Plan My Trip To Glacier National Park: The Kids Edition

Glacier Park Vacation For Kids

Here’s a word of warning: if you plan a Glacier Park vacation for kids, they might never leave Montana. Oh sure, they’ll go back home with you, and they’ll graduate from kindergarten and 5th grade and high school and more.

But one day, they might be guides. River guides, hiking guides, biking guides, fishing guides. Channelling all the wonder from that trip they took as kids to Glacier National Park into every guest they introduce to the park. And then you’ll have to come back to visit them in Glacier every summer. Could be worse, right?

Day 1: Welcome to Montana, Kids

Whether you’re on the Great American Road Trip with your kids, or flying into charming Glacier Park International Airport, welcome to your first day under the Big Sky. 

Glacier Park Vacation For Kids: Where To Stay

Once you’re in Glacier Country, get checked in. For families, our own Glacier Guides Guest House offers room to run outside, a foosball table, and Wi-Fi.  Several seating areas and multiple bedrooms give everyone in the family space to relax and unwind.

Are we booked up? Look across the street to the 2018 KOA Campground of The Year – pretty much kiddo paradise. Playground, pool, ice cream shop, campsites and camping cabins. You can’t go wrong staying with our friendly neighbors! And if you’re going on a rafting, hiking, fishing, or biking adventure with us, we can pick you up from the KOA – just ask in advance, please.

There’s so much to do here that you don’t “need” a pool. But, for those that do, here’s a few worth mentioning: 

Glacier Park Vacation for Kids Glacier Park Lodge pool
You never know what you might see at the Glacier Park Lodge pool. Including mermaids!

Day 2: To Glacier We Go

Let’s start the day off with a trip to a Glacier National Park Visitor Center at Apgar or Logan Pass. Here, your kids can get involved with the Junior Ranger program. You’ll find that Glacier’s magic is even sparklier when you’ve got kids to bring you down to their level.

Glacier Park Vacation for Kids hiking to St. Mary Falls
Hiking with kids in Glacier National Park.

Glacier Junior Rangers have to complete these tasks to earn their badge:

  • Visit the park
  • Attend a ranger-led program
  • Correctly complete at least 5 of the activities in the Junior Ranger booklet (you can pick it up at a visitors center or download it here)

Take A Hike!

Now that your kids are officially official, let’s go hiking. With the right preparations, you might be surprised how far your kids are willing to walk. And by preparations, we mean snacks. Check out blogs we’ve written over the years on kid friendly hikes, what to pack, and where to snap exceptionally gorgeous photos. Need gear like a baby backpack carrier, bear spray, or trekking poles? We’ve got it for rent.

Speaking of guides – want to go hiking with one of ours? Guided hikes are a great way to get an introduction to the park, bear safety, Leave No Trace ethics, and more. If it’s Monday, our Introduction To Glacier hike might be right for you. Nature Walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays are also fantastic starter activities in the park. You can read more about Family Friendly Hikes here.

hiking with Glacier Guides to Virginia Falls
Glacier Guide Jordan Smith with kids on a custom Wednesday hike to Virginia Falls.

What’s For Dinner?

A fun end to Day 2 could involve a picnic dinner on the shore of one of Glacier’s many lakes, such as Lake McDonald. Every kid we know could spend hours just chunking rainbow colored rocks into the pristine waters while parents relax.

Day 3: Let’s Go Rafting!

The stunning Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which forms Glacier’s southwestern border, is the perfect family introduction to rafting. You’ve got options.

Scenic Floating

scenic floating in Glacier
Cooling off on a hot summer day on a scenic float trip.

If your kids are ages 3 and up, definitely check out our Scenic Float rafting trip. You’ll relax on this peaceful stretch of river with our kid loving, interpretive river guides. These scenic floats in Glacier are typically on a relaxed current with little to no splash, and no paddling. You’ll be amazed at how even the most jaded teenagers can get into looking for eagles, deer, and moose. On hot days, you and your kids can jump in the river to take a swim, and your guide will pull you back in the boat. Way better than any pool, and memories your kids will keep forever!

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork Flathead offers super fun — NOT super scary — rapids. Usually, these are class II and III. Our river is not dammed, so its levels will fluctuate with spring runoff. Usually by mid-July, the river levels are falling. A minimum age of 5 and a minimum weight of 50 pounds is the norm for our whitewater trips. Helmets and lifejackets are always required, and wetsuits and splash gear is always available at no charge. 

Overnight Rafting

Pro tip: we offer 2 day overnight rafting adventures that are perfect for families. What kid doesn’t love sitting by a campfire, picking out the constellations in Montana’s star studded skies? What adult doesn’t, for that matter? Overnight rafting is our favorite family bonding adventure.

Safety First

Whether you choose scenic or whitewater rafting, feel free to call us anytime to discuss river safety and your kids! We welcome your questions, and we know that anxious parents aren’t happy parents. Knowledge is power, and we want you to have fun! Our mantra: safety first, always — and then fun.

Day 4: A Trip To The East Side –

A Glacier Park vacation for kids isn’t complete without a trip to the east side of the park. 

If the Going to the Sun Road is fully open — typically by late June, but not always — you’ll want to drive from the West Glacier entrance, up and over Logan Pass, and down to St. Mary. If you stop at Logan Pass, don’t miss the opportunity for a family snowball fight or sledding!

snowman at Logan Pass
Snowpeople are extra fun for kiddos who don’t normally get to make them! Sammi Johnson photo.

If the Sun Road isn’t quite all the way open yet, drive U.S. Highway 2 from West Glacier to East Glacier. On this route, you drive through the southern tip of Glacier National Park, along the Middle Fork Flathead River, and over Marias Pass. 

Scavenger Hunt

Whichever way you drive, be sure to make a scavenger hunt for the car! Make a list of animals to look for, like grizzly and black bears, eagles, turtles – see the full GNP inventory here. Add items like flowers, railroads, interpretive displays, historic lodges, and huckleberry stands, too.

bear in Glacier National Park
Spotted this one from the car!

Once you’re on the east side, when you’re not snapping pix of the gorgeous, glaciated mountains soaring up from the prairies, you’ve got lots of kid friendly choices. Choose an area to explore for today, and have all the fun.

Glacier Park Vacation for Kids: East Side Choices

In St. Mary

  • Explore the St. Mary Visitor Center.
  • Take an easy, 3.6 mile hike on the Beaver Pond Loop – stunning views!
  • Get ice cream at St. Mary Lodge and Resort.
  • Savor the unbelievable pie at Two Sisters, just north of St. Mary.
ice cream in St. Mary, Montana
Enjoying Sweet Peaks scoops in St. Mary.

In Many Glacier, north of St. Mary 

In East Glacier/Two Medicine

the gardens at Glacier Park Lodge
Exploring the delightful gardens at Glacier Park Lodge.

In Browning, the capital of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which borders Glacier:

Day 5: Just Outside of Glacier National Park

You’ve learned – from Glacier National Park Rangers and our guides. Gone hiking. Rafted. In short, you’ve made Glacier National Park memories to last a lifetime.

It’s time to play! Today, explore the west side, just outside of Glacier National Park.

Flathead Valley Fun For Kids:

  • Whitefish Mountain Resort will keep your kids – from toddlers to teens – happy all day with their Strider Bike Park, mountain biking, and zipline options. Or just go for a hike up the hill and enjoy the views of Glacier National Park from the summit of Big Mountain. 
  • Flathead Lake is a gem – and also the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Check out boat tours to Wild Horse Island State Park, kayak rentals, and swimming at Wayfarer’s State Park. 
  • Big Sky Waterslides also offers fun for kids of all ages – grassy lawns for babies to nap on (bring your own chairs and sun tent), a wading pool for toddlers to splash in, a variety of waterslides for the bigger kids — and a carousel, a climbing wall, mini golf, bumper cars, and water balloons, too.
alpine slide at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Riding the alpine slide at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Glacier Park Vacation For Kids: Once Is Not Enough

Take it from all of us raising kids in Glacier National Park – one trip to this incredible place with your children will not be enough. As your kids get bigger and stronger, the opportunities to spend quality time with them in Glacier National Park grow, too. 

The baby that you carried to Iceberg Lake in a pack will be a toddler who delights in throwing rainbow rocks into Lake McDonald.

That toddler will be able to walk himself to Avalanche Lake before you know it.

And then he’ll be biking up the Going to the Sun Road with you on Mother’s Day.

kids biking the Going to the Sun Road
Even the littlest ones have fun biking the Sun road when it’s closed to vehicle traffic!

Or she’ll be catching her first fish on the Middle Fork Flathead River.

Hiking to Grinnell Glacier with you and her friends in grade school. 

kids hiking to Grinnell Glacier
Hiking with grade school kids to Grinnell Glacier.

And ready for a backpacking trip before you can blink. 

These are the days.

Don’t miss them.

Questions? You can use the form below to ask them. Or just give us a call at 406-387-5555.  See you out there!

whitewater rafting Glacier National Park
Living their best lives whitewater rafting Glacier National Park!
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