Sep 1, 2015

Fourth-graders can get free passes to Yellowstone, other national parks

If you’re in the fourth grade, you’re in luck.

Starting this week, every fourth-grader — and their family — can receive a free annual pass to America’s national parks, the National Park Service announced Tuesday.

As part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative, the free passes are a way to get kids into the national park system to experience the outdoors and learn a little history and culture. Families without a fourth
Kids are pictured at Everglades National Park. Photo courtesy NPS
grader must pay $80 for the annual pass, unless the family includes a senior citizen or member of the military.

To get your free pass, go to and have your fourth-grader answer a few questions about outdoor adventures. After that, you'll get a paper pass that you can print out and use — or trade in for a plastic annual pass that is the size of a credit card.

Fourth-grade teachers also can download and print paper passes for each of their students, and all teachers can get free lesson plans.

Even if a kid isn't a natural outdoors enthusiast, being part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative can be a fun and easy activity for the whole family.

Local families can drive east or west and find themselves at a national recreation area or park.

To the east, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area offers more than 120,000 acres full of diversity in ecosystems, wildlife and more than 10,000 years of human history.

To the west is America’s first national park: Yellowstone. It’s a wonderland to explore, with geysers, mountain wilderness and wildlife. (To the southwest lies another famed destination, Grand Teton National Park.)

Here’s a list of possible summer activities for kids in Yellowstone:

Old Faithful Geyser. Photo courtesy Jim Peaco, National Park Service
• Watch Old Faithful erupt: Check out the other nearby hydrothermal features like mud pots and
find out what the “rotten egg” smell is. Preview the eruption on our live Old Faithful Geyser webcam and predict the next eruption.

• Become a Yellowstone Junior Ranger: Stop by any visitor center to purchase a Junior Ranger activity booklet for $3. To earn a Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch, you need to hike on a park trail or boardwalk, complete the age-appropriate activities, and attend a ranger activity, such as a talk, guided walk, or evening campfire program.

• Sit on the shore of Yellowstone Lake: The largest high-elevation lake in the lower 48 states. Feel smooth driftwood and stones and dip your toes in the cold water. Picnic tables are available at many pull-outs along the lake shore.

• Bike to Morning Glory Pool: Bikes are allowed on the paved path between the Old Faithful Lodge and Morning Glory Pool. Take this 2-mile round-trip paved path and make three stops: one at Castle Geyser—possibly one of the oldest geysers in the basin; next at Daisy Geyser, one of the most predictable geysers in Yellowstone; and third — at Riverside Geyser, a cone geyser on the bank of the Firehole River. Bikes are not allowed on the boardwalks, but there are several racks where you can park your bike while you explore.

• Take a short walk to Artist’s Point: Watch the Yellowstone River cascade down Lower Falls through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

While you’re in the area, go to the Canyon Visitor Education Center and learn about the geology behind the canyon and Yellowstone’s super volcano.

Milky Way near Mammoth Hot Springs. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service
• Stay up late and watch the stars: Look for constellations, the Milky Way, and craters on the moon from your campsite. Field guides to the night sky and astronomy are available from the Yellowstone Association bookstores.

Stargazing programs are occasionally available in the summer at the Madison Information Station and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.

• Attend a ranger program: Meet at the Junior Ranger Station at Madison Junction and learn about Yellowstone’s wildlife, geysers, history and much more! This is a great opportunity to complete the ranger activity needed to earn your Junior Ranger patch. These 30-minute family programs are geared toward kids ages 5 to 12. Accessible with assistance. Check dates on the program schedule or at visitor centers.

• Watch wildlife: Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley are great places to see wildlife. Animals are easier to see in the early morning and evening when they tend to be feeding. Remember, the numbers and variety of animals you see are largely a matter of luck and coincidence.

Bison in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service
Get a mammal checklist when you enter the park and record your sightings. Check at visitor centers for recent sightings and receive a sticker for your efforts. Do not approach bears or wolves on foot within 100 yards or other wildlife within 25 yards.

Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Each year, park visitors are injured by wildlife when approaching too closely.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

1 comment:

  1. Weary of the incessant whining and moaning from the kids on family vacations? It could be because you planned an adult vacation for people way too young to enjoy it. Lamar outdoor


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