Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

7 Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier National Park

Many of us here at Glacier Guides and Montana Raft — established in 1983 — are parents. Together, we have decades of experience with family friendly adventures in Glacier. Read on for our best tips!

teenage sisters camping

It’s a scientific fact that your kids are 734% more likely to get along while camping. Okay, so that number might be made up, but these faces don’t lie. Even if your kids aren’t ready for a backcountry trip, Glacier has plenty of family friendly adventures to offer!

7 Best Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier National Park

#1: Cool Off on the River!

It’s tough to beat a warm, sunny day on the river. There are many options around here for river fun, from raft, SUP, and kayak rentals, to full service guided excursions. The Wild and Scenic Flathead River has two forks that run along park boundaries: the Middle Fork and the North Fork. The Middle Fork has a stretch of class II-III rapids. The North Fork is calmer, class I flat water.

Pro tip: Class I doesn’t mean you don’t need lifejackets. Because the North Fork is free flowing and always changing, there are many log jams that are far more dangerous than churning whitewater. Never underestimate a river and always take every safety precaution possible.

Glacier Guides and Montana Raft offers guided trips on both rivers, ranging from half and full-day whitewater to mellow scenic flat water floats. For whitewater trips, the minimum age is generally 8, but that varies depending on river level. Be sure to check when you book. For scenic floats, we generally welcome those 3 and up! Also, if you’re looking to get away from it all, overnight rafting trips are a great option.

family rafting

You just don’t see kids smiling like this while watching TV or playing video games. 

Kids playing in the river near glacier park

Renting a raft and going on your own means you can set your own pace and stop to stretch your legs when needed. Photo by Corrie Holloway.

Rafting the Middle Fork of the Flathead Allison

The Middle Fork of the Flathead has fun and splashy class II and III rapids, which makes it perfect for an exhilarating family adventure!

#2 Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier: Stargaze at Logan Pass

Milky Way at Logan Pass

Get up close and personal with the Milky Way with the Big Sky Astronomy Club. Photo by Jacob Frank, Glacier NPS.

f you think Montana is Big Sky country by day, wait till you see it at night! The Glacier National Park Conservancy helps to host Star Parties each summer at Logan Pass! Check the park service events page for current dates. These star parties are free (you do need a park pass), but due to parking limitations, you need a ticket. Each ticket will allow admission for one vehicle (there is no limit on the number of people per ticket, but please follow seatbelt laws). You can usually pick up tickets at either the St. Mary Visitor Center (on the east side), or Apgar Visitor Center (on the west side). If you know you want to go, contact Park Headquarters to reserve tickets, sooner rather than later, as they tend to go quickly.

Read more about Glacier’s night skies, and recent International Dark Sky Designation, here.

meteors in the sky over Glacier National Park

A head lampe-d hiker on the Logan Pass boardwalk under the most brilliant Milky Way you’ll find anywhere. Photo by Jacob Frank, Glacier NPS.

#3 Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier: Enjoy a day at the lake.

Glacier’s lakes are a great place for unplugged, relaxing family time.  Rent paddleboards (or inflatable kayaks, if that’s what floats your boat) from Glacier Guides & Montana Raft in West Glacier. Next, pack a picnic and head to the Fish Creek on Lake McDonald. Fish Creek has a great campground and a beautiful, shaded day use area.

Pro tip: all of Glacier is bear country (even the developed areas), and the rules for food storage while camping apply to day use as well, so make sure you know food storage regulations before you go.

If you want to get out on the water and let someone else do the work, Glacier Park Boat Company offers entertaining and educational daily tours on lakes in different areas of the park. Their boat captains are trained naturalists and gifted storytellers. In addition, their tours offer great scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities, and they have multiple launches per day to fit your schedule.

family friendly fun on lake mcdonald

Inflatable paddle boards roll up fit into almost any trunk or back seat, and rentals typically include lifejackets, paddles that come apart for easy transport, and an air pump to inflate your paddle boards when you get to your destination. Photo by Glacier Guide Corrie Holloway.

kids paddle boarding in glacier national park

Feeling brave? Venture away from the shore for a unique view of Glacier’s signature skyline. (Make sure to remember your lifejackets. A paddle board is considered a watercraft, so lifejackets or flotation devices are required by the NPS on all bodies of water.) Photo by Glacier Guide Corrie Holloway.

#4 Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier: Embrace your inner buckaroo.

Prefer your adventures on dry land? Got a horse crazy girl in your group? A little boy who wants to be a cowboy? Check out Swan Mountain Outfitters and book one of their trail rides in Glacier National Park. The minimum age for most of their trips is 7, but call for details, because some of their rides have different age requirements.

horse in glacier park

Want a different view of Glacier Park? Then saddle up with Swan Mountain Outfitters and let this handsome fella do the walking for you. Photo by Corrie Holloway

Horseback ride in Glacier

Being on horseback gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery without having to keep track of your feet. Swan Mountain has expert wranglers and well-trained horses who know the trail. Photo by Corrie Holloway


Cracker Flats (pictured here) can be a bit of a long hike for kids, but an enjoyable few hours on horseback will get you there. Photo by Trapper Badovinac, Swan Mountain Outfitters.

#5 Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier: Take a hike!

There are many hikes that make for family friendly adventures in Glacier. If your kids are still small enough, load ’em up in a pack (we rent these if you’d prefer not to travel with one) and do the work for them. If they are too big for that, don’t worry, there are many trails that are perfect for all ages, ability levels, and attention spans. For a list of ten easy day hikes in Glacier that are perfect for kids, click here. If planning a hiking trip for your family sounds like more work than fun to you, Glacier Guides and Montana Raft offers many options for family friendly hiking adventures.

Pro tip: Glacier National Park is home to many wild creatures, including grizzlies and black bears. Take proper precautions when hiking, including carrying bear-strength pepper spray, making noise around blind corners and not hiking alone. For more info about the bears found in Glacier, go here

Man hiking with his daughter to Grinnell Glacier

If you’re feeling strong, and your kids are still small enough, why not rent a kid-toting backpack and get an extra workout? Hauling the extra weight will make your post-hike huckleberry pie taste even better! Photo by Rose Grant.

Holloway fam hiking

Carrying another human, even a tiny one, is a perfect excuse to hike at a mellow pace and really soak in your surroundings. Photo by Glacier Guide Corrie Holloway.

kids hiking in the North Fork

If your kids are a little older, don’t be afraid to take them on short hikes. Full size, adjustable trekking poles can be adjusted all the way down to fit kids, which will help them keep their balance and climb hills more easily. Bring lots of snacks and extra water, and make sure their footwear won’t give them blisters. The more fun a kid has on early hikes, the easier they will be to convince to hike when they are older. Photo by Glacier Guide Corrie Holloway.

FAQ: My kids are good hikers now. What about backpacking with kids in Glacier National Park?

We recommend it, if you’re an experienced backpacker. If you’re not, contact us to make arrangements for the perfect, custom backcountry experience. We can even find someone to help you haul your extra gear!

girl filtering water in Glacier

Kids love to be involved in camp life! Don’t be afraid to give them “jobs” to do, like filtering water, so they feel empowered and like they are more involved. Photo by Corrie Holloway.

boy jumping into Thunderbird Pond Glacier

There really is no better place for family bonding than the backcountry of Glacier National Park. If your kids are up for a backpacking trip, Glacier Guides offers custom trips for families, and the option to have someone else carry some extra weight to make your child’s first backpacking experience more enjoyable, for them and you. 

#7 Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier: Get off the grid in Polebridge.

Polebridge, Montana, is one of the most unique places you’ll ever visit. Situated just a few miles from the Canadian border, along the North Fork of the Flathead River, this one of a kind, off-the-grid community is the perfect place to spend the day. It’s about a 40 minute drive from West Glacier. Most of the road is unpaved and it can be bumpy or dusty at times, but the reward is well worth the effort. Polebridge is home to the Polebridge Mercantile, and any local you meet around here will tell you their baked goodies and fresh sandwiches can’t be beat anywhere. There is a hostel there, as well as cabins, and a yurt nearby that are available for rent, so if you have the time, make it an overnight adventure.

Polebridge Mercantile, Polebridge MT

The Polebridge Merc is the best place we know of to stop for pre and post-adventure treats.

huckleberry bear claw polebridge

Huckleberry bear claws from the Polebridge Merc are the stuff dreams are made of. Photo courtesy of Will Hammerquist, Polebridge Mercantile.

4th of July in Polebridge

Polebridge has a population of about 59 people, except on the 4th of July, when the town explodes with smiling faces. There’s a parade, complete with a float contest, all-day live music on an outdoor stage, and delicious food at an adjacent restaurant, the Northern Lights Saloon. The Northern Lights is a great family friendly restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, that serves fantastic burgers and pizza.

Pro tip: Get there early, bring lawn chairs and snag a spot along the road to watch the parade. Also, it’s a good idea to bring a blanket to lay claim to a spot near the stage to enjoy the music.

polebridge fourth of july

The locals go all out to make the 4th of July parade an unforgettable experience. Photo by Janet Dunn

Questions about Family Friendly Adventures in Glacier National Park?

Don’t be afraid to call upon our group knowledge as experts on Glacier National Park and as inexpert parents. We’ve yet to meet an expert parent, ha! But we’d love to help you plan your perfect Glacier National Park vacation all the same. 406-387-5555

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