Iowa to Alaska: Kids to Parks Day in Glacier National Park

Bighorn sheep graze near the parking lot at Many Glacier. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Bighorn sheep graze near the parking lot at Many Glacier. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

This is going to be quick; with more and more people arriving in St. Mary/Glacier KOA, wireless bandwith is being used up like nobody’s business…

Kids to Parks Day turned out to be quite the adventure for this Alaska group. Despite more rain and chilly temperatures this morning, we drove to the St. Mary entrance on the east side of Glacier National Park. Open for RVs our size only to Mile 6 near the Sun Point Nature Trail, the day use area proved to be a perfect spot for a bit of fun. AK Kid BF, raised on the cold water of Prince William Sound, was itching to go toward the water of St. Mary lake, and we couldn’t refuse his pleading eyes. So, off we went to the pebbly shoreline, bundled to our ears against a brisk wind coming off the mountains.

There was swimming. Ah, to be a carefree kid. I think even the ground squirrels thought they were nuts.

Kids to Parks Day meant swimming in St. Mary Lake. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Kids to Parks Day meant swimming in St. Mary Lake. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

St. Mary Visitor Center was open, despite cautions to the contrary, and we were happy to wander around this small facility while the boys warmed up and caught wind of a nearby hike adjacent to a historic ranger cabin. Red Eagle Trail was a 2.5 mile section of meadow and forestland that follows the St. Mary Lake shoreline, offering access to beaches and crystal clear water.

Kids to Parks Day was relatively unscheduled here at Glacier, mostly due to a lack of actual kids and the skeleton crew managing operations this early in the season. But the boys wore their vintage t-shirts and I made sure we spent as much of the day as possible exploring what we could of the park.

We eventually wandered our way to the Many Glacier side and long, lanky Sherburne Lake and dam. The Many Glacier Lodge was closed for an extensive renovation, but an advantage of this was viewing herds of Bighorn sheep wandering through the parking lots and nearby lawns. They sure are scruffier versions of our Dall Sheep in Alaska.

Tomorrow we drive north into Canada, spending a few days in Calgary before advancing upon the Banff and Jasper area. This section willl be new for all of us, and we can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

Skipping rocks in St. Mary Lake along Red Eagle Trail. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Skipping rocks in St. Mary Lake along Red Eagle Trail. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Tips for spring visits to Glacier National Park: 

  • Plan for multiple closures of attractions before late May and early June, depending upon the park site. Admission fees are collected year-round, however, and we paid $30 for a 7-day pass.
  • Expect weather extremes, ranging from rain and wind to snow on the upper roadways. Dress in layers and add gloves, hats, and rubber boots.
  • Be bear aware, as much as you would in Alaska. Many bear sightings are occurring near populated areas and farther out along trails. Since we didn’t have bear spray, we made sure to stick together and make extra-loud noises (not difficult with two active kids along).

~EK

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