No matter which end of the Going To The Sun Road that a visitor begins a tour of Glacier National Park, the first majestic view will be of a big lake in a mountain setting. On the east side it is Saint Mary Lake and in the other end of the park Lake McDonald is located near the west entrance gate. Both of these lakes offer picturesque views, but only one is famous for unique reason. All it takes is one minute of browsing photos of Lake McDonald on the internet to see that nearly every photographer captures stunning images of reflections of the surrounding mountains on this peaceful calm lake!
If capturing crystal clear photos of reflections of dramatic mountain peaks on absolutely calm water is a lifelong ambition, then it would be best to chalk Lake McDonald high on the list! Because this lake is located next to the western side of the mountains, it is shielded from north winds to a degree. The calmness lasts at least till late in the morning hours on most days, so there is plenty of time to set up the camera for a one of a kind shot that is unusually easy to accomplish.
Taking the time to check out McDonald Lake simply must be done when entering this park from the west and some of the reasons why will become evident a few miles further east on the Going To The Sun Road. The Going To The Sun Road is only open for a few months each summer and it is the main touring route in this park. All of the most popular attraction can be found along this road, so needless to say, overcrowding can be a real problem.
Because the amount of visitor traffic is so high, it can take quite a bit of patience when seeking a parking spot at one of the overlooks or trailheads along the Going To The Sun Road. In fact a visitor may get completely shut out even after several parking space hunting attempts, so there will be many places in this park that will have to be revisited at a later date. Such was the case during my visit, because the Avalanche Area was completely full and there was no hope for exploring this unique place before daylight ran out. For this reason, I was happy that I spent time at the neighboring Lake McDonald instead of breezing on by in a hurry, like most of the other vehicles were doing!
There actually is a convenient way to avoid the traffic congestion on the Going To The Sun Road. Glacier National Park offers free shuttle bus service from one end of Going To The Sun Road to the other. Obviously, doing the park and ride is the best way to tour this park, because visitors are guaranteed access at all overlooks and trailheads. In fact, after getting permits, hopping on the bus is best way to access the back country trails and the personal vehicle can be left behind.
For those who are heading east through Glacier National Park in a personal vehicle during the summer season, be sure to spend some peaceful time at Lake McDonald while you can. This is a great place to unwind and it is a haven for kayaks and canoes, because the water is usually calm. Paddling around the shoreline amid clear reflections of majestic mountains on the water is a dream that can become real in this panoramic place!
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