Did you know that every American school child in the 4th grade can get there hands on a free entry pass to over 400 national parks and millions of acres of federal lands in the United States?
Could you think of a better excuse to take a US road trip than the year your child is turning 10?
TL;DR? Jump ahead 4th Graders can simply apply here!
Every year, beginning September 1, all kids entering into the fourth grade have access to their own “Every Kid Outdoors” pass at www.everykidoutdoors.gov.
This pass provides free access to national parks across the country for your 4th grader – and your family!
Frequently Asked Questions on the 4th Grader Pass
Who can apply for the 4th Grader pass?
Any child that started the 4th grade from 1 September of that school year.
Whether you’re in a public or private school, a home schooler or road schooler, all children in the 4th grade or equivalent, in the United States, are eligible.
How do I get the 4th Grader pass?
The pass can only be applied for online, upon completing a fun and simple activity your forth grader will get a printable “Every Kid Outdoors” pass – start the activity here!
Is the 4th Grader pass valid for 12 months?
No, unless you get it on 1 September! Unlike the America the Beautiful pass which remains valid 12 months from purchase date, your 4th grader pass only remains valid through to 31 August of the academic year they are in the 4th grade.
What is the 4th Grader Pass valid for?
Not just National Parks, the 4th Grader pass also covers day use fees at:
- Bureau of Land Management
- US Fish and Wildlife Services
- National Parks Service
- Bureau of Reclamation
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- USDA Forest Service
- US Army Corps Engineers Sites (some sites)
Note that overnight camping fees, reservation fees and some special tours are not covered under the general parks entry fee.
Can I exchange the 4th grader paper voucher?
Yes, if you would like a memento plastic card in place of the paper copy, there are many national parks sites in each state that will issue these for you. See the listing here.
Will everyone in my family be able to enter with the 4th grade pass holder?
Entering by vehicle, everyone in the passenger vehicle is entitled to the free entry. If you are at a site that charges by person, or entering a National Park by bike, all under 16’s and up to 3 adults can enter with the 4th grader.
Making Best Use of your 4th Grader Pass
Get Them Excited About Their Trip!
What better time to hand over responsibility for planning your next road trip then letting your 4th grader plan your next family adventure around their 4th Grader Pass?
What do they really want to see? Where can the pass take them? Don’t just think about the big National Parks, there may be many local monuments and landmarks closer to home that you can see on short weekend outings.
A great start is the book “National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks” by Erin McHugh. We’ve frequently used this as a starting point to plan our next family road trip!
Participate in Junior Ranger Programs
One essential part of visiting a National Park with kids is taking advantage of the Junior Ranger program, available at most National Park Service managed site.
It’s a free service where children can complete tasks to learn about the park during their visit. Usually, you pick up an activity booklet at a welcome center or ranger station when you enter a park (though it’s also possible to download them and print them off online in advance at some parks).
They are not only a great learning resource, but help keep kids engaged during their National Park visit. The activities apply not just to fourth graders; some parks have two booklets for older and younger kids, or one booklet with activities broken down by age group.
When your kids have completed the requirements, they can take the completed booklets back to a ranger station and partake in a swearing in ceremony. Children are then awarded a certificate, and often some extra goodies like pins and badges for their effort.
Whilst your pass may be “free” it doesn’t entitle you to any queue jumping!
Many National Parks now need to run a reservation system in peak periods, in addition to requirements to pre-book camp sites and other facilities within National Parks.
It’s best to plan ahead at least 6 months before receiving your Every Kid Outdoors pass so you can maximize your 12 months, and understand when reservations may be required in advance.
Summer vacation may seem like the logical choice for many families in full time work and school to take on a National Parks road trip, but it’s also the busiest. Try to plan off-season road trips and experience some of the parks in different seasons if you want to miss the crowds.
Leave No Trace
One of the fundamentals for exploring in nature, lead by example and teach your 4th grader the importance of “Leave No Trace”. This includes not feeding the wildlife, leaving rocks, plants and wildlife as you found it, taking your trash home with you, and listening to Park Ranger warnings and advice.
There really is no better time to hit the road with your family then when you’re child (or children!) hit the 4th grade. It is an ideal age for traveling with your children and so many adventures await all across the US National Parks system.
More USA National Park Inspiration
- Discover all the best national parks along the east coast of the USA
- Prepared to travel off-peak? These are the best national parks to experience in winter
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