How Cub Scouts and others in the fourth grade can get into national parks free

It’s settled. Fourth-graders are officially the coolest kids in school.

They’re the beneficiaries of a federal program that grants free access to national parks, lands and waters.

Thanks to the Department of the Interior’s Every Kid in a Park program, started in 2015, fourth-graders and their families can get free entry into these public lands for a full year.

The year of free access aligns with the school year — Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. The passes can be requested and printed online.

The three-step method

Step 1: Get the pass. Get and print fourth-grade passes to our national lands and waters.

Step 2: Plan a trip. With input from their parent or guardian, fourth-graders plan a fun place to visit. There may be an opportunity to complete Cub Scout adventures along the way.

Step 3: Hit the road. A full year to explore national parks, lands and waters seems like a long time, but it’ll be gone in a flash. Speaking of flashes: remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Things to know

  • Electronic copies of the pass aren’t accepted, so you’ll need to bring a printed copy with you.
  • Each pass has a unique code, so you can’t copy it and share it with friends.
  • The pass is accepted at Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation areas.
  • If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
  • If your group visits a site that charges vehicle entrance fees, the pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle. Commercial vehicles can’t use a pass to get in.
  • If you arrive at a site on bicycle, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults on bicycles.
  • The pass doesn’t cover things like parking fees, camping, boats and special tours. Also, some sites are managed by private operators. They may not honor the pass. Check with the site ahead of time to find out. The pass doesn’t cover fees for local, city, or state parks and recreation areas unless they say that they accept this pass.


    • Bart, you must be a 3rd grader. (Just kidding.)… If you click through the links, you will find the answer: “We chose fourth graders because research shows that kids ages nine to 11 are beginning to learn about the world around them. They’re open to new ideas, and they are likely to connect to nature and our history.” Hope to take advantage of this program with my 4th grader and the family early next year.

      • What is this research? Why not 5th graders?

        I have a sneaking suspicion that if we keep looking into it, some very large campaign donor will turn out to have a child in 4th grade.

        • This program is in it’s third year and has spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations. It’s targeting our next generation in an attempt to get them to unplug from electronics and experience the larger natural world, just waiting for them. I recommend reading “Last Child in the Woods” to understand the importance of programs like this.

  1. Any way of including the 4th grade teachers?
    My daughter in law teaches 4th grade but has no kids and I’m sure she would love to go with her husband.

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