We loved following Eric Stoen’s trip to Whitefish, Montana and Glacier National Park on social media last summer. So we took the opportunity to ask him why other families should add Northwest Montana to their summer travel plans. Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
In the course of taking my kids all over the world, we’ve neglected large portions of the U.S. So starting last summer, we made a concerted effort to change that. We began with a weekend trip to Glacier National Park in Montana, simply because it looked gorgeous! We honestly didn’t know what we were going to do or what to expect. We booked flights from Southern California, booked a hotel in nearby Whitefish for two nights and near the park for one night, and flew in.
We absolutely loved Montana — one of our new favorite places. And it was extremely kid friendly! My 7-year-old had an amazing time. So what did we like best, and why would we recommend it to other families? Here are my top five reasons to go:
Getting to Glacier National Park is Easy
Some National Parks aren’t easy to get to. Glacier is. In our case, we flew two hours from Santa Barbara to Denver, had a short connection, and then flew two more hours to Kalispell, Montana. Kalispell’s airport is conveniently small, so getting luggage and a rental car was easy, and from there it was less than 20 minutes to downtown Whitefish. There are also direct flights from Los Angeles (3 hours) and San Francisco (2 1/2 hours).
We chose to spend a day and a half in Whitefish before heading to Glacier, which is less than 40 minutes away. If we had gone straight to the park from the airport, it’s only 35 minutes. And it’s an easy drive. No traffic. No stress.
There are several major lakes near Whitefish and Glacier, including Flathead Lake, Whitefish Lake, and Lake McDonald. Flathead Lake is by far the largest of the three, and is great for fishing, boating, camping, and water sports. As we were based in Whitefish, we chose to spend time at nearby Whitefish Lake. We headed over for sunset our first night, went back for kayaking the next day, and then returned in the afternoon to spend time on the beach. Seriously idyllic! And Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park is stunning. Take out a kayak, canoe, paddle board, or rowboat.
When you head to Montana, you’re supposed to go fly fishing, right? We headed out onto the Flathead River, which travels from Canada through both Lake McDonald and Flathead Lake, and fished for nearly three hours with a local guide. My daughter loved it and caught (and released) several trout. Our guide was incredibly patient with a 7-year-old fishing for the first time! Highly recommended — just make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen.
We spent half a day hiking from the top of the Chair 1 at Whitefish Mountain Resort, as well as on the trails around the bottom of the resort, and then another half day at Glacier National Park. The scenery was stunning everywhere, and we discovered bear grass, a tall flowering plant, that made the hikes even more fun! My daughter was great with all of the trails, but Trail of the Cedars in Glacier was definitely the easiest/most kid friendly.
Our favorite hike was Sperry Trail within Glacier National Park. We parked at Lake McDonald Lodge and walked across the street to start the hike, and then walked partway to Sperry Chalet. It was a perfect early-morning walk, and easy enough for short legs (it gets more difficult later on).
Don’t look past Whitefish in your hurry to get to Glacier National Park. The town is a great base for a couple of days, or even for your entire trip given how close it is to the park. We found excellent restaurants, loved the proximity to hiking and Whitefish Lake, and thoroughly enjoyed the Whitefish Farmers Market, which takes place every Tuesday throughout the summer. And Sweet Peaks Ice Cream is excellent!
Where We Stayed
We spent two nights at Kintla Lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort — above town, but it’s a great setup for families, and convenient for exploring the mountain and for the Aerial Adventure Park at the base of the mountain. Our third night we stayed at Under Canvas Glacier just outside of the park — essentially glamping with a campfire and s’mores. But the area between the park and Whitefish is compact enough that you could really stay anywhere and be just fine. Personally I’m tempted to book the Lake McDonald Lodge inside the park next time. The setting is amazing!
Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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