Photographing Glacier National Park

Photographing Glacier National Park
Sunrise on Glacier National Park, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Montana

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Glacier National Park - Landmark Areas now CLOSED to the public!

A record number of visitors toured Glacier National Park in 2014 (read more about that story here). During the same year that Glacier National Parks set a record for visitation, officials closed the Logan Pass area to off trail travel. 

logan pass triple falls closed
Triple Falls, aka Twin Falls or Colliding Falls, in Glacier National Park is now CLOSED! © 

Logan Pass is at the top of the Going to the Sun Road, arguably one of the most impressive and attractive alpine area for visitors in Glacier National Park (at least in August).
logan pass parking lot glacier national park
Logan Pass parking lot at the top of the Going to the sun Highway. © 
After over 100 years of open access, Glacier National Park officials closed several popular areas including, Reynolds Creek, Oberland, and Clements Mountain to off trail travel. The closure applies to everyone but certain park officials, or other people with proper permits, but as far as going anywhere off the Hidden Lake Trail to take photographs, or just walk, forget it. 

The large area in light yellow or light green - (I can't tell which I'm partially color blind) - that covers most of the central map area, is the closed portion of Logan Pass. Source: 2014 Glacier National Park Compendium. 
The Following is taken directly from the Glacier National Park Compendium.

B) The following areas are closed, as posted, to ALL OFF-TRAIL TRAVEL for the
protection of revegetation projects, existing resident vegetation and seasonal habitat for
congregating bighorn sheep and mountain goats:

1) The Logan Pass area, which consists of all areas within the following exterior
boundaries: Oberlin Peak climber trail, from the trailhead, to Oberlin Peak;
Oberlin Peak to Clements Peak; Clements Peak, along Clements Ridge, to the
first switchback on the Hidden Lake Trail; first switch back on the Hidden Lake
Trail, along the first bench above Hidden Lake, to Reynolds Pass; Reynolds Pass,
along the southern edge of the Hanging Garden area, to the cliff wall above the
Reynolds Creek valley; and bound by the remainder of the cliff wall, above
Reynolds Creek valley, and Going-to-the-Sun Road. Refer to map section at end
of chapter. Exceptions:
i) The following trails are not included in this closure: Logan Pass
Visitor Center walkways, Hidden Lake Trail, Oberlin Peak climber route,
Clements Peak climber route and Reynolds Peak climber route.
ii) Over snow travel is not included in this closure, so long as travel is
NOT conducted over bare ground, rock, or vegetation and all travel is on
contiguous snowpack immediately accessible from established trail
corridors [see 36 CFR 1.5 (a)(1)(iii)(H) for wildlife distance
iii) Administrative functions and special use or research permitted
activities are not included in this closure (Glacier National Park 2014 Compendium).

I called Glacier National Park Officials and asked if there was a way to get a permit to photograph the Triple Falls, they said no. In fact, they said no and sounded surprised I would even ask (I think almost every park employee I've ever met or come across dislikes photographers).   

Thousands of photographs of Triple Falls, (aka, Twin Falls, Colliding Falls), the meadows of around Rynolds Creek, various other unnamed waterfalls, and wildlife have been used to “show off the park,” and the state of Montana for decades. Who know’s how many lives have been changed and how many forever lasting memories have been made possible around the Logan Pass area and at Triple Falls. 

One of the best known, modern day landscape photographers, Galen Rowell (deceased August 2002) first made the Triple Falls image famous when it appeared on the cover of Outdoor Photographer. Although many of us had been there, and photographed it over the years, Galen managed to make it one of Glacier National Parks most iconic photographs.

people photographing triple falls glacier national park
Two people photographing Triple Falls (Twin Falls) in Glacier National Park. ©
triple falls glacier national park
Triple Falls (Twin Falls) black and white, Glacier National Park. I took this photograph many years ago when the area was open. Notice that shortage of water falling over the rim. In most photographs taken of this location, you'll notice much more water colliding and flowing over the rock faces. The area was historically open when the water was mostly gone in order to protect the delicate nature of the place. I always restrained from following the crowds of people who would go to this location when it was prime for photography, because it was closed. Admittedly, I would have preferred to have a photo of this location that's as good as the thousands of others that have been made of it in the past - I choose to use my judgement.  © 
Interestingly enough, Galen was known to think, and discuss the impacts that nature lovers like himself had on the health of our environment. He was somewhat conflicted by the commercialization of our places due to his own actions, but always did his best to follow the rules, and make the protection of a place his priority. I believe he did think we were capable, as photographers, of overdoing it -- by loving our places to death. Well Galen, if you can hear me now, we've loved Glacier National Park to death. Sorry bud.  

Here's a real example of a heart warming story made possible by Triple Falls. Two kids journeyed to Glacier National Park to find this magical place that they'd only seen in pictures. Turns out they were looking for Triple (Twin) Falls - this is their story. 

As you watch the video notice how trampled the area already is. I’m not sure of the exact date this video was made, but It looks too early for this area to be open. There’s to much water and the area is much to wet.  

In the past it was open only after the soils had dried out and the plants had gone to seed. In some years it would not open at all. So, I suspect these kids either ignored the closer, or did not realize they the area was off limits. Nonetheless, their story is one that will no longer be possible unless others choose to break the law by trespassing.

What's important to note is that to my knowledge, no public impute was ever gathered. People were not asked about this closure and not included in any discussion that I'm aware of as to the potential for closures. Obviously few people likely even recognized that there was a problem, yet the park service decided to close it anyhow. Is there not a solution to this problem that might include the people who own the land, you and I? 

The truth is, parts of Glacier National Park are being managed by a standard not even known in the most protected landscapes, our nations wilderness areas. At least in wilderness areas people are allowed. I'm not saying rules are unimportant or that this area of Glacier National Park should not have tighter restrictions, but to make the executive decisions to just close it for good is disturbing. 

I'd like to know if this closure matters to you. If it does, please comment or give the Glacier National Park a call (maybe comment on their facebook page too). 

Read the rules for yourself if you like.  Here's a link to 2014 Glacier National Park Compendium .

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Getting Gouged! Glacier Park FEE HIKES ON THE WAY

The National Park Service - Glacier National Park has to go back to the well for more money. In a year of record setting visitation the leadership at one of the best value parks - and arguably the most beautiful in America - decided is time to get more money for YOU, it's visitors (thank you congress for striping park budgets all these years).

Parks need more money. I believe in paying my way but asking for these kind of hikes will result in fewer visitors and more conflict overall. What the park may gain in additional revenue they'll pay for in negative externalities.

Park officials claim they're raising rates to keep up with the other parks - nice one guys! I do think Glacier National Park needs a good, solid budget, but we're talking about raising possibly $500,000 in additional revenue, which is really petty cash and I think will only help them spend more money on mostly frivolous stuff and simply avoid the real, visible issues that it's users want changed - like the road system?

I hope I'm wrong. I hope they rebuild the Many Glacier Road, put new tires on the aging trucks, and keep buying more cool gear, and vehicles.
More visitors will help Glacier National Park spend more money! Photographers photographing a fly-fishing model in two medicine lake during a photography workshop. I was "lucky" enough to encounter them on a trip up two medicine last year. 
The fact is, the more rules the parks make, the more man power they need. Over time, they've actually seen a reduction in budgets, yet they keep making more work for themselves . . . Ug. . . typical government bureaucracy. (Details of this are in a forthcoming post).

I'll pay to play because I live here, but the truth is, I dont like the fact that our Nation is skipping out on paying for the management of one of it's true treasures.  I suspect Teddy Roosevelt would have figured out a way to take the money from the banksters and put it toward building and maintaining our America Hermitage and legacy. . .

Here's the actual press release asking you for your comments on fee hikes (you'll be amazed, we're not talking about a few bucks, they are proposing to hack you hard)! Or, maybe the tactic was, "go-high," settle for a little less so it looks like we really care about you.

Sorry for the cynicism, but I've earned the right to be cynical . . . I know there are better ways to pay for the management of our national treasures.  I also don't like that the NPS can just go get more money from it's visitors when they feel like it.

I'll tell them NO, no increases at all - forget it!

Park Seeks Comments on Proposed Fee Increases  
New Boat Launch Fee and Campground Fee Included
WEST GLACIER, MT.  –Glacier National Park is requesting public comment on a proposal to increase the park’s entrance fees for the first time in nine years, implement a motorized boat launch fee, and increase the camping fee at the Many Glacier Campground.
The proposal includes increasing the summer vehicle 7-day entrance fee from $25 to $30, with the winter fee changing from $15 to $20. The individual hiker/biker summer 7-day entrance fee would change from $12 to $15, and the winter fee would remain at $10.  The 7-day entrance fee for a motorcycle would increase from $12 per person to $25 per motorcycle in the summer and from $10 per person to $15 per motorcycle in the winter.  Summer season fees are charged from
May 1-October 31, and winter fees are charged November 1-April 30 of each year. 
The annual park pass would change from $35 to $60.  This pass allows for unlimited access to the park for one year from first time of use. 
The proposed fees are consistent with other larger national parks. 
If approved, all changes in entrance fees at Glacier National Park would be implemented in May, 2015.  The last time park entrance fees at Glacier National Park were increased was in 2006.  Prior to that, the summer vehicle fee was $20 and the annual park pass was $30. 
The proposal does not affect other passes with the America the Beautiful- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program, including the $80 interagency and $10 senior passes, and the free access or military passes. 
A new boat launch fee is being proposed that will support managing the boat launch facilities in the park.  The fee would be for all motorized boats that access park waters.  The proposed fee is $10 for a 7-day permit or $40 for an annual permit.  Revenue would help with boater education, monitoring, and improvements to boat launch facilities.  If approved, it is anticipated this fee would be implemented in May, 2015.  Boat inspections for aquatic invasive species (AIS) would still be required.
The park proposal also includes increasing the camping fee at the Many Glacier Campground from $20 to $23, and utilizing the federal reservation system for approximately half of the camp sites.  The remaining sites not included on the reservation system would be first-come first-serve.  This fee change would be consistent with the other reservation campgrounds in the park, Fish Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds.  If approved, this fee and the reservation system would begin summer of 2016. 
Another fee change would be for group campsites in the park.  The proposed fee is $65 per group reservation site and $60 for first-come first-serve group sites.  The current fee structure is $53 per site for the first nine individuals and $5 for each additional person for a reserved site, and $50 for a first-come first-serve group site.  Group camping sites are located at St. Mary, Apgar, Many Glacier and Two Medicine.  Some are available by reservation and some are first-come first-serve.   If approved the proposed fee change would begin May, 2015. 
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) is the legislation that allows the park to collect entrance and camping fees, and retain 80 percent of the collected revenue.  The remaining 20 percent is distributed throughout the National Park System.  Basic park operations are funded by direct appropriations from Congress. 
It is anticipated that the proposed fee changes could potentially generate approximately an additional $500,000 annually for Glacier National Park, depending on the number and type of entrance passes and camping permits sold.  The funds generated by fees would be used for projects that enhance visitor services and facilities, including interpretive programs at campgrounds, the backcountry campsite reservation program, repair and restoration of trails, restoration of wildlife habitat, improvement and replacement of restroom facilities, preservation and maintenance of roads, and shuttle bus operation and maintenance. 
Glacier National Park is an economic driver in the state of Montana and surrounding region.  A National Park Service report shows that approximately 2.2 million visitors to Glacier National Park in 2013 spent $179 million in communities near the park supporting 2,824 jobs in the local area.
Public feedback on the proposed fee changes should be submitted to the park by December 19, 2014.  Comments can be emailed by visiting or written comments may be mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn:  Fee Proposal, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936.  Following receipt and analysis of public feedback, a decision will be made on fee changes and timing of implementation.  For more information, contact the park at 406-888-7800
Note- Please see chart for quick overview. 
Glacier National Park
Proposed Fee Changes
November 2014
Fee Description
Length Covered
Current Rate
Proposed Rate
Implementation Date
Entrance- Vehicle
7 day
May 2015
Entrance- Individual Summer
7 day
May 2015
Entrance- Motorcycle
7 day
$12 per person
$25 per motorcycle
May 2015
Entrance-  Vehicle
7 day
November  2015
Entrance- Individual  
7 day
November 2015
7 day
$10 per person
$15 per Motorcycle
November  2015
Glacier Annual Pass
1 year from month of first use
May 2015
Many Glacier Campground  
1 night
$20 per site
$23 per site
all sites
Summer 2016
50% on  reservation system
50% first-come
Group Campsites Park-wide
1 night
$50 per site
$53 per site
with reservations 
(for  first nine individuals, with $5 for each additional person)
$60 per site
first serve
$65 per site
with reservations
(flat rate)
May 2015
Boat Launch Fee
7 day
May 2015
Boat Launch Fee
1 year from month of purchase
May 2015

Sincerely, Tony

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Glacier National Park - Sun Road East Access Closes Early this year!

It's fall in Glacier National Park. People always want to know, "when will the Going to the Sun Road close?" Today, we have the official answer. The Sun Road will close, from the east side (Saint Mary) on September 22, 2014, but Logan Pass Visitor center parking lot will remain open, from the West Side (Lake McDonald) into October -  weather permitting.
Going to the Sun Road - fresh snow in Glacier Park. The sun road, on Glacier Park's east side, will close September 22, 2014, plan accordingly. ©tonybynum 

Here's the latest press release from Glacier National Park . . .

The Road is currently entirely open to public travel. At 7:00 a.m. on September 22, the section between Logan Pass to the foot of St. Mary Lake will close to vehicular travel to accommodate accelerated shoulder season construction. Logan Pass will continue to be open and accessible from the west side (West Glacier). Hiker-biker use east of Logan Pass will be permitted for approximately 2 1/2 miles to Siyeh Bend. Between Siyeh Bend and Rising Sun, travel of any sort is restricted during active construction (M-F).
A 5 mile long sewer forcemain project will simultaneously be occurring between Rising Sun and the St. Mary Campground expanding the active construction to 14 miles and forcing a closure to vehicular travel here as well. Hiker-biker access west of the campground along the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be limited and variable following the progress of the forcemain work.
The shared-use summer season was very active with notable milestones such as a realignment adjacent Wild Goose Island scenic turnout, 9 miles of grading work, improvements to major scenic and trailhead areas and the replacement of the Rose Creek Bridge in Rising Sun. Stone masonry retaining wall and guardwall work, including the new Rose Creek Bridge was noteworthy as well. This effort will continue until the majority of the Road closes to vehicular travel (including Logan Pass) on October 20, 2014, weather permitting.

STAY TUNED for more from the Glacier Park Photographer!  We're on tap to bring you glacier park photographers some interesting developments from glacier national park. . . I'll give you a hint, you wont like the news, in fact, what I'm going to describe to you may cause you to pick up the phone or worse throw stuff!  

Tony Bynum 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Going to the Sun Road is OPEN for the Season 2014

It's official, at least for now, the Going to the Sun Road is open! Access to Logan Pass opened on July 2, 2014.  Enjoy the snowy, alpine sights of Logan Pass, but don't go up thinking you'll find the board walk to Hidden Lake or be taking a long stroll down the Hi-line trail - NOPE, it wont happen, too much snow.

skier on logan pass, glacier national park, montana
Stacy Dolderer Skiing on Logan Pass, in Glacier National Park. © Tony Bynum Photography 
It will be awhile before you'll see colorful flowers on Logan Pass, but the drive will make up for it! There's plenty of snow, but not much for green once you arrive at the parking lot on Logan Pass!

Bring your jackets, skis and some lunch and have a fun time.

Tony Bynum
Glacier Park Photographer

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grizzly Bears are out - crown of the continent - you're not the top of the food chain!

Grizzly bears are out and scouring the hillsides for food and looking for love . . .  Make sure you're packing your bear spray, and more importantly, make sure you are always "bear aware."  I always tell people, grizzly bears are where you find them. If you are in the part of the country, and you ask, "where are the grizzly bears," just remember, "grizzly bears are where you find them," which means, grizzly bears are anywhere at anytime!

grizzly bear standing up against a fir tree
This boar grizzly bear proceeded to shred this small fir tree. I took this as a clear indication that he was unhappy with my presence - even though I was about 100 yards, maybe more, away. I left the area imidiatly and allowed the bear to proceed on his own. If you see a grizzly bear, be cautious and read their signals. Boar grizzly bears are out searching for sow's this time of year! © Tony Bynum Nikon d300, nikon 500mm f4 vr. 1/250 sec @f5 iso 800. 
NEVER let your guard down! Keeping on your toes is one of the reasons going into wild country is so much fun and why it often changes people's lives and perspectives. If you're out in the bush in these parts, you're not at the top of the food chain. That alone should make you think a bit different about the world. . .

Cheers, and be safe out there!

Montana Based Photographer, Tony Bynum