Over the summer, I had the opportunity to spend a few days exploring Glacier National Park in Montana. I visited one time before, nearly 20 years ago, and the park was just as beautiful as I remembered. It’s the perfect place to explore with children and the ideal spot to make new family memories. Take a look at eight ways to explore the pristine Glacier National Park in Montana.
1. Go on a Hike. There are a number of family-friendly hikes that take you through the park. One of the most popular is the nearly five-mile Avalanche Lake hike. For a shorter option, try Trail of the Cedars, which is just one-mile round-trip. Both hikes are easily accessed from the West Glacier entrance. You’ll also find several short hikes with starting points near the Logan Pass Visitors Center.
2. Take a Boat Cruise. From the West Glacier entrance, head to Lake McDonald Lodge. Just behind the lodge is a dock where you can take one-hour, scenic boat cruises on Lake McDonald (a huge 10-mile long lake) aboard historic wooden boats. This is great way to learn more about the park, while taking in the views and scenery from the water. You can also pick up boat cruises in four other spots around the park.
3. Enjoy a Red Bus Tour. A Red Bus Tour around Glacier National Park is an absolute must. I picked up the four-hour Western Alpine Tour from the Apgar Transit Center on the west side of the park. The roads through the park are windy and it’s tough to enjoy the scenery when you’re gripping the steering wheel. Leave the driving to a friendly guide and learn the history of the park as you take in sweeping views along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
4. Enjoy a Horseback Trail Ride. Try a two-hour horseback trail ride to experience wilderness trails in the park. One of the best trail rides through Glacier National Park can be booked through Swan Mountain Outfitters and starts out at the Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of the park (Many Glacier entrance). Take the scenic Cracker Flats ride to explore Lake Sherburne and the old mining town of Altyn.
5. Go Whitewater Rafting. Enjoy an easy float or a more adventurous whitewater rafting ride along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Some outfitters combine a half-day rafting trip with a horseback trail ride or a fly fishing excursion. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, like eagles or osprey. If you can, go in the afternoon since you will get wet and you may want to head back to your hotel to change clothes.
6. Check out a Family Activity Backpack. On the West Glacier side of the park, you’ll want to stop in Discovery Cabin at Apgar Village for kid-friendly fun, as well as family activity backpacks that can be checked out for 24 hours. Inside the backpacks, you’ll find naturalist guides, binoculars, a compass, a guide to animal tracks and a naturalist notebook. Pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Booklet, too.
7. Try Camping in the Park. If you know me, you know that I am not a camper, though I did camp out in Glacier National Park when I visited in 1995. However, camping is a great way for the whole family to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Glacier National Park. Most campgrounds in the park are first-come, first-served, but some do take reservations whether you want to set up a tent or a pop-up camper.
8. Stop in the Visitors Centers. On my recent visit, I had a chance to stop in three of the park’s Visitors Centers. The park rangers are incredibly knowledgeable and some Visitors Centers even offer hands-on activities, guided ranger walks and educational movies. At the Logan Pass Visitors Center, look for Wildlife Superpowers Exhibits, outdoor, interactive comic book-style exhibits for kids.
Thinking about a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana? Take a look at the vacations I am currently planning for Summer 2015 through my new company, Bucket List Family Vacations, including a Get Into Glacier Family Vacation and a Montana Family Adventure.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission while in Montana. However, all opinions expressed here are my own.