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In 2015 the Obama Administration created the initiative known as Every Kid in a Park meant to encourage children to visit our national parks and public lands. So far it’s continued for each year and has allowed an entire generation to be inspired and captivated by our national parks.
But how exactly does the 4th grade pass work and how can you sign up?
Here’s everything you need to know about the free 4th grade national park pass program, including how to sign-up and all the special rules.
What is the 4th grade national park pass?
The 4th grade national park pass allows 4th graders and their families free entry at more than 2,000 Federal recreation sites including the following agencies:
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
- Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation)
- Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
- USDA Forest Service (USDA FS)
- National Park Service (NPS)
- US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
A lot of these places allow for free entry but when it comes to parks like Yellowstone National Park, this pass can save you some cash. By the way, if you want to save big on your national park travels, you may want to consider one of the top travel credit cards out there, the Chase Sapphire Preferred which now offers over $700 worth of travel with its 60,000 point bonus (after meeting minimum spend).
How do you get the 4th grade national park pass?
To get the 4th grade national park pass, you just need to go online and fill out some questions and within minutes you can have yours.
Read about where to go online to get the pass here.
Annual national park passes
The 4th grade national park pass is only one of several annual passes available for the national parks.
There are several different types of national park passes including:
- Annual Pass
- US Military national parks pass
- Annual 4th grade pass
- Senior Pass
- Access Pass
- Volunteer pass
The most popular version is the Annual Pass that you can buy for $80.
That pass covers the pass owner and three (3) accompanying adults age 16 and older at sites where per person entrance fees are charged. No entry fee charged for children 15 and under.
But there are several other types of passes like the Senior Pass that offers discounted rates for annual and even lifetime memberships for senior citizens.
I’m a big fan of the 4th grade pass program because I didn’t visit my first national park until I was an adult and I think that exposing kids to these parks could work wonders for them in many different ways.
I think it helps kids realize the value of our public lands at an early age and will inspire an entire generation to work harder for preservation efforts.
It’s also important for helping kids to get outside.
More than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas and some studies show that kids aged 8-18 spend up to 6.5 hours looking at screens per day, so getting out to these parks and can remind younger generations about the amazing planet that we live in.
Another major plus is that the program is a great benefit to families who don’t have the means to make it out to national parks.
The National Park Foundation (NPF) awards transportation grants for kids to visit parks, public lands and waters, focusing on schools that have the most need. So many more kids have access to our parks than every before.
How to qualify for the 4th Grade Pass?
Only U.S. 4th grade students (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age) qualify for the pass.
How to sign-up for the 4th grade pass
To get your 4th grade pass, go to this website.
You’ll see a screen that will give you an option for both students and educators. If you’re doing this as or for a fourth grader, follow the steps below.
Select “Get Your Pass” under “4th graders” and then verify that you are in the 4th grade.
You’ll then go through a series of questions that will guide you through some type of an adventure diary.
The process takes about 30 seconds to complete so you don’t have to set aside much time to complete it.
Once you finish with the couple of questions you’ll click on “Get Your Pass Now.”
This will pull up your printable paper pass. You need to print a copy of this pass because you have to bring it to the park when you are visiting.
Plastic membership cards
From that point you can use that paper voucher as your pass or you can go to a federal recreation site from this list and receive a plastic membership card. It’s recommended to contact the federal land you will be visiting in advance to ensure that they have a plastic pass available.
How to show your 4th grade pass
As stated you’ll need your printed voucher or hard plastic card when you arrive at the national park or federal land of your choice. Simply show it the park ranger at the entrance station or if there is no entrance station then leave it on the dashboard of your car.
You can also get a free hangtag to display your pass from your rearview mirror.
Note that they don’t accept electronic versions of the paper voucher for access to the park and they don’t allow you to exchange it for a pass.
So you have to remember to bring your paper voucher!
How long are the 4th grade passes valid for?
Note that unlike other passes, this pass is only valid for the school year so currently it expires August 31st of 2020.
Thus, it’s really important to get this pass as soon as possible.
Who can use the National Park 4th grade pass?
If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person, the 4th grade pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
Passenger car, van, pick-up truck, converted school bus, recreational vehicle, etc., used to enter a Federal recreation site for non-commercial purposes.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.