If you love exploring America the Beautiful, it's very handy to have a fourth grader along for the ride. In 2015, a new program called Every Kid in a Park was launched, giving all fourth graders and their families free admission to all national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges for a full year. The goal is to provide an opportunity for kids and families across the country to experience their public lands and waters in person.
Every Kid in a Park is an initiative in collaboration with the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation. For outdoors-loving families with 9 and 10-year-olds, it's an added incentive to plan a visit to an iconic destination such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon, or tour a group of national parks in a region, such as Utah's Mighty 5.
Beyond the big-name parks, kids can visit the Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico, Canyonlands National Park in Utah, Fire Island National Seashore in New York, Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Missouri (this is a multi-day river expedition), and New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park in Louisiana.
How Every Kid in a Park Works
The Every Kid in a Park pass runs September through August and is based on the school year. Fourth graders can download their passes starting each September. The pass for outgoing fourth graders expires at the end of August each year.
Fourth-grade students can sign up online and print out a pass that provides entry to national parks for the student and a carload of passengers for a whole year. An annual national park pass currently costs $80.
Kids can participate in a fun, educational activity on the Every Kid in a Park website and receive a personalized paper pass to print and bring with them to visit public lands. At certain participating sites, fourth graders can also exchange the paper pass for a more durable plastic annual 4th Grade Pass.
The Every Kid in a Park pass admits the fourth grader and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle. The pass is only for fourth-grade students, not educators/teachers. Parents visiting the website can find links to additional information on planning trips to nearby public lands.
Check out the free Junior Ranger program offered at nearly every national park. By completing a few tasks and activities, kids age 5 to 12 can receive a special patch or badge from each park.
How "Every Kid in a Park" Gives Back
The National Park Foundation raises funds for Every Kid in a Park through its Open OutDoors for Kids program, which provides transportation grants to help give children access to America's public lands and parks. It mainly focuses on connecting kids from underserved and urban communities who may not have the funding for field trips.