Why Having a 4th Grader is a Free Ticket to National Parks

3 kids holding up park passes for 4th Graders
National Park Service

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.

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 new website can find links to additional information on planning trips to nearby public lands.

Be sure to check out the free Junior Ranger program offered at nearly every national park. By completing a few tasks and activities, kids age 5-12 can receive a special patch or badge from each park.

Planning a National Parks Vacation