If you're looking for some of the most epic things to do in Glacier National Park, then this post is for you! Whether you are looking for some of the best hikes with kids or things to do in Glacier National Park besides hiking, this post will give you some great ideas.
We love visiting national parks all around the country and have found some amazing things to see in Glacier National Park and tons of fun things to do.
Glacier National Park (Glacier NP) holds a special place in my heart. It is simply mesmerizing. We had an amazing visit there two years ago and in fact, returned this past winter!
We also love it because of how unique it is, and serene. There is something very special about Glacier National Park and Montana in general. It's why so many people flock to Montana each year!
Now, let's dive into the top things to do in Glacier National Park with kids.
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Why Visit Glacier National Park With Kids
With over 700 miles of trails, this trip is perfect for hikes and spectacular views. It's ideal for a National Park that is less busy than Yellowstone National Park but will get you outdoors into nature and quiet simplicity.
Sometimes I am asked which is better, Glacier National Park or Grand Teton. The truth is both are amazing for different reasons.
There are so many things to do in Grand Teton National Park and Glacier that it can be tough to choose. But in that they are only about 500 miles apart, you can certainly make a great family road trip visiting both parks.
If you are more adventurous, Glacier is great for backcountry camping, backpacking and spending time in nature.
While it is less busy than Yellowstone National Park, it is still well known. Approximately three million people visited the park in 2021, so as you can see it's a popular destination. It also extends into Canada as part of Waterton Lakes National Park and is part of the Continental Divide.
That's why it's good to create a Glacier National Park itinerary and make advance reservations for camping and other activities. Some places require reservations at least 12 weeks in advance, and some even require 13 months.
And you will also need to make a reservation with the National Park Service if you plan to visit the Going To The Sun Road or the North Fork area, which you can do on the Glacier National Park website.
There's certainly no shortage of things to do, like visiting the over 100 beautiful lakes, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, seeing animals like bighorn sheep, and much more.
And now that travel is back in full swing, and you no longer have to do staycations, this is the perfect vacation for this year. If you’re worried about traveling, check out this post on everything you need to know about travel in 2023.
A Note About Peak Season in Glacier National Park
National Parks are expected to have another record-breaking year during peak season (summer). While a lot of Glacier National Park is open year-round, some areas are closed during parts of the year due to accessibility.
We actually visited Glacier National Park both in the summer and in January (when we went snowshoeing in Glacier.) But peak season is typically July through September, which is when it is busiest.
If you plan to visit the Glacier area in the summer, be sure and make a reservation if you want to visit the Going To The Sun Road or North Fork Area between May through September. You should note however that you may be able to visit in June or October, depending on the weather.
And when visiting it outside of peak season, Glacier National Park offers you a spectacular vacation when it is less crowded.
25 of the Best Things to Do In Glacier National Park With Kids
Whether you like hiking, shopping, whitewater rafting, or just looking at nature and wildlife, there are plenty of things to do and places to visit in Glacier National Park. Now, speaking of wildlife, Glacier National Park is grizzly bear country, so you should take guided hikes or make sure you have hiking essentials including bear spray.
You'll also need essential hiking gear for the family, so don't forget to add those things like bear spray or comfy clothes to your packing list. There's plenty of wildlife to see.
But you don't want to run into a black bear or a grizzly bear. So, one of the tips for visiting Glacier National Park you will want to heed includes bringing bear spray for your hikes, especially if you're camping.
Here's a great Glacier National Park map to help you locate all the Glacier National Park attractions, trails, camping areas, and more.
If your vacation to the park is a road trip, you'll want this list of things you need for your trip when visiting Glacier National Park. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Glacier National Park.
1. Guided Hike on Highline Trail to Haystack Butte with Glacier Guides
Highline Trail is not for the faint of heart as you're hiking along the edge that overlooks Going-to-the-Sun Road, but it's an amazing hike with stunning views. But that said, you can hike it with kids. The first part is a bit narrow, but much of the trail is wide enough to pass others.
This hike is to Haystack Butte and back is 8 miles round trip. But if that is too far, you can turn around midway.
Highline Trail is one of our favorite hikes, and you can even go on a guided hike every Tuesday with Glacier Guides. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Glacier National Park.
2. Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the main thoroughfares in the park, and it's also the most scenic. It takes about two hours to drive the whole road as it’s 50 miles long. Keep your eyes open as this is where you may see bighorn sheep, goats, and bears while driving on the road.
The road crosses the Continental Divide and weaves through the mountains, so this is one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park besides hiking.
If you enter the park from the east side, you can stop at the Saint Mary visitor center on the way. You will also find the Logan Pass visitor center, which is a great place for views and the start of hiking trails.
Here is where you will find the Hidden Lake overlook (see #3) and the Highline Trail. You can also find restrooms and snacks at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
3. Visit Logan Pass Visitors Center and Hike to Hidden Lake Overlook
Logan Pass is very popular, which means it can get crowded, too, so be patient when looking for a parking spot if you're driving.
Be sure to visit the Logan Pass Visitor Center at the top of the road, and don't miss the hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. The trail is clearly laid out and easy for even non-hikers, and the view of Hidden Lake is worth the walk.
4. Hike Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake
Glacier National Park's Trail of Cedars is one of the most popular trails in the park to hike, and it's well-marked and wide. This short hike takes you on a one-mile loop along Avalanche Creek, but you can also take it to Avalanche Lake. During our visit, we couldn't take the trail to Avalance Lake due to bear activity on the trail.
But it's great for beginners, which makes it one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park. You can also get rewarded with a view of Avalanche Gorge.
This trail is one of the two trails in the park that are wheelchair accessible, so you can bring a stroller for small children.
5. Visit Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is the largest alpine lake in Glacier NP, and it's the largest lake in the whole park. If you combined all the other 168 lakes in the park, they still don't equal Lake McDonald's size.
The Glacier Park Boat Company offers a 60-minute boat ride on the lake, and it's the perfect place to spend time on the beach.
6. Visit Lake McDonald Lodge
While you're visiting Lake McDonald, make sure to visit the grand, historic Lake McDonald Lodge. The lodge was built in 1913, and it's a popular place to stay in the park and has stunning scenic views across the lake.
7. Hike to Virginia Falls
You don't want to miss the hike to Virginia Falls as it's beautiful. The best way to get to the falls is at the St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop, approximately 10.6 miles west of the St. Mary Entrance on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Virginia Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall, and visitors have deemed this the best waterfall hike in the whole park. Glacier Guides also offers a guided hike for this location too. If you hike with Glacier Guides, you will also see St. Mary Lake during this hike, which is where we saw a moose! And you can get a great view of the Wild Goose Island lookout from this trail.
8. Visit Many Glacier Region
You don't want to miss visiting Many Glacier, where you can visit Grinnell Glacier and Apikuni Falls. The drive there is gorgeous, and you get a great view of Swiftcurrent Lake and the Many Glacier Hotel.
Grinnell Glacier is one of the few active glaciers you can hike on in the park. Many people only do the Grinnell Glacier hike, which is a great thing to do with kids. You'll also find Iceberg Lake, Cracker Lake, and Grinnell Lake here.
9. Visit the Many Glacier Hotel
While you're in Many Glacier, be sure to stop at the Many Glacier Hotel. It's the largest hotel in the entire park and was built on Swiftcurrent Lake in 1914. This rustic hotel has a great gift shop, snack shop, and dining, as well as evening ranger programs for kids.
While you're in the area, consider hiking the Lake Josephine Loop which you can access from either boat dock.
10. Visit Polebridge Mercantile and Lake Bowman
Visiting the Polebridge Mercantile is another one of our favorite things to do near Glacier National Park, as it's located outside of it. To reach Bowman Lake from the mercantile, you need to take a narrow dirt road for six miles through the North Fork entrance of the park, and then you'll see the lake and beach.
There's also a campground here, and it's the perfect place for kayaking or paddleboarding. You can also bring your own inflatable kayak and canoe!
11. Go Whitewater Rafting with Glacier Guides or Great Northern Rafting
If you've always wanted to go whitewater rafting, Glacier NP is one of the best places in Montana to do it. Glacier Guides even has overnight trips, day trips, and family-friendly rafting.
You can also do a leisurely scenic raft trip if you don't want to battle the rapids.
12. Visit West Glacier Village for Shopping and Mini-Golf
No trip to the park would be complete without stopping in West Glacier to go shopping and play mini-golf. Visiting the shops is one of our favorite things to do in West Glacier.
If you want a break from hiking, stop at the gift shop for keepsakes or the Huckleberry Hut for unique souvenirs made locally.
13. Take a Red Bus Tour
Make sure you take one of the famous red bus tours on your Glacier National Park vacation. It's one of those can't-miss activities, and you can choose from several tours like Two Medicine Lake, Many Glacier., or a tour of Swiftcurrent Lake and Josephine Lake. Traveling Glacier National Park on this park shuttle in style is definitely one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park with kids.
While there are several parking lots in Glacier National Park, red bus tours park shuttle allow you to skip the stress of parking during busy times.
14. Take a Boat Ride on One of Glacier’s Many Lakes
Don't miss taking one of the all-day or afternoon boat tours on one of the lakes in the park. Lake McDonald is one of the most popular places to take a boat tour.
But you can also find boat tours in the beautiful turquoise waters of Two Medicine Lake, the glassy water of Rising Sun Lake, and Many Glacier. Some of the tours offer guided hikes, too, and you can also rent boats.
Bowman Lake is also a great place to visit for a picnic, boating, or just taking in the sites and sounds of the Glacier area and stunning alpine scenery.
15. Horseback Riding with Swan Mountain Outfitters
Swan Mountain Outfitters offers the only horseback guided tours in the park. This tradition goes back 100 years to when the first visitors came to the park.
They spent days or even weeks touring on horseback and staying in the chalets, lodges, and tent camps. You can access their corral from the West Entrance in Glacier National Park.
16. Shop and Dine in Whitefish
If you want to take a break from outdoor activities in Glacier National Park, make sure you stop at Whitefish to eat and shop. Buffalo Cafe, Jalisco Cantina, Grouse Mountain Lodge, and Craggy Bar are our favorite places to eat.
During the summer you'll find plenty of events and festivals going on.
17. Visit Whitefish Beach and Flathead Lake
While you're in the area, spend a day on the beach or kayaking in Flathead Lake. Just remember that the water here can be chilly as this isn't a Turks and Caicos vacation in the Caribbean.
Swim out to the platform or get snacks at the concession stand.
18. Ride the Alpine Slides at Whitefish Ski Resort
While you're in Whitefish, make sure your ride one of the two Alpine Slides at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. Children under 48-inches tall can ride for free as long as they are accompanied by a paying adult.
19. Visit Apgar Village
We love visiting Apgar Village when we vacation at Glacier National Park. Located two miles from the West Glacier entrance, Apgar Village has a camp store and the largest campground in the park. You'll also find a visitor's center here, and you can stay in the cabin rentals.
20. Eat Breakfast at The Sunflower Cafe
While you're in the park, make sure to eat breakfast one morning at The Sunflower Cafe in Glacier Campground. The cuisine is inspired by the owner's world travels with dishes like the Huevos bowl or Chilaquiles.
21. Flyfishing in the Flathead River
If there's a fly fisherman in your family, they won't want to miss fly fishing in the Flathead River that flows into Flathead Lake. Glacier National Park is a great location for fishing trips. You can even take a guided fly fishing excursion in Glacier National Park with kids.
Whitefish Lake is another great place in the area for fishing, sailing, boating, canoeing, and more.
22. Hike to St. Mary’s Falls
St. Mary Falls is on the way to your hike to Virginia Falls. The hike is an easy 1.7-mile hike, and it's also a multi-tiered waterfall. Just beware, there isn't much shade as there was a wildfire in the area that burnt all the trees.
23. Wildlife Watching
The park has an abundance of wildlife to see, so hiking the trails or riding the scenic roads are the best places to see all kinds of animals. You may see rams, mountain goats, deer, elk, moose, or many other wildlife in their natural habitat.
24. Take a Glacier Institute Field Course
The Glacier Institute has guided hiking tours in the park and Flathead National Forest, and many remarkable camps. There are tons of guided hikes, adult field courses, and family adventures.
I suggest you take one of their field courses in cultural history, geology, ecology, and more.
25. Try Huckleberry Treats
Don't miss the huckleberry treats at the Huckleberry Hut in West Glacier. This shop has yummy huckleberry jams, candies, teas, and more.
A Few Additional Glacier National Park Things To Do
- Apgar Visitor Center
- Hidden Lake Trail
- St. Mary Visitor's Center
- Canoeing, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Paddleboarding
Where to Stay in Glacier National Park
So, you may be wondering where to stay in Glacier National Park. There are great places to stay in the Glacier area, both inside and outside the park. Here are some of the best places to stay during your visit.
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- Great Northern Resort
- Historic Many Glacier Hotel
- Swiftcurrent Lake Motor Inn
- Glacier Campground
- Whitefish: Grouse Mountain Lodge
- Lodge at Whitefish Mountain
- Bar W Guest Ranch
- KOA Campgrounds
- Rising Sun Campground (near St. Mary Lake)
- Rising Sun Motor Inn
- The Village Inn at Apgar
- St. Mary Lodge and Resort
- Whitefish Mountain Resort
Where to Eat in Glacier National Park
You'll also find plenty of places to eat that even picky eaters will love:
- Sunflower Cafe
- Buffalo Cafe
- Josephine's Bar and Grill
- Grouse Mountain Lodge
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- Jalisco Cantina
- Craggy Bar
- La Casita
- Northern Lights Saloon
- Tower Grill
- Eddie's Cafe
You'll also find grocery stores if you're staying in a house or somewhere other than a hotel and you have a kitchen.
Getting To Glacier National Park
If you want to fly to Glacier National Park, the closest airport is in Kalispell, Montana at the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). It is about 30 miles from the West Entrance of Glacier National Park. You would need a rent a car.
Alternatively, you can take a road trip and drive there!
Search for Flights To Glacier Here
How many days do you need to explore Glacier National Park?
It's best to stay at least three days in Glacier National Park, but a five or seven-day vacation is best because there are so many things to do.
Is Glacier National Park better than Yellowstone?
It really depends on the type of hiking and outdoor activities you want to do as well as the terrain you're expecting. Glacier National Park is much more rocky and rugged than Yellowstone National Park.
Hiking in Glacier requires more skill and physical abilities, although there are some easy trails too. And the park is at a higher elevation than Yellowstone, so the plant life and animals are very different.
Is Glacier National Park worth the trip?
Absolutely! It offers a unique national park experience, and there are endless trails to hike as well as fun things to do with kids.
In fact, there are so many things to do in Glacier National Park; you won't be able to do them all in one trip.
What is the best time of year to visit Glacier National Park?
The best time of year to go to Glacier National Park is mid-June or July through September as the weather is warmer.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Glacier National Park with Kids
A vacation to Glacier is a unique experience your family will love. With amazing scenery like mountain ranges and clear alpine lakes, you'll be shocked at the pure natural beauty of the area.
There are plenty of hiking trails ranging from easy to more challenging that you can explore or take horseback rides on.
You don't want to miss scenic drives like the Going-to-the-Sun Road or having a picnic lunch on a lakefront beach.
But if you want to take a trip to this national park, you'll want to plan in advance as campgrounds and other places to stay fill up quickly.
I know you'll enjoy a Glacier vacation as much as my family does.