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4th-Grade National Park Pass: What You Need to Know

Family of three stands with an expansive view of the Badlands in the background.
Photo Courtesy: Rachel White Clemens
Badlands National Park

If you’re the parent of a 4th-grade student, it’s never been easier to plan a trip to one of the many extraordinary National Parks in the United States. From Glacier National Park to Zion National Park to Acadia National Park, families can explore the United States from coast to coast. National Parks also offer kids an unparalleled opportunity for outdoor adventures, sparking their innate curiosity and tenacity for exploring. The United States government has set up a special program, Every Kid Outdoors, allowing all 4th graders and their families to experience our national treasures for no cost at all. But what do you need to know before embarking on a national park adventure? Here, we have compiled everything you need to know about the 4th-grade national park pass. Plus, we have also provided additional resources to help you plan the perfect national park family trip!

UPDATE!: For the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year, 5th graders (in addition to 4th graders) can bring their families to national parks, wildlife refuges, and other Department of the Interior managed public lands and waters for free! Read more here.

What You Need to Know About the 4th Grade National Park Pass

Parents with their two kids stand smiling in front of rock formations.
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Rotem
Zion National Park

Here, you will also find all the information you need to know before using your child’s 4th-grade national park pass.

Who Gets in for Free?

A 4th grade boy stands excitedly with hands in the air in the Badlands.
Photo Courtesy: Rachel White Clemens
Badlands National Park

Each 4th grader can print a park pass that allows free entry for themselves, all children under 16, and three adults. You will not have to pay park entrance fees per person or per vehicle. The pass does not cover sites that charge parking fees, camping fees, etc. The 4th-grade national park pass truly allows your family to provide enriching family experiences and trips at little to no cost (depending on travel locations, overnight options, etc.). There is a reason that many park rangers claim this to be their favorite park pass!

When is the Pass Valid?

The Every Kid Outdoors pass is valid for the 4th grade school year, beginning September 1st and ending August 31st. This means families can plan a national park vacation during the 4th grade school year or the following summer. With the 4th-grade national park pass, families also have access to hundreds of national parks, lands, and waters for an entire year! Families with multiple children often use each child’s fourth-grade year as the perfect time to explore new parks. Kids with varying interests and travel styles may even relish the chance to choose the park and plan the itinerary! This way, each child also gets to fully embrace their unique passion for outdoor adventure.

How Do I Get the Pass?

A 4th grade girl excitedly accepts her park pass from a smiling park ranger.
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

Simply visit Every Kid Outdoors. Click on Get Your Pass. This will also direct your 4th grader to complete the online adventure diary and print the pass. The online adventure diary allows your child to choose from a variety of activities that then creates a fun story! You will need to take the physical paper copy of the 4th-grade national park pass and present it to the park ranger on site. Some parks will exchange it for a plastic pass that is waterproof and also serves as a great memory. 

Why 4th Graders?

Research shows that this is the ideal age when kids are curious and open to learning about the world around them. They will most appreciate the historic structures, protected animals, and millions of acres of nature. Not to mention, many 4th graders will also be able to carry their own supplies or packs while hiking and exploring the national parks. When in the parks, be sure to have them speak to the park rangers and participate in the many activities to encourage their natural curiosity. Let them ask questions, get their hands dirty, and roam the wonderful natural lands the United States has to offer!

Planning the 4th Grade National Park Pass Family Adventure

Two kids pose with the entrance sign to North Cascades National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira
North Cascades National Park

Ready to visit a National Park? Of course, you are! The 4th-grade national park pass will allow your family to create life-long memories, as well as ignite a passion for outdoor adventure in your children. Before you embark on your outdoor adventure, here are some additional resources to help you plan!

Road Trip Resources

Two kids asleep in the backseat, while the third looks down at a phone screen.
Photo Courtesy: Jason Carlton

Many families will embark on road trips to maximize the use of their 4th-grade national park pass. Often, this means families are considering RVing for the first time. First, families should decide if RVing is a safe option for their family. While a towable RV or camper can be a great option for family travel, we encourage families not to consider “motorhomes”, as they can present a lot of safety risk for back passengers. If you are new to RVing, check out our recommendations for Family RVing for Beginners! There are various things families should know before they go – like packing tips and meal planning. Then, don’t miss our extensive list of apps for planning family road trips that include RVing and camping. There are a number of apps that can help plan routes, find campsites, and much more.

Keeping Kids Entertained

Two kids stand happily in front of the entrance sign for Canyon De Chelly National Monument.
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira
Canyon De Chelly National Monument

Whether you are road tripping or wondering how to keep little travelers engaged, we have also compiled a number of parent-approved ways to keep kids entertained. Try involving your kids in planning the itinerary and packing their bags. Or, utilize the ever tried and true method of packing lots of snacks and also some new toys! Long road trips also mean plenty of time for family road trip games! Families can take turns playing DJ, try the license plate game, or implement quiet activities during a long drive. You can also find our ultimate road trip activity packet (a free printable), which includes 15 amazing activities to spark endless family fun in the car. Not sure a road trip is right for you? Check out these tips for staying sane and also having fun along the way.

Itineraries & Additional Recommendations

Before hitting the road, also check out these parent-designed itineraries for visiting national parks and other recommendations.

National Park Itineraries:

Final Recommendations:

Happy Travels!

Two kids stand happily in front of the entrance sign for Grand Canyon National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira
Grand Canyon National Park

We hope you will take advantage of this amazing initiative and embark on a trip your children will not forget! Using the 4th-grade national park pass is also sure to ignite a passion for the outdoors and family travel. Now that you know how to use it and have resources to plan your trip, you are also set for the next big adventure!

To seek additional tips for families by families, including asking your own unique questions, join our Facebook community, and also follow us on Instagram (@families.love.travel). You can connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer, whether by air, train, or also RV. It is also a safe place to ask questions and gather travel-related information specific to families. We welcome you!

Families Love Travel Team

The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.
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