Q:

What's a good family outing in Glacier National Park?

Do you have any suggestions for a family itinerary of Glacier National Park this spring? We have a girl who is nine. Rosalind M. Oak Park, CA

Glacier National Park     Photo: Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/Getty

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

A:With 1,583 square miles, 26 glaciers, 175 mountains, 745 miles of hiking trails, 1,004 camping sites, and 762 lakes Glacier National Park offers too much to explore during an entire lifetime—to say nothing of the typical summer vacation.

But perhaps the best approach is to sign up your nine-year-old as a Junior Ranger, a program set up by the National Park Service for children ages 8-12, giving them a chance to learn something while having a little fun. Hikes like Trail of the Cedars (1.4 miles), attending a ranger program at the Apgar Village Visitors Center, or identifying a park rule are just a few of the steps to becoming a Junior Ranger, but the process teaches kids about the people, plants, and animals that make up the park itself, lending an appreciation that's worth more than a badge. Just pick up a Junior Ranger newspaper at any of the park's visitor centers (located in Apgar, Logan Pass, and St. Mary). Once the paper has been filled out and five of the seven assigned activities have been completed, return it to any of the centers for an official badge. And don't miss taking a ride on the new Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle that was launched in 2007, a fleet of low-emission, fuel-efficient buses that has reduced traffic on the Sun Road by approximately 20 percent. The new shuttle system runs between Fish Creek Campground and Apgar Village.

Of course the region boasts some of the world's best fly-fishing, an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire brood. Glacier Guides (800.521.7238) offers a fly-fishing school for all ages. In the morning, a classroom session covers equipment, fly selection, reading river currents, and more. And once you've learned the basics, lunch awaits and then it's time for a real fishing trip on either the Middle Fork or North Fork of the Flathead River. Cost for fly-fishing school is $455 per person and includes lunch. You'll need to purchase a non-resident fishing license online or at a Montana sporting goods store such as Sportsman & Ski Haus prior to your lesson. Once you've learned this timeless sport, take your new skills and put them to the test. Fishing in Glacier is permitted, just make sure to pick up a copy of Montana's Fishing Regulations at any of the Visitors Centers. You'll find cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, grayling, and rainbow trout at the end of your line when fishing the Middle and North Fork of the Flathead River inside the park. Just remember to release them, per state regulations.

If your nine-year-old is up for a little bit of adventure, then take her whitewater rafting. Wild River Adventures (800.700.7056) offers a family-friendly, two-day trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead. There are plenty of thrilling rapids that are safe, never rising above a Class IV, so no previous rafting experience is necessary. Along the way, you'll see waterfalls, mountain goats, osprey, eagles—even wolves. The two-day adventure covers 20 miles, with each mile alternating between calm waters and rapids; the Glacier Park views are, of course, a constant. Camp on the river bank at night and enjoy a hot meal prepared by your guides. All trips are inclusive and also cover equipment rentals, meals and guide service. Prices for this two-day adventure start at $245 for youths and $310 for adults.
-Amy A. Clark

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