Vacationing can be hectic, especially if the area does not have much tourism infrastructure. Glacier Bay is cold and mainly occupied by wilderness, but this doesn’t stop people from visiting. If you are planning a visit to Glacier Bay National Park with kids, be ready for a fun adventure while embracing the cold. Some of the things you can do include exploring the fjords, the rainforest, and the glaciers. Read on to find some of the activities you can indulge in with your kids.
Kayaking through the water of Glacier Bay National Park is fun and exhilarating. What makes it even more fun is that the water is full of animals, including whales and sea lions. We recommend engaging a guide to accompany and explain every detail as you explore on your kayak.
In short, it’s hands-down one of the best activities you can do with your kids but you’re going to need good and sturdy kayaks for them. So you should look into the perfect kid’s kayaks for your little paddler and get them the best one so they can enjoy the whole experience fully and (most importantly) safely.
2. Book a Plane Tour
If your kids are not up to hiking or kayaking, you can book a small airplane and get a bird’s eye view of the national park. The plane takes you around, allowing you to marvel at the wonders of the glaciers, alpine lakes, rivers of ice flowing down from the mountains, waterfalls, and ice fields.
Some planes even land on the glaciers, allowing you to stand on them and look down the crevices, which are hundreds of feet deep.
If your family loves engaging in outdoor activities, then hiking should be on your to-do list. Glacier Bay National Park has many hiking trails catering to beginners, moderate, and advanced hikers. Some trails traverse the rainforests, while others are along the river and lake shorelines. Some of the routes to explore with your kids include:
Forest Loop Trail: This is the easiest and shortest trail to take with kids. It’s a one-mile loop, and it will take about 1.5 hours. The path lets you experience the fresh smell of wildflowers, bird watching, and the beach environment. The trail has rough terrain and a boardwalk, so ensure that you all wear closed and comfortable shoes for walking.
Tlingit Trail: This trail, which is just in front of the Glacier Bay Lodge, contains a forested shoreline that can make for a mesmerizing evening stroll. The trail offers a nice view of Bartlett Cove, canoes, and the whale skeleton. With a guide, you can learn about the common plants in Glacier Bay. You can also opt to visit the Huna Tribal House to experience their culture and art.
Bartlet River Trail: The trail is a bit long, 7.2 km roundtrip. It will take about 4 hours at a slow pace. The path meanders along the intertidal lagoon, traverses through the rainforest, and ends at the Bartlett River Estuary. While on this trail, you’ll appreciate the wildlife, including coyotes, bears, and moose. Sitting by the river, you can see birds like ducks and geese. And during summer, you will see harbor seals chasing salmon.
Point Gustavus Via Beach Trail is relatively long, being 20.1 km roundtrip. However, it’s an easy-to-moderate trail you can take with the kids. You don’t have to go all the way; simply choose to hike halfway. You will be able to marvel at the sea creatures, plants, and birds and listen to the humpback whales’ breathing.
In summer, the trail is littered with wildflowers, making it a great place to take pictures.
Safety tips when hiking at Glacier Bay National Park:
Always let someone know which trail you’ll be using and what time you should be back
Be aware of the bear
Be mindful of the moose
Wear hiking boots and always watch where you are stepping to avoid slipping
Baneberry is poisonous
4. Book a Boat Cruise for Glacier Watching
This park has over 1000 glaciers, and each has its own characteristics. Being the main point of attraction, your kids will want to see and even take pictures to show their friends, so make sure to visit several glaciers during your trip.
Some of the glaciers to visit include the Margerie Glacier and John Hopkins Glacier. First, you can witness calving at the Margerie Glacier, which is the process where ice chunks break off the glacier and plummet into the water. Meanwhile, the John Hopkins Glacier is about 300 feet high and one mile wide. It consists of numerous tributary glaciers that surround the peak. The glaciers resemble submarine calving.
Glaciers are crucial for the ecosystem as most animals rely on them for survival. For instance, harbor seals usually give birth on the glaciers. While a rare seabird, known as Kittlitz Murrelets, nests near the glaciers. There is a high chance that you will get a sighting of these sea animals on a boat cruise.
5. Watch Wildlife
Glacier Bay National Park is home to many animals that can be seen while on a boat cruise. These animals include orcas, sea lions, whales, wolves, mountain goats, otters, bears, and various sea birds. However, don’t take in everything on a single tour. One day you can opt to see the glaciers and another to watch the wildlife.
Since all the animals are not found in one spot, you will get a chance to explore far and wide, and while doing that, you can chill and take a cup of coffee to provide your body with much-needed warmth. Alternatively, you can carry along some wine or beer to enjoy.
6. Visit Snow
Snow is a female humpback whale skeleton found dead after being struck by a cruise ship. It is one of the main attractions at Bartlett Cove.
7. Explore the Shore at Low Tides
Kids love collecting things, and what better time to do this than at low tide, when many items are washed up on the shore? You will have first-hand sight of the sea bed, which consists of mollusks and barnacles. If you are lucky, you might find jellyfish, shells, octopuses, and starfish.
At this time, you will see rare sea birds as they take advantage of low tide to forage for small sea critters. You may see some bears too.
8. Watch the Sunset
You can’t visit the beach without watching the sunset by the harbor. In the evening, take a small hike to Halibut Point, near the Glacier Lodge, and find a spot to watch the sunset. Others will join you, so make a point of going early. The sunset views from this point are magically paired with sweet and strong whiffs of wildflowers, making for a dreamy experience.
You might also see sea creatures, such as whales, sea lions, and eagles. Imagine having your picture taken with all these in the background; it would make for a great postcard.
Cycling is another fun activity for kids at Glacier Bay National Park. You’ll be required to pay a certain fee when entering with a bicycle and are allowed to bike on paved, unpaved, and multi-use paths. You can use traditional or e-bikes, provided the motor is less than 750 watts when engaged. Biking is open from May to June.
Biking is mainly done on the Going-to-the-Sun Road before it’s opened for vehicles. You and your kids can enjoy a relaxed ride. You’d have to visit the Glacier Bay National Park page to get updates on when the road will be opened.
Safety tips when biking in Glacier Bay National Park:
Wear protective clothing, including a helmet, reflective jacket, knee & elbow pads, and gloves.
Don’t cycle too fast
Use a headlight if you are cycling early in the morning or late in the evenings
Carry bear spray
Don’t leave food out in the open
Use hand signals to communicate with other riders
Let a third party know where you are biking and what time you should be back
Ensure your tires are inflated and carry an extra tire pump
Within Glacier Bay National Park is Glacier Bay National Preserve, a remote part of the park that is only accessible by a small plane from Yakutat. The area is reserved for sport fishing and hunting. It’s also popular among rafters. The best part is that you don’t need a license to fish in the lakes or streams within Glacier Bay.
If you plan a trip to Glacier bay National Park with kids, be sure to marvel at the wonders of the glaciers, wildlife, and sea creatures. Consider adding the suggested activities above that will surely keep your kids busy while having fun at Glacier Bay National Park.