Looking for epic fall photography in Montana? The Seeley-Swan corridor delivers big mountains, gorgeous lakes, and beautiful golden tamaracks.
In the shadow of Glacier National Park, the Seeley-Swan corridor get’s overlooked by outdoor enthusiasts and photographers alike, except by Montanans and those in the know. But this area is renowned for golden tamaracks in the fall and crystal clear lakes. Here are my top spots for epic fall photography near Seeley Lake, Montana.
Seeley Lake is the quintessential spot for fall photography along the Seeley-Swan corridor with postcard calibre views of the crystal-clear water, mountains, and golden tamarack lining the eastern shore. I prefer to shoot sunrise at Seeley Lake because the water is calm during the early morning hours and you’ll encounter fewer people. There are several locations where you can gain access to the lake, but I’d recommend starting at Seeley Lake campground. Explore the shoreline for some interesting foreground elements or walk the bank along to the inlet and capture the sun rising above the Mission mountains. Bring a wide-angle and telephoto lens to capture the scene in a few different ways.
Holland Lake is situated at the foothills of the Swan mountains and delivers big, beautiful views. Arrive early and walk into the boat launch area at Holland Lake campground to capture the sunrise over the golden tamaracks lining the southern shore. When the lake is calm, you’ll find a perfect reflection of this gorgeous landscape. The colorful rocks along the bank provide an excellent foreground element.
Next, drive to the end of Holland Lake Lodge Road and hike a short distance along the Holland Lake Falls trail. After a half-mile, you’ll find a spur trail leading to a peninsula jetting out into Holland Lake. The location here is more intimate and you’ll find some epic shots with interesting foregrounds and mountains rising sharply from the lake.
Finally, hike the 3-mile out-and-back trail to Holland Lake Falls. The trail meanders along the shore of Holland Lake for roughly a mile before climbing steadily to the base of an impressive waterfall. It can be difficult to capture the falls as it cascades through a narrow canyon directly in front of you, so make sure to pack your wide-angle lens. You’ll also want a shower cap to minimize exposure from the spray. I prefer to hike this trail in the late afternoon to capture sunset over Holland Lake and the Mission mountains. The scene is dramatic and extremely memorable. This is a prime location for multiple lenses―a wide-angle lens will provide amazing depth from this elevated location, while a telephoto lens will enlarge those beautiful, snow-capped mountains in the distance. If you make this trip in the evening, make sure to bring a headlamp for the return because the trail is rugged in places with some mild exposure.
Lindbergh Lake is a stunning location to capture sunrise with golden tamarack lining the eastern shoreline and dramatic snow-capped mountains. On a crisp fall morning, the steam rising from the lake creates a perfectly serene landscape. My favorite spot is along a faint trail meandering along the west side of Lindbergh Lake. Walk a few hundred yards until you find a clearing in the vegetation and explore the shoreline. The fallen logs and beautiful gold-colored grasses in this location create awesome visual interest. A short distance further, you’ll reach a point with sweeping views of the lake. Bring a wide-angle lens to capture the wonderful foreground elements and expansive backgrounds.
Clearwater Lake is situated in a beautiful tree-lined pocket high above the highway in the Swan mountains. It’ll take some work to find this little gem―about 20 miles of unpaved mountain roads, a few mud puddles, and plenty of washboard―but the golden tamarack lining the shoreline provides an impressive scene. At the parking lot, pack up your gear and grab a few snacks, you’ll be traveling on foot from here. The short hike meanders through dense forest before arriving at the shores of Clearwater Lake. This is a great spot to capture images of the lake framed by interesting foreground elements like fallen logs or marsh grasses. If you’re feeling ambitious, complete the three-mile loop that encircles the lake for different perspectives. The setting is intimate so a wide-angle or short telephoto lens is ideal for capturing this landscape.
Lake Alva & Lake Inez
Lake Alva and Lake Inez are in close proximity to one another and offer excellent views from various points along the unpaved access roads. These two lakes provide good options for a midday shoot when you’re traveling between other prime locations along the highway. There are campsites located on both lakes providing ready access to explore the beautiful shoreline or photograph the very scenic Clearwater River that runs through both lakes. A short telephoto lens is ideal for Lake Alva and Lake Inez to help magnify the image, but I prefer a wide-angle lens along the Clearwater River.