Sunrise On St Mary’s Lake

On the east side of Glacier National Park St Mary’s Lake dominates the initial drive along Going To the Sun Road.  The lake comes into view shortly after entering the east entrance of the park.  You can drive along the lake, or stop at the St Mary's Visitor Center and take a shuttle.  At just over seven miles long, this is the second largest lake in Glacier National Park, after Lake McDonald.  St. Mary's Lake lies about 1500 feet higher in elevation than Lake McDonald on the west side.  As a result, the glacier fed waters tend to be colder.

Sunrise over Goose Island, St Mary's Lake, Glacier National Park
We visited Glacier National Park in two parts.  We spent the first few days on the west side of the park, drove up to Banff National Park for several days, then returned along the east side of Glacier National Park.  The truck we used to pull our camper was a little too big to drive all the way up Going to the Sun Road, so we ended up taking the shuttle up to the top, once from each side of the park.

As we drove along St. Mary's Lake, the bus driver would talk about each of the stops and what trails or viewpoints were available.  There was one parking area that we passed that was not a regular stop, but the driver mentioned that from that viewpoint you could see up the St. Mary Valley and he believed it was the most photographed view in the park.

The next morning my family wanted to sleep in and I decided to get up early and take some photos.  I ended up stopping to check out the view that the bus driver had mentioned.  Before sunrise, there were only two other photographers in the parking lot, which had been completely full the previous day as the bus drove by.

There were fires burning to the west of the park and the resulting haze made it difficult to see the furthest peaks at the end of the lake.  I do think that the haze added some additional orange and red colors to the sunrise that morning.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and very little wind.

I stayed and took photographs until the sun rose higher in the sky and more people started to show up.  I drove back towards camp, stopping to take a few more pictures along the way.  As I made it back to the camper my wife and kids were waking up and I was just in time for breakfast.  Although I really enjoyed our trip I was already making mental notes to return when there wasn't so much smoke and a little earlier in the summer when there would be more snow on the mountains.


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