I have been watching this forum for several months and it really helped us plan our trip, especially when other families reported what worked and didn't work for them. So, to pay back, here's our report:
To summarize, it was an incredible 8 days and arguably our best family vacation. No cell or internet coverage, no TVs, not too many people. A highlight of the trip was we bought them inexpensive, refurbished digital point-and-shoots that we gave them on the flight out. They had a blast taking pictures and videos, and it alleviated the problem of them getting bored when we wanted to snap photos. The weather was variable, but I completely overpacked. Definitely did not need winter coats, hats or gloves. More bathing suits for the kids would have been good as they got into every lake, stream and waterfall they could. Next time I'd have them wear bathing suits every day instead of shorts.
August 16-arrived in Kalispell around noon, lunch at Subway (something familiar) in Columbia Falls then drove across the park to the Rising Sun Motor Inn. We stopped several times along the way and the kids LOVED getting their feet wet at Lake McDonald and Avalanche Falls. We found a safe isolated pool behind the rocks where the kids could get in and learn for themselves that wet rocks are slippery, and I could stop reminding them that if they slipped the current would take them away.
Dinner at Two Dog Flats at the Rising Sun and finally to bed. The Rising Sun cabins were fine, but cramped for a family of 4. Probably wouldn't choose that again, but this is where we spent our first 3 nights. We didn't spend much time in the room anyway. After we put the kids to bed, we sat in the back of the minivan looking up at the stars.
August 17-Drove to Many Glacier to catch the Red Bus East Alpine tour. 4.5 hours was a bit long, only because I did not pack enough snacks. The guide was entertaining and educational and we all enjoyed it. Especially the black bear that wandered along the road on the way back to Many Glacier. Got lunch to go from the Many Glacier lounge and ate it outside on the porch overlooking the lake. Unfortunately had to drive back to West Glacier (~2 hrs each way) because I forgot chargers for kids' cameras, but were rewarded with seeing a bunch of mountain goats at Logan's Pass on the way back.
August 18-Back to Many Glacier and took boats across St Mary's and Josephine Lakes (black bear on the slope) then took ranger-led hike to Grinnell Glacier. I was worried my younger son would not make it or there would be too much complaining but it went great. Ranger-led was the way to go for us--kept my younger son moving because he did not want to be left behind. We learned a lot, lots of stops, incredible scenery. Saw rams butting heads on a snow field as we ate lunch. Kids loved the marmots. Dinner at Cattle Baron Supper Club-despite great reviews, we didn't care for it-expensive, hot, no kids' menu or any food that my kids wanted to eat which was rough after a long day. Great sighting of grizzly bear munching berries on the way back.
August 19-drove to Canada--really just so the kids could go to another country. Liked Montana side much better. Great lunch outside at Bayshore Inn--grass and swings for the kids to run around just outside our table so we could enjoy some couple time. We took the boat tour to Goat Haunt which was ok-two more black bears on the side of the lake. Dinner at Two Sisters on the way back--lived up to the hype.
August 20-woke up at Glacier Park Lodge --cool. Took the boat across Two Medicine Lake (another black bear not the slope) and hiked the short ~1 mile hike to Twin Falls. Kids spent a couple of hours splashing around in the creek and rock scrambling. They were having too much fun to argue for a hike up to upper Two Medicine. They made friends as we waited for the boat back which was nice because there was not enough room and we waited 45 minutes for the next boat--they had a blast skipping rocks. Dinner was at Serrano's-by far the best meal of the trip. Plan to wait for a table, but can get drinks at the bar for the covered porch.
August 21--horseback ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters. We had to go out of West Glacier because that was the only one that would take a 7 yr old (others are minimum 10). Took 3 hours to get over Logan Pass due to road construction-ugh. We did the Cowboy Cookout and was the favorite part of the trip. 90 minute ride to cookout site, our wrangler was awesome and made a delicious steak dinner over a fire followed by s'mores. Can't recommend highly enough. Spent the night at Lake McDonald Lodge (my favorite lobby).
August 22-white water rafting with Glacier Raft Company. My younger child was scared at first but very happy when he realized most of it was floating down the river. There were enough exciting rapids to make it fun for parents and older son. Again, highly recommend. We did not have reservations for this. Free fly fishing clinic that evening-older son loved, younger was bored. Spent the night at Village Inn at Apgar --first floor cabin was wonderful--kids could walk outside and skip rocks in their pi's. Dinner was walkable at Eddie's, and of course ice cream.
August 23-last day in the park. Hiked the Trail of Cedars (short, flat, on boardwalk) and to Avalanche Lake-4 miles round-trip, worth the uphill, easy on the way out. Spent the night at the Kalispell Grand Hotel which was close to the airport--the family king gave us a king sized bed and the kids each had their own bed in a separate adjoining room so we all had a great night's sleep for our last night.