Are you wondering if there will be plenty of things to do in Glacier National Park with kids?
Did you finally plan the ultimate road trip with your kids out West and hope that you will ALL enjoy a Glacier family vacation?
First, what are some unique things to do in Glacier National Park, or better yet, the top things to do in Glacier National Park so that you can plan your trip out well?
Our full-time traveling family spent 2 weeks visiting Glacier National Park and we were never bored. This National Park is on many people’s bucket lists and one that we highly recommend visiting, even if just for the breathtaking views of the Glaciers.
If you are a National Park lover and want to plan several National Park trips, then check out this list of all the National Parks in the US that you can print.
Or, read on to find our own list of the many things to do in Glacier National Park with kids so that you can plan a fun trip.
Where To Stay When Visiting Glacier NP
Before I jump into the fun things to do in Glacier National Park, I just want to say a few things about finding accommodations in Glacier. If you’re visiting Glacier National Park during the summer months, be prepared to book your accommodations several months ahead of time.
It’s very busy and the lodging and camping in the park fill up fast. I mean really fast!
When visiting Glacier, you may want to rent a cabin for a family like this one.
Or this beautiful chalet is only 1 mile from the west Glacier NP entrance.
You can click here to look for Airbnbs or VRBOs near Glacier National Park.
If you plan to bring your RV to Glacier National Park, then I’d check out the West Glacier KOA. It’s only a few minute’s drive to the west entrance to Glacier National Park, and they have amazing amenities.
Or, you can use one of the RV trip planned apps that we list to help you plan out your RV accommodations.
For tent camping, you might want to look into the National Forest campgrounds nearby.
Buying Your National Park Pass
In order to enter the National Park, you’ll need to pay a daily fee or buy a National Park Pass that works inside all of the National Park.
You should buy an annual National Park pass ahead of time online at REI. Not only will you be prepared with your pass in hand on your Glacier National Park trip, but you’ll be helping give back. You see, REI donates 10% of its National Park annual pass sales each year to the National Park Foundation.
The usual entrance fee is $35, which is quite pricey for some, that’s why buying an annual National Park pass is a cheaper option for only $80 with over 400+ national park sites to visit!
Click here to grab it and know that you can use this pass at all US National Parks for one year.
Buy A Vehicle Registration Pass To Glacier NP 4 Months Ahead Of Time
Vehicle registration passes are now required to get into Glacier National Park during the summer months in order to help decrease the intense congestion. With more than 3 million visitors per year, I understand why they enacted this policy. But it does mean you need to do some advanced planning.
Just recently, in 2023, Glacier National Park updated their reservations between 6 AM and 3 PM. If you’re planning on going outside those hours, you won’t need to do a reservation but you can still go around their reservation system by going on a tour or booking lodging which can cost more than just the entrance fee.
The Vehicle Registration Passes are released online 120 days in advance and are good for 3 consecutive days inside the park. So if you’d like to visit Glacier NP in early August, then you need to book your $2 pass (it’s not expensive but IS needed) in early April of that same year. Click here to learn more and to buy your pass.
How To Get To Glacier National Park?
The easiest and most popular way to get to Glacier National Park is by car. The park’s headquarters are located in West Glacier, Montana, on the west side of the Continental Divide. If you’re considering driving to the west entrance of Glacier NP, then you’ll most likely drive through the city of Kalispell located just North of Flathead Lake.
If you’re planning to explore Glacier National Park and you need to fly in, the closest airport to Glacier National Park is the aptly named Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, MT, which is about a 32-minute drive to the West Glacier Entrance. From there, you can rent a car and drive to the park or take a shuttle bus that goes to West Glacier.
Also, it’s important to note that from July 1st through September 10th, 2023, visitors to Going-to-the-Sun Road will be required to obtain a vehicle reservation at the St. Mary Entrance prior to accessing the road. To gain access to the park, each vehicle must acquire both a reservation and an entry pass for any entrance point.
Learn about the highlights of 7 fun things to do in Glacier National Park by watching our stories here.
Things To Do In Glacier National Park With Kids
Attend a Free Ranger-Led Program
During the peak summer season, there are junior ranger programs provided weekly which are fun Glacier National park kids activities. This is something I recommend checking out on your trip to Glacier National Park.
We attended a ranger-led hike that met at the Apgar Nature Center and took our family along on a 1-mile hike.
I learned just as much as the kids did and it was great to hike in a group with other families and children! Be sure to bring your bear spray, water, snacks and have good hiking shoes for the whole family.
Pro tip: make sure to wear the best hiking clothes for the season that you are visiting Glacier National Park.
Earn Your Junior Ranger Badges
The junior ranger program in Glacier National Park is free to participate in. Anyone can pick up junior ranger booklets from any visitor center and complete them during their visit.
Many get pretty excited about these booklets, while others not as much. But if this is your first time visiting a National Park, give it a try!
The kids then turn the booklets back into any ranger to receive a junior ranger badge! So, if you’re looking at Glacier National Park for kids ideas, this ranks near the top of my activities.
Many children proudly wear their junior ranger vest or hat with the badges that they’ve earned from other National Parks, while hiking around the park. It’s fun to see.
So be forewarned that you may want to buy a vest or hat at the gift store in any visitor center.
Go On A Family Bike Ride
Another one of the fun activities in Glacier National Park is to go on a family bike ride. If you’re not up for mountain biking in Glacier, don’t worry. There’s a paved bike path in Glacier National Park! Our family always enjoys finding paved bike trails and decided to give it a try.
The paved path in Glacier NP connects Apgar campground to the Apgar Visitor Center, Apgar Village, and then to the Park Headquarters. If you are willing to take your family on the road for 1/8 of a mile, you can then bike over the bridge into West Glacier.
Click here to read about our 9 favorite campgrounds in the USA, which included Apgar campground in Glacier!
Be sure to bring your bear spray and have an adult lead the children on the bike trail. You cycle through the dense forest and the rangers warn you to be aware of many animals in Glacier National Park. Grizzly Bear and Black Bears are the largest concern.
I would list biking on my list of one of the top 10 things to do in Glacier National Park.
Drive The Going To The Sun Road
You cannot plan a Glacier National Park family vacation without taking the Going to the Sun Highway.
This famous Glacier National park drive will take you most of a full day so be sure to pack a lunch and plenty of water before you hit the road as a family.
Be prepared to take many stops and get out to see the beautiful views, as you drive up the curved mountainside.
If you stop near Logan pass, keep an eye out for mountain goats and big-horned sheep. The drive from Apgar Village to St Mary’s and beyond can take several hours or more, so be sure to prepare the children with car activities and plan to pull off the road to the sun to take a few small hikes around.
We broke our day up by stopping at the visitor center at St. Mary’s to watch the park video and turn in our junior ranger booklets. We also took some very short walks, the kids called them hikes, at a few pull offs.
Things To Know About The Going To The Sun Road:
Glacier National Park going to the sun road is only open during the summer months, as you are up very high in elevation and they get a lot of snow. So be sure to plan your trip around the season so that you can experience one of the best things to do at Glacier National Park.
Also, be prepared for a lot of congestion, especially at Logan Pass.
They offer shuttles so that you don’t have to drive, however, I suggest taking your own vehicle if you are planning to visit Glacier National Park with kids and want to drive the Sun Road.
We took the shuttle the first day and had to wait 1 ½ hours to get on a shuttle. Then get off at a transit stop and wait in line again for the next shuttle that only can carry 15 passengers due to the narrow road up ahead.
As a family of 6 that involved us almost filling up half of a shuttle! Overall, it took us the entire morning before we made it up to Logan Pass Visitor Center.
The parking lot was completely full by lunchtime at Logan Pass in July when we visited. Therefore, if we did it all over again, we would wake up very early and drive our own vehicle to Logan Pass Visitor Center to park for the day. Keep in mind that Logan Pass is the halfway point on the highway to the sun road.
Hike The Hidden Lake Trail
The Hidden Lake Trail was by far one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park to do with or without kids. I highly recommend you include this hike on your family trip to Glacier National Park.
You can access this trail from the Logan Pass Visitor Center and hike up into the mountains. We hiked this trail just after Logan’s Pass opened a few weeks earlier in July. The biggest excitement for the kids was finding snow and ice on the trail!
Be sure to have the children, and adults, use hiking gear and wear closed hiking shoes that can get wet. Or they will have cold feet in their Keen’s sandals as my daughter did.
You are almost guaranteed to see mountain goats along this trail and a lot of sunshine. The Hidden Lakes Trail and Hidden Lakes Overlook do not have any shade, so sun hats are highly recommended for the whole family. Even if the temperature is cool, you can still get sunburn.
Click here to check out our day hike packing list that can help you prepare for your Glacier hikes.
The view of Hidden Lake when you reach the top is spectacular and makes it one of our family’s top picks for the best things to see in Glacier National Park.
Have A Picnic at Jackson Glacier Overlook
Once you leave Logan Pass Visitor Center, continue to drive East into the park and if you haven’t eaten already, have a picnic at Jackson Glacier Overlook. Show your kids a real glacier in the distance! This could be a place to leave the car if you want to take your kids on a hike to the popular Virginia Falls.
Look for Wildlife In Glacier National Park
Drive east to St. Mary Visitor Center. Then leave the park for a brief drive north where you can go back in via the Many Glacier Entrance. It is in this part of the park where you are more likely to see a grizzly bear and sometimes black bears.
Visit Many Glacier Hotel
Enjoy walking around the lake shores of Switfcurrent Lake or Lake Josephine near Many Glacier Hotel with your kids. The view of Grinnel Glacier can be seen from Many Glacier Hotel, where you can stay for a night or grab a bite to eat.
Looking for a unique activity to add to your family’s Glacier National Park itinerary? Consider taking a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and hike Swiftcurrent Lake Trail on the other side. Just remember to look out for bears.
Enjoy The Best Camping In Glacier National Park With Kids
Apgar campground, in my opinion, is the best campground in Glacier National Park. The location makes it our top pick as it’s just inside the West Entrance.
Camping is one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park but finding an available campsite can be a bit difficult.
Since Apgar Campground is just inside the park from the West Glacier Village entrance, it gives the easiest access to the Park from the nearest town and airport. It’s also within walking distance of Apgar Village, the Apgar Visitor Center, and the shuttle bus stop. Not to mention walking distance to the beaches on Lake McDonald.
Apgar campground is also large enough to fit most RVs. So it was a great find for our family’s RV.
We stayed for one night at Apgar campground, which is a first-come-first-serve campground. It fills every day during the summer, so be prepared to show up at 7am to drive around to find a spot.
My second pick for a campground inside the park would be Fish Creek Campground that’s located just a few miles west of Apgar Campground. It’s also served on a first-come-first-serve basis.
I would recommend coming during a weekday so that you have a little better luck in finding an open campsite. There are bathrooms with flush toilets, but no showers. Tenting and RV camping in Glacier National Park are both great options.
Grab Ice Cream & Espresso In Apgar Village
There are a few gift shops and restaurants in Apgar Village, with a couple offering ice cream and espresso at their outside windows. If you’ve read my post about the Best of the Tetons, you’ll know how much my husband and I enjoy a great espresso and finding it anywhere we travel.
Rent A Kayak Or Paddle Board
Paddleboarding and kayaking can be such a fun family experience. Even if you don’t own one, you can still enjoy Glacier National Park with a toddler on your lap on the crisp waters of Lake McDonald.
Just rent a kayak from one of the convenient rental companies right in Apgar village. Or, rent a paddleboard and get out on the lake that way.
We even found that one of the rental companies rents out child-sized kayaks. The older kids were thrilled to try them out. We actually came back to enjoy kayaking and paddle boarding a second and even a third time during our two weeks in Glacier National park.
Go Swimming In Lake McDonald
As you drive through Glacier National Park, find one of the many pull-off areas to park and go for a swim. We found a great little spot along the beginning of the Going to the Sun road coming from Apgar Village to park and enjoyed an afternoon swimming in the crystal clear lake.
It was like having our own private beach.
The water was so clear and the scenery was breathtaking. Just remember, bring your bear spray…. and some snacks and drinking water because your kids will not want to leave.
Go Rafting In Glacier
Rafting in Glacier National Park is a pretty popular event. I was surprised to see so many families do it.
There are several tour companies that work out of West Glacier, MT on the Flathead river. Many of the whitewater rafting companies welcome children on rafting tours, depending on the flow of the river.
In May and June with all the runoff from the mountains, the river flow is heavy and attracts many adventure white water rafters.
If the flow is reasonable in the months of July and August, then usually children starting between age 3-5 may go along with their parents. The trips can range from a few hours to a few days! Click here to learn more.
Hike The Trail Of The Cedars Glacier National park
The Trail of the Cedars is a 1-mile hike that has a boardwalk through much of it and great for families with very little kids. Yet, if you’re hiking with teens then you can add on the Avalanch Trail hike beyond the boardwalk, the view at the end is totally worth it!
You’ll want to park at the Avalanch Creek picnic or parking area. The Trail of the Cedars trailhead is located 5.5 miles East of Lake McDonald Lodge and is a very popular hike, so be ready to have visitors on the trail with you.
The cedar trees are magnificent and there are ferns and moss everywhere due to the humidity in this area of the park.
The shallow water stream is fun to climb in. The kids loved climbing over the fallen trees and on the rocks.
Avalanche Gorge is a great halfway point through the looped hike of Trail of the Cedars. If your kids can make it further, I highly recommend continuing onto the Avalanche Lake trail. It will be another 1.6 miles to Avalanche Lake, and then 1.6 miles back to the Cedars Loop, so bring extra water and snacks.
This hike is so nice as it’s shaded and full of beautiful ferns, cedar trees, water, and the view at the end is amazing.
Visit Lake McDonald Lodge
Plan an afternoon horseback riding from Lake McDonald Lodge with your kids. Or, consider taking a scenic boat tour from the lodge across the lake.
When To Visit Glacier National Park
Is there a best time to visit Glacier National Park? It depends on what you are hoping to see and do.
Some parts of the park don’t open until late June or early July due to snow in the high mountains. However, if you want to enjoy rafting in fast-moving water, you may benefit from visiting Glacier National Park in the Spring.
Yet, wildfire season picks up in August and September so I’d advise staying far away from the area, or you may have to deal with a lot of smoke. Therefore, the window to visit can be pretty short if you want to get it all in.
Better yet, plan to visit Glacier National Park with your kids again and get in what you missed the first time around.
Our family spent over 2 weeks in July at Glacier National Park. We worked as digital nomads out of our RV for part of it, so it wasn’t exactly a vacation.
We were in awe of the beauty and so excited for the fun Glacier National Park activities and views.
Our Take On Things To Do In Glacier National Park With Kids
Glacier National Park is a fantastic place to visit on a family vacation.
Plan to purchase bear spray and have it on your hip, always. Bring snacks everywhere to keep the kids happy and teach them how to pee in the woods.
If you visit during the summer months, be aware that you are so far north the sun does not set until 10 pm and rises at 5 am.
We were not prepared for this and didn’t realize how late it was while the kids were playing around the bonfire with friends until my littlest one became very cranky. That’s when I checked the time and realized it was 2 hours past her bedtime!!
Bring your swimsuits and hiking boots and be ready to make some fantastic family memories.
If you’re looking for other great National Parks to visit with kids check out this list that we created.
The Grand Canyon is another excellent National Park to visit with kids while taking a family road trip out west.
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