

McDonald Falls Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Montana

McDonald Falls was moving fast!

A few wildflowers were just starting to peek their heads out here and there.

Wildflower Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Montana

Flowers were just beginning to bloom.

It was one of those ideal mornings that you wish could last forever.

When we got to Avalanche, we noticed that cyclists were unloading their bikes from their cars to ride a few miles further up the road. Because the road was closed to cars up ahead, they could do this wonderful bike ride without having to share the road with anyone but other bicyclists. What fun! We hadn’t brought our bikes this time, but made a mental note for the future.

This pre-season bike ride opportunity is similar to cycling the McKenzie Pass outside Bend, Oregon before it opens to motor vehicle traffic, something we had really enjoyed doing two years prior.

RV on Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Only the first third of the Going to the Sun Road was open to motor vehicles.

Nearby, the Hungry Horse Reservoir made for another lovely day trip. Again, we were blessed with crisp air and sunny skies.

Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

Snowcapped mountains framed Hungry Horse Reservoir.

The road winds along the south fork of the Flathead River and along the reservoir, offering pretty views of the river and reservoir the whole way. We got out at one point and hiked down to a pebble beach where a series of tree stumps made for an eerie scene.

A man sitting in a camp chair at the trail head and working on his laptop while soaking in the view of the river told us that he remembered the river before it was dammed, back when those tree stumps were towering trees at the water’s edge.

Tree stumps at Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

Before the river was dammed, there were tall trees on the shore.

Crossing the Hungry Horse Dam, we got a terrific view of the mountains backing the reservoir.

View from Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

There were some beautiful views at Hungry Horse Reservoir

This would be a great road for a bike ride too, and as we stood staring at the lake a cyclist suddenly zoomed by, his eyes fixed on the pretty view too!

Cyclist checks out the view at Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

A cyclist zoomed by

But it was Lake McDonald over in Glacier National Park that kept drawing us back. We drove the Going to the Sun road as far as we could a second time, late one afternoon, hoping for a knock-your-socks-off sunset to top it all off.

The pebble beach at the Lake McDonald Lodge was very beautiful, and we got a kick out of exploring the cabins at the Lodge, many of which were in the process of spring cleaning for the summer season.

Lake McDonald Lodge Glacier National Park Montana

Late afternoon light lit up the shores of Lake McDonald.

But we thought we might get a better view of the lake at sunset back at Apgar Village where there is a boat ramp that marches right out into the lake and offers a splendid panorama of the mountains.

Dawn at Glacier National Park Montana Lake McDonald Apgar Village

At Apgar Village there is a dock that goes right out into the lake.

We poked around on the shore waiting for this oh-so-sensational sunset to happen.

Apgar Village Glacier National Park Montana

That colorful sunset should be along any minute…

The lake undulated reflections of the mountains in shades of silver and blue.

View of Lake McDonald from Apgar Glacier National Park Montana

Silver and blue hues shimmer on Lake McDonald at dusk.

A couple came down to the dock with a photographer and did a bunch of romantic shots with the mountain backdrop behind them. They had had the same idea of catching this majestic view at the golden hour, sealing their undying love with a beautiful photo at Nature’s golden hour. But the skies just didn’t deliver that night, and the best we all got was a hint of pink.

No matter. This place is gorgeous anyway!!

Romance on Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Romance on Lake McDonald

We were on a mission to continue our RV travels north, so we didn’t stick around for the Going to the Sun Road to open up all the way to the top a few weeks later. But we loved what we saw and will hopefully be back for some wildflowers later in the season.

RV camping in Montana

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This year we traveled north from Arizona ahead of the crowds by just a bit, and it made a big difference in many ways. Not only were there few crowds (and fewer people in general), but there was still snow on the mountains. However, the flip side was that the nights were often cold and many days barely got warm. Also, we arrived before the rangers had opened certain gates and attractions for the season.

But I have to say, there’s a special intimacy to a place like Glacier National Park when you have the scenery to yourself, even if you’re shivering!

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14 thoughts on “Glacier National Park in Montana – Mirrors at Lake McDonald

  1. Just roaming through your posts, as well as others. Your solar setup cant run ac, correct? What do you do? Btw, my thoughts about your site/offerings—checking everyday for your next post. Just starting out on ft rving. Need all the help i can get, and really enjoy reading your info.

  2. So beautiful — we planned to visit Glacier several years ago after 10 days in Yellowstone in late September — but it started snowing! So it’s still on our list. We also enjoy visiting parks just before or after the main tourist season. The weather can be a bit iffy (as you know) but it’s worth it for the (relative) solitude! Love those mirror images of the lake!

    • So true. We’ve been shivering for a few months now, but we’ve been loving every place we’ve visited, and the crowds, for the most part, have been manageable. Enjoy Glacier when you get there!!!

  3. Mark and Emily…..I can’t say enough about your photography…..absolutely stunning!!!….would you recommend any books for beginners?

      • Mark and Emily……there is so much I would like to say…..but I’ll try not to be long winded…I just want to try and convey how much your photos and your words have inspired myself and my girlfriend.
        We are a couple of years….perhaps less …from heading out on the road…I guess you could say we are in the saving…researching…and downsizing phase!
        We don’t want to have any debt when we start out and want to “get it right” the fist time as far as our rig and truck.
        But it’s your words that have had a profound effect on us…..giving your dreams wings and growing as people are just a couple things that have resounded with us…..we absolutely love your posts and the information you provide is invaluable to us…..where ever you travel we wish you health and happiness….sincerely…Curtis and Kelly

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        • What a heartwarming message, Curtis & Kelly. Thank you very much for expressing your appreciation!! It’s readers like you that motivate me to write, and it means so much to know that our postings here have had an impact on your life.

          Don’t worry about “getting it right” with anything the first time. There’s no such thing as “getting it wrong.” There’s only what’s right at the time of your launch — and you may find that whatever that is, it is not at all right for you a few years down the road. No problem! You will grow and change so much in your your new lifestyle that it will be only natural to change a lot of things around as you make this lifestyle your own, and the truck and trailer (or MH and toad) are part of that. Very little of what we have now is what we started with, including many aspects of ourselves.

          So, focus on what it is that you want, and don’t focus on avoiding mistakes. Whatever truck and trailer you can afford now and that says “home” and “adventure” to you is the right one. If you like the lifestyle and stay with it, you will probably have a different truck and trailer within five years, or you might switch over to a MH and toad. Who knows! Very few full-timers stick to one rig more than 6-8 years. And you’ll have as much fun shopping for the next pair of vehicles as you will for your first!!

          Enjoy the whole process, and if you don’t have a practice rig already, get yourself a little runaround rig or a good quality tent, air mattress, cooler and sleeping bags so you can get out there and have some fun (and start learning) right away!

  4. What stunning photographs! Thank you for sharing your experiences in Glacier NP, as we are hoping/planning to make it there this summer in our motorhome. However, I do have a question. I read on the NPS site that the maximum size for vehicles allowed on the Going to the Sun road was 10′ high and 25′ in length. Not so? Thanks!

    • It is a very photogenic place, that’s for sure! You are correct about the size limitations on the Going to the Sun Road because there are tight switchbacks beyond the point where it was closed. We drove it with the truck and not the trailer. Have fun there!

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