Photographers from amateur to professional have long found inspiration in Montana's varied terrain and impressive natural areas. And while some views find their way into hundreds, even thousands, of photos each year, changing weather and wandering wildlife make each day unique. For those looking for areas a little off the beaten path, there are plenty of those too. From the northern border with Canada, through Glacier and down south to Yellowstone, here are a few Montana spots every photographer needs to see.
Glacier National Park gives photographers plenty of fodder for the shutter. From the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road to mountaintop views and macro delights, it's all about heading into the park and seeing what the day holds. While wildlife is hard to predict, it's still likely that you'll spot some big-horned sheep or mountain goats up at Logan Pass.
Around the park, you have the Flathead Valley, with its centerpiece of Flathead Lake to inspire. Wild Horse Island makes a worthy paddle to spot its titular resident horses, along with bighorns and lake views. And as far as panoramas are concerned, you'll find one of the best valley views at Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell. The Swan Valley holds one of the main driving routes south to Yellowstone, and the forested National Forest area is home to wildlife and native plants worth scoping out with your lens.
As you head along the Rocky Mountain Front south of Glacier, dipping into Central Montana gives you a look at that Big Sky Country everyone is always raving about. As the plains roll east and the mountains cut the sky in the west, feel the photog inspiration as you watch clouds dance and horses run. Keep property lines and landowner rights in mind as you scout, but it's not uncommon to find a derelict barn or remains of a pioneer cabin to add to your composition.
From Yellowstone, through the Gallatin Valley and on to the continental divide and Butte, you have your pick of ghost towns, like Rimini and Bannack, along with open spaces and hidden valleys. Take a look at Hyalite Reservoir outside of Bozeman for a look akin to Glacier's peaks. Or you can head underground at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park to test your low-light prowess on the otherworldly rock formations. Just keep in mind, you'll need to leave your tripod in the car and shoot handheld because of the tour's low and winding walking spaces.
Inside Yellowstone, you can find subjects as diverse and varied as the unique ecology and geology here. When wildlife is calling to you, Lamar Valley is the place to visit first. Though animals like bears, bison, and moose can be found throughout the park, this valley is home to resident wolf packs and the plants and animals that support the ecosystem.
To take in and get shots of the famous geothermal features in the park, head south from Mammoth Hot Springs and run the gamut of roadside pullouts and boardwalks between it and Old Faithful. That's where you'll find bubbling mud and brilliantly colored pools, along with some less predictable geysers that we all dream of catching in the act.
As you explore Montana's wild spaces through your lens, you can gather more inspiration and information from the Highline Adventures blog.