A Rookie Guide to Glacier National Park

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How photographers, travel bloggers and Teva Explorers The Mandagies gained a fresh lens and new perspective on their favorite national park. Words and Photos by The Mandagies.

We’ve got a secret for fall travelers: there’s a sweet spot to visit Glacier National Park in Montana for the best fall colors. 

It’s sandwiched immediately after Labor Day and just before the first snow, through the month of September (maybe early October if you’re lucky). It’s a time when the park is quieter and less crowded, and the trees are bursting with yellows, oranges, and reds among the towering peaks. The evergreen trees mix with the aspen trees to put on quite the show!

Emily Mandagie wears the Highside '84 sneakers.

Glacier National Park photographed on film.

Glacier National Park is a special place for us. It’s the closest park to our home and we find ourselves making an annual road trip out to Montana during this time of year to revisit our favorite hikes, lakes, and viewpoints.

This year we were joined by our friends Ben and Whitney. It was Whitney’s very first time visiting the park, so we spent a lot of time mapping out the perfect first-timer’s itinerary before we departed on our adventure. The agenda of our three-day weekend naturally brought us back to some of our favorite spots in the park, including Hidden Lake, Lake McDonald, and Logan Pass. 

Introducing new friends to Glacier NP.

Ben and Whitney at Bowman Lake.

Our Glacier trip began at Bowman Lake, which is one of the campgrounds in West Glacier. We came early to snag a camping spot close to the lake. This way, we could roll out of bed and right on the shoreline so as to not miss a single sunset or sunrise over the weekend.

Mornings and evenings would go a little something like this: we’d slip on our ReEmber shoes, grab a cozy Rumpl blanket, some camping chairs, and a hot drink to watch the colors change in the sky. Honestly, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip! One of the great things about traveling with friends is the uninterrupted conversations you get to have. Sharing a beautiful place with another person just makes the time sweeter.

Glacier National Park.
ReEmber slip-on in Dark Shadow.

An earth-friendly remake of our iconic camp slipper: ReEmber slip-on in Dark Shadow.

After sunrise, we spent all day exploring the park. Our biggest mission of the trip was to drive the entire 50 miles of the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It’s a highway that connects the east and west sides of the park, but it has a short opening season. The road is only open starting in mid-July to until the first snow sticks on Logan Pass, which is usually sometime in mid-October. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely perfect and our scenic drive was a success.

Berty Mandagie photographs the fall foliage.

Traveling with a car full of photographers, we stopped at nearly every pullout to snap some photos. Each stop was another opportunity to capture the beautiful fall colors in Montana and familiar places felt brand new again with their new fall backdrop. Take Big Bend for example: it’s a popular place to watch the sunset in Montana. In the summertime, beargrass plumes and wildflowers blanket the hills. In the fall, the wildflowers and bushes change their colors to fiery reds and yellows, lighting up the hillside in their warm glow.

Berty and I had a lot of fun pointing out our favorite peaks and trailheads to Whitney along the drive. It seemed as though we had a story for every turn around the bend.

Visiting a place you love with new people can make the experience brand new again, even if you’ve seen the same view year after year. After this trip, we’ll be weaving together even more memories and moments from this fall weekend in Montana.

Fall's changing leaf colors in full bloom.

A few hours and a thousand photos later, we found a spot by the creek near Two Medicine Lake to make some lunch. Our focus this trip was less on food and a lot on scenery. We ate backpacking meals, drank instant coffee, and had a lot of snacks! No complaints here though—we’re happy with anything if it means we get to enjoy our meals in the beautiful outdoors.

Hot Tip: Pack a Z-mat (a foam mat that folds up accordion-style for easy portability) for weekend trips! We use it as a sleeping pad and also bring them out on our day trips to use as sitting mats for meals and breaks.

Stopping for a snack break.

Whitney and Emily sit on foldable sleeping mats for cushioned comfort on rocky terrain.

For our final evening in the park, we thought it would be fun to take a throwback photo. We wanted to recapture an image from a Glacier trip two years ago, but this time with Ben and Whitney. I think it turned out really well, and we even noticed we were wearing Teva Ember shoes in the original photo as well! Can you tell it’s our favorite camp shoe? They are sturdy enough to make it through the wear and tear of our annual Glacier trips!

Ben & Whitney, September 2021

Ben & Whitney, September 2021.

Berty and Emily, September 2019.

Berty and Emily, September 2019.

While Berty and I visit Glacier year after year, this latest trip felt extra special. It was fun to go with friends and make new memories right next to old ones in the places we love. As Berty and I continue to grow together and create our own family one day, I know that Glacier will be a spot we share with the people we love for years to come. It will be a place we reimagine with first-time visitors and Glacier veterans alike.

The ReEmber camp shoe.

Shop the next-generation camp shoe, the ReEmber.

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