If there’s one thing many kids remember about a trip to Glacier National Park, it’s the huckleberries. Huckleberry ice cream, huckleberry pancakes, huckleberries everywhere! You’ll find wild huckleberries (similar, but more tart than blueberries) growing on the subalpine slopes throughout Glacier National Park between mid-July and the end of August. Pick and eat to your heart’s content. As attempts to cultivate huckleberries have mainly failed, this is the only place and time to pick them in nature.
This easy intro hike is a great one for anyone (even those in a wheelchair). This one-mile trail takes you through ancient cedar trees that are more than 500 years old – that is a fact sure to impress the kiddos. Halfway through the hike, stop and admire Avalanche Gorge, then continue on to Avalanche Lake (read on …).
Most kids can make it all the way along the 4.5-mile roundtrip hike along the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Gorge and to the subalpine Avalanche Lake. Notice the five waterfalls flowing down toward the lake from Sperry Glacier. If you’d like a quiet picnic spot for your family, continue along the trail once you reach the lake, stopping only once you’ve reached the head of the lake.
With little ones in tow, you’ll want to build in several stretch spots along the Going to the Sun Road. This incredible route takes you all the way up toward the Continental Divide and Logan Pass. Several pull-outs along the way afford photo ops of glacially carved mountain peaks, hanging valleys and cascading waterfalls. If you’d like to spend more time enjoying the view, book a ride on one of the historic Red Buses that tour Glacier and go up the Going to the Sun Road.
Once you’ve made it to the Logan Pass via the Going to the Sun Road, take the moderate hike (2.7 miles one way with 1,325 feet of elevation gain) to beautiful Hidden Lake. This is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park, so consider getting an early start. Pass through meadows ripe with wildflowers and keep an eye out for mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Equip the kids with their own binoculars so they can be “wildlife spotters.”
Logan Pass Tip: The parking lot atop Logan Pass, at the summit of the Going to the Sun Road, is notoriously crowded. The lot closes once it’s full and you’ll be stuck in a car line until spots open up. Either arrive very early, before 8 AM, or take one of the free shuttle buses from Apgar Village or St. Mary.
Another kid-friendly hike, St. Mary Falls is one of the prettiest in the whole park. The trail is just 1.7 miles roundtrip, with “bonus” Baring Falls at 0.7 miles from the trailhead. Want to add a third cascade? Continue past St. Mary Falls to spectacular Virginia Falls.
Cool off on a hot summer’s day in Montana by swimming, rafting, SUPing or kayaking the Wild and Scenic Flathead River. The North Fork offers calm, class I flat water, while the Middle Fork boasts a fun stretch of class II-III rapids. Rent kayaks and SUPs or sign up for a half- or full-day rafting excursion with older kids (generally age 8 and up). Scenic float trips are also available with kids age 3 and up.
You’ve seen Logan Pass and Montana’s famous Big Sky by day, now see it at night. During the summer, the Glacier National Park Conservancy hosts Star Parties (check in with the rangers at the visitor center for current dates). You’ll need a ticket to attend, but the pre-planning is worth it for the surreal, star-studded sky you’ll experience.
Head to Apgar Village and enjoy a day on Glacier National Park’s largest lake, Lake McDonald. Follow the lakeshore trails, including Trout Lake Trail, Howe Lake Trail, Snyder Lake Trail and Mount Brown Lookout Trail. Or, go kayaking, swimming, paddleboarding and canoeing. Fun historic wooden boat tours are also available.
As in the other United States national parks, kids can become Junior Rangers by learning about animals, human and natural history, glaciers and more. Head to one of the park visitors centers to pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Booklet, then complete the requirements listed by age to earn a Junior Ranger badge.
Naptime? Take a drive to Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery while the little ones nap in the backseat. They’ll awaken to the scent of fresh baked goods, just in time for a snack. This rustic, red, two-story outpost is pretty much the nucleus of Polebridge, with an interior that looks almost exactly like it did in the early 20th century. You’ll find coffee, sandwiches, pizza and a variety of delicious sweet goodies, from, obviously, huckleberry bear claws to macaroons, cinnamon rolls to cookies.
Get out on the range on horseback in Glacier National Park. Children 7 years old and up can ride horses through Swan Mountain Outfitters at the Apgar, West Glacier and Lake McDonald Corrals, while those 8 years and up can ride at the Many Glacier Corral.