Glacier National Park is filled with amazing hikes to do with your family. What we loved about them is most of them had an end point: a lake, waterfall, or a cool overlook. That always helps when kids know they are hiking to somewhere, not to mention the fact that the end point almost always took our breath away. It was hard to rank this list because every hike was so unique and beautiful, but here is our list of the best hikes in Glacier National Park with kids.
Table of Contents
The Best Hikes In Glacier National Park With Kids
Hidden Lake Overlook
I made this #1 on the list of the best hikes in Glacier National Park with kids because the area by Logan Pass is beautiful and amazing and truly takes your breath away. It isn’t an easy hike since you climb the first half of the hike, but it has a well defined trail and stairs at some points. So it is doable.
Once you get past that point it is a nice gentle incline up to the lookout. While you are hiking up, be sure to stop and turn around to see the amazing views behind you.
Once you get to the lookout you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of Hidden Lake and mountains.
If everyone has more energy you can take the additional 1.4 mile hike down to the shores of the lake. I was ready to go, but the kids weren’t. So we didn’t. Instead we walked a little ways down the trail and were rewarded with a herd of mountain goats walking right in front of us!
The hike back is much easier since you are going downhill. So be ready, you may either have to run to keep up with your kids or keep telling them to slow down.
Location: Behind Logan Pass Visitor Center
Distance: 2.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1325 feet
St. Mary Falls/Virginia Falls
This is a well known hike, and for good reason. The St. Mary Falls are beautiful! The hike there is on a downhill rocky trail through a forest. You then come to the bridge you walk across to view the falls.
There are a few rocks for the kids to climb on, but the closer you get to the water the more slippery they get. There is also a ledge around the falls and up the trail. Needless to say, this isn’t really a great place to stop and hangout since it is a stressful location with little kids!
At this point you can either turn around and walk back or decide to hike approximately another mile to Virginia Falls. If you have it in you, go for it! We are glad that we did. In my opinion the Virginia Falls were better than St. Mary Falls. You are hiking up for a lot of this stretch but it is gradual, so not to bad.
There are a few ledge areas on the hike to Virginia Falls so you want to be careful with kids, plus there are a few streams that they can choose to walk on the rocks and not get wet or like our kids walk right through the water . . . this means wear Keen sandals or bring a dry pair of socks!
Once you get to Virginia Falls, you cross a fun little bridge and then you are brought to the base of the falls.
We walked out and were sprayed by the freezing cold water of the falls!
From there, we hiked down a ways and found a good spot to sit and have a drink and some snacks.
Queen of the jungle!! The kids wanted to jump and climb and scramble over every rock with no worry for the ledge or rushing water below it . . . stressful as a parent -but love there zest for adventure! #crazyfamilyadventure #hike #glaciermt #glaciernps #visitmontana
A photo posted by Craig and Bryanna (@crazyfamilyadventure) on
The waterfall and the views definitely made it worth it to go the extra distance to Virginia Falls. The hike back was downhill for most of it, which always makes it easier and then from St. Mary Falls to the parking lot you are hiking uphill, but it is gradual and a nice path so it worked well with the kids.
Location: St. Mary Falls Trailhead (on the Going To The Sun Road) – limited parking – we ended up having to wait 20 minutes to get a spot.
Distance: .8 miles to St. Mary Falls and then an additional 1 mile to Virginia Falls for a total of 1.8 miles there and 1.8 miles back for a roundtrip of 3.6 miles.
Elevation Gain: (Mostly from St. Mary Falls to Virginia Falls) 525 Feet.
This hike is very populated – we saw people constantly on this trail. This one starts on the Trail of the Cedars, then you take the route to Avalanche Lake were you start climbing up and pretty much don’t stop until you get there.
The trail is a lot of fun with logs to jump on and boulders to climb along the way. This definitely helped to keep the kids interested. This by no means was an easy hike but it was worth it!
Once you get to the top you walk out into a clearing that has a Lake (really more like a shallow pond) with mountains surrounding it and waterfalls coming down the mountains into the lake. Yes, it is as beautiful as it sounds!
When we got there we walked out to see the lake and then, boom, there was thunder and rain started pouring down on us! We found a hiding spot under a tree and waited it out and were able to enjoy the lake for a little bit before the rain started again!
We started to hike back and got stuck in a downpour, so we made a run for the pit toilet that was about 100 yards from the lake on the trail. Yup, we hung out in one of those stinky pit toilets until the heavy rain stopped.
Then, with one umbrella and a couple of beach towels for the 6 of us, we made our way 2 miles back down the trail . . . lesson learned. Always have ponchos with you when you hike up a mountain. You never know what the weather is going to do.
Even with the rain, we were glad we did the hike. Avalanche Lake was amazing and the trail was a lot of fun.
Location: Trail of the Cedars Trailhead
Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 730 feet
This is a shorter hike, which makes it a great hike for kids, but a fast elevation gain. It was tough on little legs, but doable because of the distance. The trail is mostly one lane through a pretty dense forest. Then when you get to the top it becomes a really neat rocky trail.
Make sure you scramble all the way up to the big waterfall that streams down from the mountainside. It is a beautiful waterfall with a crystal clear pool at the bottom. We walked out a little ways, but never reached the waterfall. The water was freezing!!
The views from the base of the waterfall were awesome and the kids had fun climbing around and throwing rocks into the falls.
The hike down was a nice steady downhill hike. We only came across a few other hiking groups so this was definitely a more secluded hike. Make sure to bring your bear spray on this one!
Location: Many Glacier area of the park: Poia Lake Trailhead
Distance: 1.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 625 feet
I included this one of the kids hikes because our kids did it. However, this isn’t a hike for a kid that has never hiked before. Round trip it is about 7 miles. The good thing is it is relatively flat. Just long.
At one point you come to a spot where you can choose to go to the Grinnell Glacier instead of the lake. This would have added miles to our hike and a large elevation gain. For those reasons we did not do it. Even though I really wanted to!
If the hike is too far for your family you can also pay to take a ferry ride across the lake just a short distance from the trailhead parking lot. You can then continue the hike from there or you can jump on another ferry that will take you within 1.3 miles of the Lake (so 2.6 miles roundtrip to get to the lake and then back to the boat). We thought about it but the ticket prices were pretty expensive so we figured we would hike it. You can learn more about tickets here: http://glacierparkboats.com/tour/many-glacier/
The lake was beautiful! You again walk through a forest and over a couple cool bridges – including a suspension bridge. So much fun! Don’t worry, it was sturdy and the creek was just a few feet below you and very shallow.
Then you reach the lake and it opens up to a beach area with the lake surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. The lake was pretty shallow, but deep enough that you could walk out and dive under if you wanted to. You can also see the people hiking the Grinnell Glacier trail up on the mountain surrounding the lake.
This really was a great spot to get out a picnic lunch, bathing suits, and just hang out for a while before making the hike back. Yes it was long, but the kids did it!
And if you want to take the hike to Grinnell Glacier check out our friends post about their hike to the glacier! https://4radicalroadschoolersandafatcat.com/2016/09/18/grinnell-glacier/
Location: Many Glacier – Grinnell Glacier Trailhead
Distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip – or much shorter (but expensive) on the ferries.
Elevation: 220 feet
Trail of the Cedars
This is the easiest hike on our list, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful! The trail is groomed and accessible for strollers or wheelchairs. It is also short at 1 mile roundtrip. The trail is really wide so it gives the kids room to run, plus there are multiple places where you can go off the trail a little ways to let the kids run and play.
The highlight of the trail is the waterfall. We were not expecting it, so it was awesome when we crossed the bridge and there was this bright blue waterfall and creek right in the middle of the trail. This is the definition of hiking in Glacier National Park – unexpected beauty everywhere!
The trail is a loop so you basically make a circle and you are almost back to where you started. You will have to walk on a small section of road, but this is a very populated trail and area so there are signs everywhere for cars to slow down.
There is also a picnic area across the street if you want to leave a picnic lunch or dinner in the car for after the hike.
Location: Trail of the Cedars Trailhead
Distance: 1 mile
Elevation: 60 feet
Rocky Point Nature Trail
Another shorter hike that takes you along Lake McDonald and to a lookout area where you can look across the lake at the Apgar Visitor Center area. This is a nice hike through the forest then out to the overlook or you can head down by the edge of the water and spend some time throwing rocks into the lake.
Location: Rocky Point Trailhead by Fish Creek Campground
Distance: 1.9 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 350 feet
This hike is located in the Two Medicine area, so it provides a different landscape than other areas of Glacier. You hike through mostly forest and some meadow area. It is a gradual increase through the forest, but a nice short hike for kids. The waterfall is small, but works as a turn-around point.
Or if everyone is ready to go you can hike up to the Aster Park Overlook. The hike has a quick elevation gain and you are doing a lot of switch backs. We decided to do it and it was a mistake. It was just too much for our kids that day.
The view from the top was pretty and a great way to get a feel of the Two Medicine area, but just be sure your kids are ready to make the hike up. We had forgotten Carson’s shoes so he ended up hiking the whole thing barefoot. Lesson learned by all of us . . . had we stopped at the waterfall, it would have been the perfect distance.
Location: Two Medicine area: South Shore Trailhead
Distance: 2.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 320 feet
Some of these hikes are on the longer side, but if your family can do it they are worth it. These hikes in Glacier National Park with kids definitely gives you such a great feeling for what the park is actually like versus just driving around and stopping at the lookouts.
To prepare for these hikes, here are our tips for Hiking With Kids.
If you are looking for a collection of shorter hikes or other things to do with toddlers or younger kids we are putting together a post on it soon!
If you want more information on hiking in Glacier check out this site: http://www.hikinginglacier.com/
Let us know if you have any other favorite hikes in Glacier National Park with kids in the comments below. We will definitely be visiting this park again!
Pin this list for later!