Our Sunrise Flight Over Glacier Country
My 5 AM alarm rang. Although I woke to mostly grogginess at first, likely from the several preceding days of non-stop exploration of Montana's Glacier Country, the sleepy haze quickly turned into excitement as soon as I remembered the morning's agenda: a sunrise flight over Glacier National Park. Although I had been lucky enough to take several helicopter flights in the United States and Canada over the last two years, this would be my first plane ride, not to mention my first flight over a United States national park, and at daybreak, of all times.
My friend Kevin Munsey and I jumped in the car and drove the short drive from his Kalispell home to the Kalispell town airport, where we'd join a pilot in his Cessna 206. In the dark of the 6 o'clock hour, we walked up to the plane and entered through the opening where a wide door had been. The door had been removed, and remained off for the entire time, for purposes of our flight so as to provide us with the most uninhibited view of the park from above.
We buckled up, put our headsets on, confirmed communication with our pilot, and took off in a flash. At first, we enjoyed aerial views of the town of Kalispell, which grew ever smaller as we headed northeast toward the Continental Divide and the park itself.
Upon reaching the park, we flew over West Glacier and Lake McDonald, the largest of Glacier's many lakes. Having seen the lake so many times from its western shore, it was an entirely different perspective looking down upon its glacier blue waters and surrounding forests.
We beelined it past the Garden Wall and floated over the east side of the park. We then turned south, providing the perfect view into the heart of the park.
We could see the day's first alpenglow touch the summits of the park's highest peaks. Pinks and yellows danced with the distant clouds to the west. Looking through the plane's doorless opening, we gazed down upon Iceberg Lake (pictured above), a popular hike from the Many Glacier area.
Continuing our flight, we flew over Grinnell Glacier, Grinnel Lakes, Lake Josephine, and Swiftcurrent Lake (pictured above), one of my favorite strings of lakes in the park. The sun continued to rise above the eastern horizon, creating an ever-warmer light that canvassed the mountainous landscape below.
After completing several circles above the Garden Wall and Continental Divide, we turned to the Southwest and slowly made our way back to Kalispell. On the way, we admired Hidden Lake, which was tucked between Reynolds, Bearhat, and Clements mountains (pictured above, from left to right). These are the peaks so many look up at from Logan Pass, the highest point along the famous Going-to-the-Sun road. It was a surreal experience to look down upon these giants, vibrant with golden light only morning can bring.
Our flight was an hour and a half, but it might as well have been just a few minutes. The level of excitement we experienced during the entire flight made the experience a flash. When we hit the ground back in Kalispell, we were still on cloud nine, and smiling from ear to ear.
Please comment below or message me here if you have any questions about our sunrise flight over Glacier National Park specifically or aerial photography in general. Cheers!