How to Plan Your Glacier National Park Family Vacation Including The Best Hikes for YOU, Camping, and Relaxing

Overlooking Logan Pass Visitor Center from Mt Oberlin.

The pressure of planning a family vacation can be a daunting task. You want to make sure there is fun for all and no one is getting left out while seeing everything an area has to offer in *gasp* one week!

Let’s take a breath.

This past July, Alex’s family met us in Glacier National Park getting a taste of the travel bug while having an awesome time. With two teenagers and two middle-aged parents, we wanted to plan a trip everyone would enjoy with memories to come. Lo and behold, we’ve got the deets for your family vacation so you can spend more time getting out there and less time researching the internet!

  1. Unless your family is used to living at high elevation, make sure to allot some time to acclimate. That 16 mile hike with 4,000 feet of elevation gain may be best planned for the end of the trip and not the first day. We’ve got OUR favorite hikes (not the Interent’s favorite hikes) listed below at the end of this post.  
    St. Mary Lake

    2. To avoid spending half your vacation driving here, there & everywhere, choose one campground or lodge to stay at for the entirety of your vacation. We suggest staying on the East side of Glacier National Park at either Rising Sun Campground, St Mary Campground, or one of the hotels in St Mary, MT. This location sets you up perfectly to access Logan Pass, Two Medicine & Many Glacier all within a 45 minute drive. If you choose to stay on the Whitefish side, you’ll spend 30 minutes driving just to get in to the park.

    Swiftcurrent Lake near Many Glacier

    3. To make sure the family isn’t getting hiked out, plan fun activities in-between hiking days. Grab a swimsuit and head to either Lake McDonald or Swiftcurrent Lake to kayak, canoe, SUP or just splash around. St. Mary Lake also has a few beaches which are a great place to relax after a long day. Read more at Fishing Gadgets Hub!

    Trying our luck on a SUP on Lake McDonald

    4. Plan your meals ahead of time, bring a cooler, and cook over the fire! National Parks are notorious for not having prime eats that don’t cost an arm and a leg. The East side of Glacier does not have many dining options or grocery stores, a little planning ahead will go a long way!

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Listed below are a small handful of OUR favorite hikes broken up into physical abilities of the average human being.

This blog post is by no means meant to be a complete guide. Please do your own additional research, buy a map and assess your own physical ability.

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St. Mary Falls

Mellow Hikes to start your vacation with
St. Mary Falls/Virginia Falls (3.6 miles roundtrip)
Grinnell Lake (very flat hike, 7.5 miles roundtrip)
Avalanche Lake (4.5 miles roundtrip)

High up on the Highline Trail

Medium Hikes 
Highline Trail (requires free shuttle bus, 11.8 miles one way)
Hidden Lake (this hike is rated medium only because it is at a higher elevation than many are used to, 5.4 miles roundtrip)
Aster Park Overlook (4 miles roundtrip)

Summit of Mt Oberlin

Strenuous Hikes
Mt Oberlin (very steep, 4 miles roundtrip)
Grinnell Glacier (11 miles roundtrip)
Scenic Point (8 miles roundtrip)
Siyeh Pass (8.9 miles roundtrip)

Happy Happy Happy Hiking!!!

We’re currently on a 8 month roadtrip across the American West! Never miss out on a new post and “like” us on Facebook! For more photos and stories from our nomad lifestyle, follow us on Instagram!

41 thoughts on “How to Plan Your Glacier National Park Family Vacation Including The Best Hikes for YOU, Camping, and Relaxing

  1. Maybe we passed each other in Glacier this past July! Looks like we visited some of the same places. Nice pic of Heavy Shield (Wilbur) and someone trying to swim up to Grinnell and Scorpion Glaciers! Great place. I’m ‘following’ ur site, check out mine as well… we can compare road trip fun! Cheers! 😉


  2. Superb images. They really give one a taste of not only the views, but a feel for the height and potential hiking conditions.
    Great advice too. Don’t do the same strenuous walk/hike every day and consider the age and physical fitness of all family members, not just a ‘one size fits all’ mentality for a family holiday.


  3. Thanks for reminding my wife and me about the Glacier area that we visited years ago while spending three years in Montana. The lake water probably is a cold as ever. Be careful, however, and don’t stray too close to the edge when taking photographs on a mountain top. It’s a long way down. Dean


  4. Love this! Thanks so much for sharing, this will definitely help with planning! Do you have any tips/routes/plans for exploring Colorado?


  5. I’m planning a 2018 trip to Glacier. I took some notes based on your post to help me and my family have a great time. Thanks.


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