Glacier National Park is indescribable in it’s beauty. Massive mountains edged by crystal blue lakes, turquoise creeks flowing through the verdant green forests and wildlife like no other place I have been, Glacier is a magical place. It is also a wonderful place to take the kids on an unforgettable vacation. We were lucky to spend eight days in the park and the surrounding area over the summer, and it remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. My family loved our visit and my kids tell me often how much they want to go back. Here are six of our favorite family friendly activities in Glacier National Park to do with kids.
1. Hike- No matter what age children you have, there are wonderful hikes in Glacier National Park for families. With over 700 miles of trails within the park, there is no shortage of hiking opportunities and even the many short hikes lead to big rewards. Our favorite short hike in Glacier was in Two Medicine at the south east section of the park. Only about an easy half mile long trek to beautiful Running Eagle Falls, we were amazed at the magical quality of the woods the day we hiked. The bright sun trickled through the tall trees and gave the trail a fairyland feel. As we hiked along we came upon a gorgeous big eyed mule deer standing in the middle of the path that didn’t spook but gazed at us as we walked up before slowly walking away. We spent a long time at the falls soaking the view in. It was simply amazing to be there. Glacier is huge and there are countless hikes like this in the park so talk to a ranger when you arrive to get advice on the best hikes for your family and get out there and enjoy the beauty! Hiking is one of the wonderful family friendly activities in Glacier.
2. Camp- There are 13 campgrounds within Glacier National Park and more in the surrounding towns so campsites are plentiful. Because Dave had to do some work during our visit, we needed to have internet service so we chose to camp at the St. Mary KOA. This campground is a great choice for families. Not only is it conveniently located at the end of the Going to the Sun Road, with showers, Wi-Fi, a pool, hot tub and snack bar, it was a comfortable base camp for us to explore the park. Nestled up against the St. Mary River, we were happy to find the tent camping area was separate from the RV spots and our stay was wonderful. There is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of the river running right near your campsite and waking to the sounds of birds as the sun rises and we all loved camping here. Camping is one of my favorite Family Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park.
3. Drive- The Going to the Sun Road crosses the park over the Continental Divide and leads to some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen while driving. The road is 53 miles but has many places to stop and stretch your legs while enjoying the scenery. Our visit was in June, and the road had been heavily damaged during the massive winter snow so one small section of the road was still closed at Logan Pass while the road was being repaired. This prevented us from making a straight across journey along the road but we still enjoyed driving about 18 miles in from St. Mary and then the next day driving the rest of the road from West Glacier. While this took longer of course, it actually was a nice way to drive since it broke it up into smaller sections. There is much to see on the road so even antsy kids will be mesmerized and sites like the Weeping Wall, Bird Woman Falls and the soaring views will make lasting memories. Driving is another one of the wonderful Family Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park.
4. Eat- We were camping so prepared most of our meals ourselves, but did splurge a few times and we were glad we did! One of our favorite memories of our trip to Glacier was a lunch at Park Cafe in St. Mary. The sandwiches and salads were great but most memorable was the pie. Oh my goodness it was the best pie! With so many varieties to choose from, we each got a slice so we could try each others and ate every bite. Absolutely delicious! We also loved the bakery at Brownies Hostel. Can you tell we like our desserts? We stopped several times here for delicious home made muffins, scones and cookies. Eating delicious food is another of the Family Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park.
5. Paddle- We spent a wonderful afternoon on a rental row boat in Swiftcurrent Lake adjacent to beautiful Many Glacier Hotel. Being in the water allows you to see things differently than on the trail and rowing to areas along the shore that would have been much more difficult to walk to was such a treat. The kids loved taking turns with the oars trying to paddle the big row boat but didn’t get too far so thankfully Dave was up for the challenge of rowing us around! All that pie and pastry must have fueled him well! Paddling was one of the kids favorite Family Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park.
6. Listen- As in all National Parks, the Ranger Programs are top notch. Entertaining for all age groups, we went to several during our stay and learned something new each time. The kids also took part in the Junior Ranger program and enjoyed completing their booklets in order to earn their badges. A free program offered by the National Park Service, we take part in the Junior Ranger program at every park we visit and not only have we learned a lot, we have quite a collection of shiny gold badges! Listening is one of the very best Family Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park.
Things to consider when visiting Glacier National Park-
I would be remiss if I did not talk about safety. There is no doubt that Glacier is a wild place and visitors should keep this in mind at all times. We always stayed together during our hikes due to the presence of mountain lions and we ALWAYS carried easily accessible bear spray as well. To keep us safe in the event of a bear encounter, I carried Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Pepper Spray on every hike and I made sure to have it handy and not stuffed in my backpack. We also carried a first aid kit at all times and made sure to drink plenty of water. The weather is unpredictable at such high altitudes so be prepared for weather changes by wearing easily removable layers. We spent most days in shorts and t-shirts but needed both rain jackets and coats a couple of times as well. Talk to your kids about the importance of following posted rules and regulations such as staying on the trails as they are there to protect both us and the park.
To help with planning, be sure to visit the National Park Service Website. Another great website to help with your trip planning is Glacier National Park Travel Guide. I also read several helpful books including Frommer’s EasyGuide to National Parks of the American West and Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West. A good trail map of the park which includes all areas of the park as well as Waterton Peace Park in Canada is Glacier / Waterton Lakes National Parks.
To help get the kids excited about our trip I bought them several books to read during the long drive to Montana. One of our favorites was Who Pooped in the Park? Glacier National Park: Scat and Tracks for Kids which is one of a series of great books about National Park wildlife. We also enjoyed Go Wild for Glacier National Park Puzzles and The Great Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier Activity Book. A wonderful book geared towards families that was published after we visited is The Totally Out There Guide to Glacier National Park which I am sure will be a kids’ favorite.
You can see our 4,000 mile road trip itinerary by clicking here. It was a LONG and wonderful trip! Happy travels!
Have you been to Glacier National Park? Wasn’t it amazing? What is your favorite one of the many Family Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park?