Adventures

Family-Friendly 3-Day Glacier Itinerary

This short article goes over our 3-day itinerary spent in Glacier National Park. This park is a must-see for nature lovers and particularly so for hikers. We visited with my parents who aren’t big hikers so the itinerary is great for most abilities and can be viewed as a family-friendly option to enjoy the park.

ESTABLISHED
Glacier National Park was established on May 11, 1910.

GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD NAME & HISTORY
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only road that goes through the park. This article from a National Park Service has great historical information about the road including how it got its name:

“The road officially received its name, “The Going-to-the-Sun Road,” during the 1933 dedication. The road borrowed its name from nearby Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. Local legend and a 1933 press release issued by the Department of the Interior, told the story of the deity, Sour Spirit, who came down from the sun to teach Blackfeet braves the rudiments of the hunt. On his way back to the sun, Sour Spirit had his image reproduced on the top of the mountain for inspiration to the Blackfeet. An alternate story suggests a white explorer in the 1880s concocted the name and the legend. No matter which version is accurate, the road named Going-to-the-Sun still inspires all who travel it. “

WILDLIFE
Compared to our Weekend in Yellowstone trip, we actually saw far more wildlife in Glacier. We saw a grizzly sow and 2 cubs, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, marmots, and more.

Day 1: Driving around Glacier

  1. WEST GLACIER – ROUTE 2
    I got a Going-to-the-Sun Road reservation for our second day, so we decided to drive around the park on our first day. We began from West Glacier and took Route 2 which goes south and around the bottom side of the park. This first stretch heading south follows the Middle Fork Flathead River and has beautiful views of the river and mountains.
One of the pull-offs along Highway 2
One of the pull-offs along Highway 2
One of the pull-offs along Highway 2
  1. SHORT HIKE TO STANTON LAKE
    We saw a short 2.5-mile round trip hike on our map to Stanton Lake and decided it would be a good way to stretch our legs. The hike to Stanton Lake did not disappoint. The short hike to the lake passes through some very lush forest and is very beautiful. At the lake, we enjoyed lunch, the mountain backdrop, and a loon graced our presence.
Stanton Lake with wildflowers
Stanton Lake with wildflowers
Stanton Lake with wildflowers
Loon swimming around Stanton Lake
Loon swimming around Stanton Lake
Loon swimming around Stanton Lake
Stanton Lake
Stanton Lake
Stanton Lake
  1. GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD AT SUNSET
    After our short hike and long drive around the park, we had dinner at St Mary’s before entering the Going-to-the-Sun road. The road opens at 4 pm to everyone that has a National Park Pass but didn’t get a vehicle registration pass. I would highly recommend doing the road at sunset at least once to see the sunset colors over the mountains and have a higher chance of seeing wildlife.
Going-to-the-Sun Road at sunset
Going-to-the-Sun Road at sunset
Going-to-the-Sun Road at sunset
Grizzly sow with two cubs
Grizzly sow with two cubs
Grizzly sow with two cubs
Going-to-the-Sun Road at sunset
Going-to-the-Sun Road at sunset
Going-to-the-Sun Road at sunset

Day 2: Hike!

Tributary River to Lake McDonald as seen on the Johns Lake Loop
Tributary River to Lake McDonald as seen on the Johns Lake Loop
Tributary River to Lake McDonald as seen on the Johns Lake Loop
  1. EASY HIKE: JOHNS LAKE LOOP
    We started the day with a short 1.8-mile round trip hike called John’s Lake Loop. We hiked it counterclockwise to see the John’s Lake first. The lake wasn’t much, but this side of the loop was an easy walk through the woods. The trail led us back to the road where we crossed the road and a bridge over the river. The hike along this side of the loop follows the river which is very beautiful and has a number of viewpoints. Eventually, you cross a bridge over the river again just before the river enters Lake McDonald.
  1. EASY-MODERATE HIKE: AVALANCHE LAKE
    We chose Avalanche Lake since it was a short 4.6-mile round trip hike to a great view. You get to the trailhead which begins at the far side of the Trail of Cedars. Once at the trailhead you immediately begin to ascend. It follows close to Avalanche Creek during the first .25-miles so you have many riverside views to start with. This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, so expect to see a lot of people on the trail! Once at the lake, we had lunch and watched many fat chipmunks beg for food. We took a few photos and headed back down the trail.
Avalanche Creek
Avalanche Creek
Avalanche Creek
Trail to Avalanche Lake
Trail to Avalanche Lake
Trail to Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake

Day 3: Leisurely Going-to-the-Sun Road Drive

  1. ENJOY ALL THE VIEWPOINTS
    After our first drive through the Going-to-the-Sun road, we decided we wanted to drive it again but take our time to enjoy each viewpoint. This road has many pull-offs to take in the different perspectives of the mountains. The Big Bend and Paradise Meadow is a great point of interest because one side has a serene waterfall and the other has a grand meadow view leading into the mountains. I’d vote it’s one of the most photographed pull-offs in the park.
Weeping Wall - everyone veers close to the wall to let the passenger side get rained on
Weeping Wall - everyone veers close to the wall to let the passenger side get rained on
Weeping Wall – everyone heading down veers close to the wall to let the passenger side get rained on
Buck enjoying grass at Big Bend pullout
Buck enjoying grass at Big Bend pullout
Buck enjoying grass at Big Bend pullout
Big Bend pull-off view
Big Bend pull-off view
Big Bend pull-off view
  1. LOGAN PASS
    The top of the Going-to-the-Sun road is called Logan Pass. There is a visitor’s center and this area is always busy. The trail to Hidden Lake Overlook begins here. We decided to enjoy a quieter section on the walkways near the visitor’s center and had lunch. Mitch pulled out his binoculars and spotting scope and found several mountain goats on the surrounding mountains. It is a beautiful location and even though it’s busy, I’d recommend spending some time here.
Mountain Goat at Oberlin Falls Pullout
Mountain Goat at Oberlin Falls Pullout
Mountain goat at Oberlin Falls pullout
Bighorn sheep at Logan Pass
Trail to Hidden Lake on Logan Pass

Note: This hike is in Glacier National Park. Check current rules, regulations, and how to obtain a Going-t0-the-Sun Road pass by visiting the Glacier National Park website.

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