Home Tips How Can Fourth Graders Visit U.S. National Parks for FREE?

How Can Fourth Graders Visit U.S. National Parks for FREE?

by Shelly Rivoli
child looking at giant sequoia tree

School is back in session, and if someone is starting the 4th grade at your house, great news! From September 1st through August 31st of NEXT YEAR, your 4th grader can get your whole family into more than 2,000 federal lands and waters for FREE. That’s hundreds of national parks alone!

Here are six important things to know about the Every Kid Outdoors pass — including how to get yours!

Girl looking up at General Sherman giant sequoia tree

1. How long is the pass valid?

Your FREE 4th grade National Parks pass is valid from the September you start fourth grade through the end of the following summer. Those in fourth grade this school year can use it now through August 31. And yes, home-schooled fourth graders are included!

Follow this link to go to the official Every Kid Outdoors and get your free National Parks pass! Once you’ve answered a few fun questions (kids click the “Play” button) to earn it, you’ll need to print your redeemable paper pass right from your own computer.

child touching a dinosaur fossil
Dinosaur National Monument: Touching a real dinosaur fossil still embedded in the wall at the Carnegie Quarry Exhibit Hall. Yes, fourth graders and their families can visit FREE!

2. Can we just ask for the pass at the park when we visit?

No, so don’t show up at a park without your printed pass! Digital versions of your pass (eg. just filled out on a parent’s phone) cannot be accepted. You can view the complete rules for using your Every Kid Outdoors pass here.

3. Who exactly gets in free with the Every Kid Outdoors pass?

At National Parks where admission is charged for private vehicles (eg. Arches, Yosemite, Yellowstone, etc.), the entire carload of friends and family members accompanying the pass-holding fourth grader gets in free! Show your printed pass to the ranger at the park entrance, or where there is no ranger, you can simply leave it displayed on your dashboard.

Fourth graders and their families can visit Arches National Monument FREE with the Every Kid in a Park Pass.

4. How do we get the plastic pass instead of just our paper print-out?

You can, and will even need to, trade in your paper Every Kid Outdoors pass for a commemorative credit-card style pass at certain National Park locations. Here is my son Every Kid Outdoors pass at Joshua Tree National Park.

Fourth 4th grader signing Every Kid in a Park national park pass

“This is worth a lot of money, kid,” the ranger said. “Be sure to keep it in a safe place, won’t you?” Follow this link to see if a National Park you’ll visit offers these special passes.

5. Are there any extra costs the pass won’t cover?

Your pass doesn’t cover everything at national park and historic sites. Be aware that the Every Kid Outdoors pass will not cover ferry or boat admission to National Park sites, nor private tours, campground fees, or other activities that cost in addition to park entrance fees (eg. Alcatraz Island transportation and tour, or Dry Tortugas National Park ferry service).

4th grade every kid in a park national park pass


6. Is there a limit to how many times we can use it, or how many places?

There is no limit to how many National Parks, Lands, or Monuments you can visit with your valid pass, so get planning, get packing, and get going! For help picking an ideal park for your family to visit, you can use the Every Kid Outdoors Trip Planner here, or get all the details on a park of interest on the official National Park Service site.

Three kids hiking in desert with guidebook promotion for Hiking with Kids Southern California by Shelly Rivoli
Hiking with Kids Southern California includes hikes in Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, Joshua Tree NP, Death Valley NP, and Channel Islands NP — and many more great hikes for families. (And yes, those are MY kids!) Thank you for your support! – Shelly

7. Can we earn a badge to go with that?

Yes! Possibly several! Don’t forget that many of our U.S. National Parks offer Junior Ranger educational programs and the chance to earn Junior Ranger badges. Ask for your booklet at the Visitors Center upon arriving at your next National Park.

How  many badges will YOU earn before fifth grade? Don’t miss our linked features with tips for visiting national parks with kids below!

In case you were wondering, after some 40 minutes of answering and then asking the park ranger their OWN questions about dinosaurs, all three kids were sworn in as Junior Paleontologists. They are their most prized badges from the National Parks so far.
At Dinosaur National Monument: In case you were wondering, after some 40 minutes of answering and then asking the park ranger their OWN questions about dinosaurs, all three kids were sworn in as “Junior Paleontologists.” Awesome!

8. Where do we go to request our Every Kid Outdoors Pass?

Click here for more information about the Every Outdoors pass and to get your own pass today. And for tips and inspiration in planning your family’s National Park vacation, don’t miss these helpful guides that follow below!

You might also like these U.S. National Park features:

This is a revised and updated version of an article which first ran in September of 2015.

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Diane P. September 14, 2015 - 9:07 pm

Isn’t this a great surprise! Makes me want to contact every fourth grade teacher I know so their students’ families won’t go unaware.
Thanks again, Shelly, for bringing unexpected travel opportunities to light!
And, as usual, your photos really grab my senses.
Many thanks!

Shelly Rivoli September 14, 2015 - 9:31 pm

Glad to help get the word out–I’m so glad they’re doing this! I would love to see our government open up even more opportunities for kids to experience our national treasures first hand. In France, all kids under 18 can visit national monuments & museums for free. It makes it much easier for parents to share cultural and natural treasures when they only have to pay for the adults and not 4 or 5 people! But in this case during 4th grade at least…the whole family can go free! 😉 PS About teachers–they can actually apply for the passes for 4th grade students as well. There’s info and instructions on the http://www.everykidinapark.gov site.

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