We’ve been home for a month now and I’m still on a national park high. I WANT TO GO TO THEM ALL!
Ya’ll, Glacier is every bit as beautiful and amazing as you’ve heard. It is a must. And, dare I say, better than Yellowstone! And I love me some Yellowstone (shared about that adventure a few years ago)! Glacier is just quieter though. And, thanks to being in Montana (and a little bit of Canada, did you know?!?), it’s pretty much the ultimate destination because Montana is one of the most underrated states, in my humble opinion.
All that to say, I have stuff to share. Lots and lots of Glacier love. Some will be here and some I’m sharing on other sites I write for. I’ll aim to keep a list of links at the bottom of this post for reference. Today I’m going to spill all my type A/enneagram 1 pre-trip prep work. Because, yes, I absolutely outlined a trip itinerary before we left. We followed it pretty close too! You can print our one page itinerary/meal plan if you want here.
If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park and you want to trust someone else with the planning, below you’ll find a great day by day week long schedule! We didn’t fit in everything – how could you in just seven days?!? – but we saw a lot and definitely got a taste of Glacier during our stay.
Day 1 – Travel Day
It was a ten hour drive from our door to our Airbnb’s. I devised a plan to leave at nap time (noonish), let the kids snooze, wake and watch a movie, stop for dinner, put on pajamas, and then push through and transfer the kids to bed once we arrive. It worked!
We stayed at this darling house in Kalispell and I HIGHLY recommend it. It was about 30 minutes from Glacier’s west entrance and very family friendly. They even offer a pack ‘n play, highchair, and stroller for guests!
Day 2 – Get Settled Day
We ate at Sykes Diner, a popular breakfast joint in downtown Kalispell. I loved my eggs benedict! If you go early, coffee is CHEAP, like 10 cents! We did not make it early, lol, but hey, goals!
From there we drove into the park and visited the Apgar Visitor Center. Here we got maps, kicked off the kid’s junior ranger badges, read up on park events, checked out the recent bear sitings, and meandered our way to the Apgar Nature Center in Apgar Village. Don’t miss this little cabin … it is full of awesome, kid-friendly centers and ranger talks! We loved the Amazing Animal Talk.
We meal planned for quite a bit of the trip so went to the Kalispell Costco next to stock up. I’ll mention all our meals as I go in case you want to replicate those too! If you need coffee, there is a Starbuck’s near the Costco … and a Chick-Fil-A too if that’s a novelty for you like it is for us! We had dinner at home though – Swedish Death (a stir fry of cabbage, onion, and apple sausage), my brother-in-law’s specialty!
We intended to go to bed early, but at Apgar we learned about an astronomy class that was happening after dark so Dominic put the boys to bed while us girls went back into the park for stargazing. Stargazing turned into planet gazing (Venus and Jupiter were both out!) and we even saw the International Space Station fly by! We loved this ranger-led event, add it to your schedule if you can!
Day 3 – Many Glaciers Day
After eggs, hash browns, and toast with huckleberry jam (Costco sells it so of course we bought it!) we rolled out. The Many Glaciers area was our plan and we took the famous Going-To-the-Sun Road in order to see the best of Glacier on our way there. It took almost three hours from our Airbnb and when we arrived at the East entrance gate we were told that, due to capacity, we couldn’t enter until later that afternoon. Who knew?!?
We turned around and stopped at a tiny area called Orla Flats for a picnic lunch and watercoloring near the river. It turned out to be one of our favorite afternoons! Unexpected, but so pretty and calm.
At 2pm we were able to line up at the entrance again and we made our way to our hike destination without a problem. For our first Glacier hike we went to Redrock Falls via the Swiftcurrent Pass, a total of about 4 miles. This hike yielded our best wildlife – two moose, a doe with her fawn, and a yearling grizzly bear!
With the long drive back we opted to just snack on picnic leftovers while we drove. I did pop into the Many Glaciers hotel and would have loved to sit on the deck there awhile, it is beautiful! Someday I’d also like to do the Grinnell Lake hike in this area. Basically, there is a ton to see and do!
Day 4 – Lake McDonald Day
With the kids in mind, I tried to alternate our days with one big day then one that was more relaxed. We made cream cheese bagels with eggs to kick off the day then made our way to Trail of Cedars, a less than a mile, half-boardwalk hike that loops. This trail is a must! Great signage and so pretty. We stopped along the stream for a bit and played; tossing rocks and dipping our toes in the freezing water. The boys especially love these water play breaks and it’s fun to just watch them toss rocks and laugh and promise not to get wet and then be drenched by the time we get back on the trail :)
We picnicked for lunch again, this time along the shores of Lake McDonald. These on the go lunches were always the same – a mix of salami and cheese, yogurt, granola bars, turkey roll ups, fruit, and nuts. After lunch and lake lounging we did an out and back 1.6 mile hike called Rocky Point Trail. The higher elevation of this one gave us gorgeous views!
We trekked home and the kids took long baths to clean up – the tub at our Airbnb was HUGE! I made chicken nuggets for them before putting on a movie. The rest of the adults (we were traveling with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law) went to Great Northern Brewing in Whitefish and kindly brought me home the Cascade sandwich. Hello, sriracha mayo is my new best friend! Definitely add this stop to your foodie rounds, I think this sandwich was my favorite meal of the trip … and I ate it as an almost cold leftover, lol!
Day 5 – Logan Pass Day
We gobbled down cereal in an attempt to leave as early as possible – Logan Pass was on the agenda, another long drive. I hoped to do two hikes, but that was hella ambitious. We had to skip Hidden Lake Nature Trail (I really wanted to make it 1.5 miles in to the overlook at least) and just focus on our waterfall hike. All in all, a good decision, the St. Mary + Virginia Falls were SO WORTH IT. This out and back has virtually no tree coverage due to a fire a few years back so we baked in the heat for almost 5 miles. At the end though you get right up to the base of Virginia Falls, so refreshing!
After our hike we made our way to the Logan Pass Visitors Center so the kids could be officially sworn in as Junior Rangers. We moseyed through the gift shop and saw some great wildlife just a bit up the walking path – big horn sheep and mountain goats! The Columbia ground squirrels were out and squeaking up a storm too, they’re pretty cute little fellas! Once home we had baked potatoes with all the fixin’s – chili, cheese, sour cream, and more!
Day 6 – Two Medicine Day
Everyone was beat from our hike in the heat so we decided to simmer down the plans for this day. Dominic and Jemma drove to Flathead Lake and rented a canoe to do some fishing while the rest of us just laid low. The little boys especially just needed some time to chill. We ate oatmeal, played, and snuggled up for naps.
Once rested, we loaded up and drove to the southeast part of the park, Two Medicine. There we did a short, but awesome hike to Running Eagle Falls and caught another ranger-led activity, Native American Games. This happened at sunset on the shores of Two Medicine Lake in the campground area and it was super fun for the big kids. I’m not really a camper, but if we ever do camp at Glacier, this campground would be a wonderful one!
Due to distance we didn’t make it back to the west side for dinner at Hop’s Downtown Grill (next time hopefully!) and instead ate at Glacier Park Lodge. Huckleberries were all the rage seeing that it was August and in addition to our meal we had huckleberry lemonades and huckleberry bread pudding – yum!
Day 7 – Whitefish + Kalispell Day
This day happened to be Max’s 7th birthday! He and Dominic went fishing along Highway 2 to kick off his special day and returned from some “We the boys” time mid-morning. Jemma, my mom, and I then departed for the Huckleberry Days Festival that happened to be going on in Whitefish. If you can time your trip with this event, do! It was full of Montana vendors (I’ll be sharing my favorites soon!) and yummy food! We had such a fun time!
On our way home we popped into a secondhand store (I forget the name!) and picked up treats from Wheat Montana Bakery. We gathered the boys and went to Moose’s Saloon for birthday dinner pizza. Food is cheap at Moose’s (take cash!) and the atmosphere is so cowboy :) Peanuts on the floor, dim lights, knife-carved walls … definitely a memorable place for a celebration.
Max’s birthday wish was to go back to Lake McDonald and despite the rain storm that had arrived, we did! Pacific Northwest children just aren’t bothered by the rain, I guess! We dried off and warmed up for a dessert run to close out Max’ special day. Sweet Peaks in Whitefish proved to have the best gourmet ice cream! I should have brought a few pints home!
Day 8 – Travel Day
We were so sad to pack up our Montana home base and head for our Washington home. Then again, you know how at the end of a trip you’re also very ready to sleep in your own bed again? That was us. It was bittersweet leaving Montana, it truly is such a beautiful place.
We promised the kids a stop at Norm’s Soda Fountain on the way out of town and after that we hustled our way straight to Spokane and then home to the west side of the Cascades. It was a long haul, and we were tired, but we rolled in just before 9pm … home sweet home!
I feel like I’ve shared a ton about our trip now, but this was just an overview! Stay tuned details, details, details >>>
- Gear We Love For Visiting National Parks
- My Favorite Montana Small Businesses
- 7 of the Best Stops In and Around Glacier National Park
- 5 Beginner Hikes That Showcase the Beauty of Glacier National Park
- How To Prep Your Kids for a Trip To Glacier National Park
- Glacier National Park Homeschool Resources
- How To Visit National Parks For Free
If you have any questions, just ask!
Tara Johansen says
Where would you suggest staying? We are planning a trip to Glacier and would appreciate a recommendation. We would prefer a place that is in close proximity of the major places to hit there.
We stayed at an AirBnB in Kalispell. It was about 20 minutes from the west gate. There are options to stay in the park, but it was more cost effective for us to stay outside the park.