Exploring Glacier National Park with Kids

We have spent several summers exploring the wonders of Glacier National Park with kids in tow. In fact, after two summers away from this wonderful park, it is, again, our youngest’s top request for next year’s travel adventures!

Our top tips for exploring Glacier National Park with kids are:

  1. Drive Going-to-The-Sun-Road!
  2. Take a hike
  3. Get out on the water
  4. Head to the visitor centers
  5. Work through the Junior Ranger Program
  6. Attend a ranger program
  7. Go wildlife watching
  8. Go fishing

Glacier National Park is a family-friendly destination that offers a wealth of opportunities for adventure and discovery. With its stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and diverse range of recreational activities, this Montana gem is the perfect place for families to have fun together.

Here are some of the most exciting and enjoyable activities that kids will love while visiting Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park

Drive Going-to-The-Sun Road

One of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park is by taking a scenic drive.

I know what you’re thinking. “Jen, there is NO WAY my kids will EVER care about a ‘scenic drive!’”

Well, if ever there were a road that would leave even kids in awe, it is Going-to-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park!

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50-mile drive that winds its way through the heart of the park, providing stunning views of glaciers, mountains, forests, and lakes. Kids will be clinging to their seats as they gaze over the side of the road that quickly drops thousands of feet into stunning valleys.

The will be startled by the weeping water features that spring off the mountain edges. And they will be gripped with curiosity about how close two cars can actually be when passing eachother!

Aside from the magical experience of anyone’s first time riding the Going-to-The-Sun Road, there are several important things to know about the journey.

  • Glacier National Park now requires reservations to make this drive during the summer season from 6am until 3pm. Click HERE for details.
  • You total vehicle length must be less than 21′, and the width must be less than 8′.
  • If you would feel more comfortable being a passenger on this epoch drive, consider booking your family with a red bus tour HERE. Tours start around $50 per person.
  • The visitor center that sits near the midpoint between the eastern and western entrances of Going-to-The-Sun Road is called Logan’s Pass. This is a very special location, and procuring a parking spot can feel like throwing a small teenager in the middle of a Cowboys vs. Redskins Super Bowl game. Be careful. But it will be worth it!

After having been to almost every U.S. national park, Going-to-The-Sun Road is in our family’s top five drives in the country. We suggest it. But you will want to do it again…and again…and again!

Go on a nature hike

Glacier National Park is home to many trails that are perfect for families with kids. Hiking is a great way to get up close and personal with the park’s incredible scenery and wildlife.

Some popular trails for families include…

  • Trail of the Cedars: This is an easy, approximately 1 mile loop trail near Lake McDonald. It is easy to access, and it is a top pick for young children or those with mobility challenges.
  • Hidden Lake Trail: This trail is just over five miles and begins at the Logans Pass Visitor Center. It is an absolute gold mine of adventure for any age! Only a portion of our family have ever actually made it to see Hidden Lake. And that says a lot of GREAT THINGS about this trail! Why? Because we get so wonderfully distracted along the way! We always see mountain goats, sometimes within feet of the trail. Binoculars offer you very nice odds of spotting a bear in distance. We have even traversed snow on the trail in the middle of July! We ended up making snow angels instead of finding the lake on that journey. This is my personal favorite trail in the park. Though it can be crowded, it is packed full of delights!
  • St. Mary Falls Trail: This is about 1.5 miles out and back. It is, indeed, very popular with families. I will warn you that there is a lot of underbrush if you choose not to go back the way you came and, instead, continue the trail to the Gunsight Pass Trailhead. On our last journey on this route, the growth was taller than my daughter. I had to carry her on my back, and the surprise-a-bear potential was very, very high.
Glacier National Park with kids

Take a boat tour or Go White Water Rafting

Another great way to explore Glacier National Park is by taking a boat tour. Kids will love seeing the park from the water, and there are plenty of boat tours that cater to families.

Some popular options include cruises on Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, and Many Glacier.

You can even rent your own watercraft behind the Lake McDonald Lodge! From kayaks to small, motorized fishing boats, you can find a way out to enjoy the stunning Glacier waters.

On our last trip, we used Wild River Adventures for a white water rafting adventure. It was a great time. As you can see from the photo below, some of us were there for work and others were there for leisure.

There are plenty of rafting outfitters and options, so you can find a best fit trip for your family.

Glacier National Park with kids

Visit the Park Visitor Centers

The park visitor centers are a great place to learn more about Glacier National Park and its history. Kids can explore interactive exhibits, watch videos, and even see live animals.

Glacier National Park actually has some of our favorite ranger programs in the park system. They are often presenting programs right outside the visitors centers, and these arbitrary moments are great opportunities to sneak in some education…especially when they’re talking about bears!

No child can resist!

The ranger programs are always great ways to get kids excited about the park and what they’ll see during their visit.

Our favorite recommendation, of course, is to pick up Junior Ranger books for the family. You can grab these at the visitor centers.

Not only do they offer an opportunity to accomplish something big and important – becoming a Junior Ranger, but they offer activities and engaging, educational briefings.

So, even if no one in your family cares about the badge, the program book is a valuable primer on everything you should enjoy about Glacier National Park! For links and information, click HERE.

Go wildlife watching

Glacier National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, and moose. Kids will love searching for animals and learning about their habits and behaviors.

Some popular places to see wildlife include the Logan Pass Visitors Center and the St. Mary Valley. Be sure you have binoculars for your kids. This is a park that they will absolutely love to explore with those cool little gadgets!

Glacier National Park with kids

Go fishing

One thing that might surprise you about Glacier’s waterways is the sheer clarity of their waters. You can see right to the bottom which is filled with large, colorful and softened stones.

The lake and river bottoms often feel like the expensive flooring of a luxurious day spa. But Glacier offers the real thing.

Thus, your family, too will likely be drawn to the beautiful waters. If you’ve finished boating or you don’t want the chilly water slaps from a white water adventure, consider the tranquility of fishing.

Fishing is a popular activity in Glacier National Park, and kids will love the challenge of trying to catch a fish.

Fishing licenses are NOT required within the national park; however, there are serious regulations that all fisherpeople need to know prior to throwing that first line in the water. There are plenty of lakes and streams to choose from, and families can even hire a guide to help them find the best spots.

Have a picnic

Glacier National Park is home to many picnic areas where families can enjoy a meal together. Pack a picnic lunch and find a quiet spot to enjoy the beauty of the park.

This is a great way to take a break from all the activities and relax. It is your respite from the traffic and offers a few minutes of stillness for your family to sink deeply into the scents and the sounds of Glacier National Park!

Explore the night sky

Glacier National Park is known for its dark skies, which makes it an excellent place to see stars, planets, and other celestial objects. Kids will love learning about the night sky and trying to identify different constellations.

Rangers will often host evening programs at the campgrounds within the park. If you can stay up past 10pm, you too may enjoy a nice, celestial treat while visiting Glacier!

Glacier National Park is a fantastic destination for families with kids. With so many exciting and enjoyable activities to choose from, kids are sure to have a great time.

From scenic drives and nature hikes to wildlife watching and fishing there’s something for everyone in Glacier National Park. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable family adventure in Montana! We’ll see ya’ there!