The United States National Parks are full of beautiful landscapes and dazzling natural resources that are great for playing, exploring, and learning. These parks safeguard our animals and wildlife. They allow us to glimpse into the past while also preserving our history.
The United States National Parks are open annually to the public for all kids and adults to enjoy. These parks are a great asset in the United States for helping our students learn and grow through nature, history, and discovery.
Every Kid Outdoors is a program that gives every 4th grader and their families in the United States free access to national parks and other public places for an entire year. Each location on the Every Kid Outdoors program list is unique and beautiful, with its mix of natural beauty, historical significance, and vibrant culture.
What is the Every Kid Outdoors pass?
The Every Kid Outdoors program lets every 4th grader and their families in the United States experience their public lands & waters through a free year-long pass. The pass grants free access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites and the country's natural treasures. These include national parks, monuments, forests, wildlife refuges, and grasslands.
All fourth-graders have access to their own Every Kid Outdoors pass, which provides free entry to national parks throughout the United States every year, beginning September 1. The Every Kid Outdoors pass is valid for the student until August 31, the following year.
This pass pays for:
- standard amenity fees
- entrance charges
- day-use charges
These are covered for all passengers, including the driver in a private vehicle (for per-vehicle areas).
For per-person-based places, up to 4 adults are covered (children below 15 are allowed free to federal public lands). *Please note that the pass will not cover such items as camping fees.
Your fourth grader is your family's ticket to a world of excitement!
History & Benefits of Every Kid Outdoors
The pass was created in 2015 as a program called the Every Kid in a Park initiative to get kids excited about America's public lands, reserves, and seas. It was marketed as a much-needed antidote against the habit of modern-day kids spending up to seven/eight hours per day with digital media.
The program was renamed Every Kid Outdoors in 2019, but it's still the same pass. So if you have a fourth-grader (or know one), get ready to explore America's great outdoors!
Following are the participating agencies:
The small government organization manages around 245 million acres of federal public lands. The aim is to ensure that land is available for everyone now and in the future. They're in command of more territory than any other branch of the government. The majority of it is in the 12 western states, including Alaska.
The government organization is in charge of enriching life through science. People rely on them for weather forecasts. They also protect the coastline. Protecting the coastline includes ensuring that we have plenty of fish and that vessels may travel freely on our seas. The scientific experts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conduct research globally and up close. They study tiny plankton and examine the planet from space, among other things. Sanctuaries and research reserves provide excellent locations to unwind and safeguard our seas and coastlines.
People today are busier than ever and want somewhere to unwind and relax. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manages over 6.5 million acres of plain land and water, with the majority open for exploration, play, or swimming!
National Park Service manages hundreds of national parks, recreation centers, and monuments. Millions of tourists visit the islands, seas, and mountains each year. Active volcanoes, ancient prisons, and the hottest desert in the United States are all you can explore. Make the most of your year and get out and explore with the National Park Service!
The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forests, grasslands, Alaska ice fields, and Puerto Rico tropical forests. Visit one of our beautiful national forests and experience all there is to discover and learn!
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages more than 150 million acres of land and water and nearly 418 million acres of national marine monuments. Come and enjoy clean air & water, unique and abundant species, and exceptional places to unwind and relax in nature.
At one of the sites of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, discover and enjoy nature. You can swim, fish, boat, ride horses, and trek at these locations. They have outdoor classes on animal habitats, rich history, and energy. They have far more recreational visits than any other government agency. More than 350 million people visit rivers and lakes near their homes annually.
How do I get an Every Kid Outdoors pass?
Just follow these steps:
- Visit the Every Kid Outdoors website with your fourth grader and select 'PLAY' to complete their adventure diary to get your child's pass.
- Have your child follow the prompts to answer questions about their favorite outdoor activities.
- Enter your information in the form provided.
- You will then receive your printable pass via email.
- Print the pass and take it with you to any of the participating federal recreation sites.
Follow these steps:
- Visit the Every Kid Outdoors website, download an activity guide, and complete it with your students.
- Enter your information in the form provided.
- You will then receive your printable passes via email.
- Print the passes and hand them out to each student.
Show your pass to a park ranger when entering a national park or site, or make it available on the car dashboard. Note…you must bring the physical pass with you. You must also have your fourth-grade student with you at your visit.
Explore America's National Parks this school year!
You now have the opportunity to experience some of America's most beautiful and historic destinations with your family or students. These passes are perfect for exploring new places, seeing old favorites in a brand-new light, or taking an adventure across state lines!
Be sure to grab our free download, which lists all U.S. National Parks with links to every park's website!
The National Park Service also has a fantastic collection of lesson plans, distance learning activities, and classroom materials to help your students get a feel for these beautiful parks right from their classroom seats. All resources can be found by subject or grade level (Elem/primary) so that you can find what's best suited for each student! We've listed some of our favorite teacher resources below but head over here if you are looking at all available options--you won't regret it. 😉
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon tops our list for the right reasons!
This park looks like a fairytale in the winter season and provides equally breathtaking scenery during the summer months.
The best time to visit this park is from July to September. In other months, it gets covered in about 40 feet of snow, making it hard to access. The main highlight of this park is the lakes formed around 7,000 years ago due to the eruption of a volcano that left a caldera.
You can enjoy a scenic drive along the rim, hike to the top, witness the surreal views from a boat, or swim if you can tolerate the cold waters.
Educational Resources for Crater Lake National Park:
- 5th Grade Virtual Field Trip - Exotic Invaders- upper elementary school, science
- HERstories of Cuyahoga Valley: the Suffrage Movement and Harriet Keeler- middle school, literacy and language arts
- Why Water Matters- high school, science
Olympic is one of the richest national parks in the U.S.A. regarding diversity, especially landscapes. Olympic National Park is home to alpine lakes, a stretch of the Pacific Coast, waterfalls, meadows, sky-high mountains, glaciers, and the largest temperate rainforest in the entire country. Olympic is easily one of the best national parks to explore on the West Coast if a little variety is up your alley.
Even though the list of things to do at Olympic is pretty much endless, a few must-dos include:
- Checking out the Hoh Rainforest.
- Swimming at Sol Duc Hot Springs.
- Looking for interesting marine life at Kalaloch Beach.
- Hiking amid mosses-draped forests.
Educational Resources for Olympic National Park:
- What Do Salmon Need To Survive?- lower elementary school, science, social studies
- Freeing the Elwha ("Local History")- middle school, literacy and language arts, social studies
- Freeing the Elwha: "Salmon Farming- A Potential but Not Ideal Solution"- high school, science
As Ohio's only national park, Cuyahoga is a true gem on the east coast national park trail. Cuyahoga National Park stretches from Cleveland to Akron, following gorgeous forest trails along the Cuyahoga River.
Outdoor activities like hiking and biking are what visiting this east coast national park is all about. There are over 125 miles of stunning trails available throughout the park. While doing them ALL would be virtually impossible, a must-do for newbie visitors is the Virginia Kendall Ledges Trail, which takes you through a forested path lined by giant limestones, mossy cliffs, and mysterious caves.
Another of the best things to do at Cuyahoga National Park is checking out Brandywine Falls, an awe-inspiring 65-foot-tall waterfall that will leave your jaw on the ground.
If you'd rather not break a sweat or want to cover as much ground as possible in one visit, you can opt to see the park from the comfort of a train that takes you through some of the most scenic spots. If you want to combine relaxation and adventure, the railroad offers a Bike Abroad Program, allowing you to ride the train one way and bike back to the trailhead!
Educational Resources for Cuyahoga Valley National Park:
- "Wild About Animals" Virtual Program- lower elementary school, science
- When War Hits Home: The Ohio & Erie Canal Town of Peninsula, and the Civil War Election of 1864- middle school, literacy and language arts, social studies
- Biological Indicators- high school, science
If you've always believed white-sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise water are always found in the Caribbean or the Maldives, Dry Tortugas is about to prove you wrong.
If you've never heard of Dry Tortugas National Park, you are in for a treat. Dry Tortugas is one of the U.S.A.'s least-visited national parks and probably the most beautiful. This stunning national park in Florida is only accessible by ferry or seaplane, which makes it super remote, and the chances of having it all to yourself are pretty darn high.
Dry Tortugas National Park comprises 99% water, and the remaining 1% consists of seven islands. You can snorkel to see untouched coral reefs and spot unbelievable marine life during your visit. Moreover, another great way to explore Dry Tortugas is by simply doing nothing and lounging at the most beautiful beaches in the U.S.A.
Educational Resources for Dry Tortugas National Park:
- "Who's Killing Our Fish?"- upper elementary school, science
- HERstories of Cuyahoga Valley: the Suffrage Movement and Harriet Keeler- middle school, literacy and language arts
- Why Water Matters- high school, science
The Glacier National Park used to be home to about 150 glaciers. Unfortunately, only six are left due to global warming, but scientists fear they will also be gone in the next few years.
It's an excellent opportunity to see those glaciers while you can, the best thing to do in the summer season. To access the park, you'll drive through one of the most beautiful routes that only open from mid-June to early October due to snowfall.
As you enter the park, you can hike to see the glacier up close. Other noteworthy sights in the park include lakes, streams, wildlife, waterfalls, and wildflowers. The top activities to enjoy in summer are hiking, fishing, boating, kayaking, and helicopter tours.
- Swimming on Your Back- Sea Otters in Alaska- lower elementary school, literacy and language arts, science
- The World of Underwater Sound- middle school, science
- Conservation vs. Preservation and the National Park Service- high school, literacy and language arts, social studies
Located in Washington State, Mount Rainier National Park is home to one of the state's most iconic landmarks: an active volcano and the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A.
Aside from gawking at the views of Mountain Rainer Volcano reflected on the many lakes scattered all over the park, a visit here will also allow you to walk amid ancient forests, explore subalpine meadows blanketed in wildflowers, and head out on hikes in search of waterfalls.
A few can't-miss activities include hiking the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point, visiting Myrtle Falls, walking through the forest amid the Patriarchs Trail, riding a gondola, or, if you're feeling up for the challenge, actually summiting the volcano!
Educational Resources for Mount Rainier National Park:
Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah is one of the most beautiful national parks on the east coast. If peaceful hiking trails backdropped by green valleys, roaring waterfalls, and sky-high peaks sound like your jam, a trip to Shenandoah is just the ideal escape for you.
A few must-dos while visiting include:
- Going wildlife spotting.
- Spending a night stargazing.
- Riding along the epic Skyline Drive for some seriously stunning views.
Aside from the trails, another of the aspects that makes Shenandoah so unique is the cozy mountain vibes and the endless array of wildlife that call the park their home.
While here, make sure you're on the lookout for wildlife. Shenandoah National Park is home to over 50 mammals, including white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, and chipmunks.
Educational Resources for Shenandoah National Park:
- Virtual Wildlife Detective- lower elementary school, science
- Shenandoah National Park: Virginia's Gift to the Nation- middle school, social studies
- The Spirit of the Mountain- high school, social studies
Set in the middle of Lake Superior in Michigan, Isle Royale National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the U.S.A. and the perfect escape for those looking to dive deep into a wilderness paradise.
Despite its beauty, the reason Isle Royale remains pretty much untouched by mass tourism is its remote location, and the only way to reach it is via seaplane or boat.
If you're up for the journey, you're in for a real treat! This east coast national park boasts over 175 miles of hiking trails and a vast array of exploring options, including both over the ground and underwater.
For epic hiking, start your bucket list at Rock Harbor and the Windigo area - it's virtually impossible to cover every trial in one visit, but those are two pretty good places to start ticking trails off. While hiking, you might just stumble across many sites to look for wildlife, including moose, wolves, foxes, and beavers.
Something that makes this east coast super unique is the fact that there are numerous shipwrecks sites that divers can explore. Aside from the hiking trails and scuba diving opportunities, there are also a ton of ancient copper mining sites and historic lighthouses to check out as well as a myriad of islands and bays that you can get to on a canoeing or kayaking adventure.
If you want to see a glacier in summer, head to the Kenai Fjords National Park.
The park's main attraction is the Exit Glacier, which closes in the winter due to snowfall. You can either drive the Exit Glacier Road or go one mile long for a short and easy trail. It starts at the Glacier Nature Center and takes you to the best viewpoints.
You can also book a cruise and enjoy nature and wildlife in their natural habitat. The park is home to many animals like moose, black and brown bears, sea otters, and killer whales.
Educational Resources for Kenai Fjords National Park:
Glacier Detectives- upper elementary school, science
Those Fabulous Fjords!- middle school, science
Succession and Nutrient Cycling in a Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem- high school, science
Commonly nicknamed the Alps of America, North Cascades National Park is home to the most extensive glacial system in the contiguous United States (other than Alaska).
This incredibly underrated west coast national park is home to a whopping 312 glaciers, over 300 lakes, mountains as tall as 8000 feet, and a wide array of wildlife endemic to the area.
During your visit, you can explore the park on a scenic drive over Highway 20, hike to several viewpoints to enjoy views of Kool-aid-toned alpine lakes, and even get a dose of culture by visiting a small community living within the park called Stehekin.
Educational Resources for North Cascades National Park:
- Freeing the Elwha (River Flows and Sediment Movement)- middle school, science
Location: North Carolina and Tennessee
Home to enchanting forests rising from the mountains, over 100 waterfalls, and gorgeous treelines, there's plenty to see at Smoky Mountains National Park. The great smokies is a vast place that spans from Tennessee to North Carolina. While it's impossible to see it all in one visit, there are many things to do for first-timers.
Hike to see the tallest waterfall in the park (Ramsey Cascades) or climb Mount Cammerer to get your visit started. To see as much as possible, drive your way through the park to hit as many viewpoints in a short time (Cades Cove and Newfound Gap Road are two of the best scenic drives in the park).
If you're up for some serious waterfall exploring, other must-do hiking trails include Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls Trials, and Grotto Falls Trail.
Educational Resources for The Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Great Smoky Mountains - Mingus Mill History and Culture- lower elementary school, social studies
- Snails as Bioindicators of Acid Deposition- middle school, science
- Ground Level Ozone Biomonitoring - High School Garden Study- high school, science
Home to the highest mountain in Texas, sweeping canyons, desert terrain, and dunes, the Guadalupe Mountains are a gem for wilderness adventures.
Moreover, If you're into fossils, Guadalupe National Park is one of the best places in the national parks system to visit to please the paleontologist in you. Texas was once submerged under the ocean, and today, the Guadalupe Mountains are considered one of the best fossil reefs from the Premium Era. During your visit, you will get the chance to see tons of encapsulated fossils from ancient marine animals in the rocks all over the park!
Educational Resources for Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
We can never miss mentioning Grand Canyon when talking about National Parks. This park is popular in the United States and worldwide and has a magnificent landscape like nowhere else.
During the summer, the park gets crowded with tourists, but it's worth visiting as the North Rim is open this time of the year. Hiking the park, rafting in the Colorado River, and ranger programs are some of the most popular activities to enjoy here.
Educational Resources for Grand Canyon National Park:
- Where the Wild Things Live- lower elementary, science
- Current Events – Uranium Mining- middle school, literacy and language arts, science, social studies
- Japanese Americans at Grand Canyon - Bellboys and WWII Heroes- high school, social studies
Redwood National Park will transport you into a storybook forest.
Sprawling over 130,000 acres across northern California, a visit to Redwood National Park will give you the unique opportunity of seeing groves of redwoods, the tallest trees in the world.
During your visit, you'll be spoiled for choosing a hiking trail, especially when you consider each one more beautiful than the last. A great way to explore as much ground as possible is by
driving the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which cuts through a section of the park and provides access to some of the most famous groves of redwoods and several trailheads.
Educational Resources for Redwood National Forest Park:
- Structure and Function - Banana Slugs- lower elementary, science
Scenic drives, rocky coastlines, unparalleled hikes, and trail summits are just a few factors that make Acadia National Park a joy to visit. Another amazing thing? It's one of the best national parks in the U.S.A. for fall foliage!
An easy hike to get you started is the Jordan Pond, which has an easy and flat paved trail that goes around a 3.3-mile loop. You also can't miss hiking up to the Bubbles, a remarkable rock formation that seems to be teetering off the side of the mountain. If you're up for a challenging, less-trafficked hike, check out Acadia's Pemetic Mountain Trail.
Another popular activity is watching the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain (make sure to plan and arrive early to ensure a good spot). If you want a seriously fantastic drive, hop on your car and follow the Park Loop Road, the main road in the park; it's breathtaking and one of the best things to do in Acadia National Park, especially if you're short on time during your visit.
Educational Resources for Acadia National Park:
Pinnacles only became a national park in 2013, and due to its newness and lack of advertising, it remains one of the biggest hidden gems in the national parks system.
Even most Californians don't know it exists. Pinnacles recorded 348,000 visitors in 2021. That's considering that was the park's busiest year ever.
Pinnacles National Park sits on the top of the San Andreas Fault, making it a mecca for peculiar-looking rock formations, caves, and rock climbing experiences. Most people who visit Pinnacles search for unique climbs, with options ranging from beginner lessons to climbs designed to test your skills on multi-day adventures.
Another highlight of Pinnacles National Park is that it's ranked as one of the top places in the United States to spot Condors. They're critically endangered, but at Pinnacles, sightings are commonplace due to the re-introduction and conservation efforts made by the park and volunteers.
Educational Resources for Pinnacles National Park:
- Plant Adaptations- upper elementary school, science
Location: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
The beauty of Yellowstone National Park is seen in its full glory during the summer season.
The park encompasses about 3,472 square miles, making it one of the largest in the United States, spawning across Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.
The main attractions of Yellowstone are its geothermal sites, including bubble mud pots, geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs. Visitors can participate in horseback riding, biking, boating, fishing, and hiking.
Educational Resources for Yellowstone National Park:
- Dueling Mandates: Preservation and Use of National Parks- upper elementary, literacy and language arts
- Atomic Elements and Archeology: Tracing Ancient Resource Access and Trade Routes Using XRF- middle school, science, social studies
- Dueling Mandates- high school, science
Location: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Tucked away inside the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia National Park homes gigantic sequoia trees that, when paired with views of snow-capped mountains, create a landscape that feels almost as though it should belong inside a painting.
Moreover, while seeing forests of the world's most giant trees is reason enough to visit this West Coast park, Sequoia is also home to other natural wonders worth checking out. For one, it homes Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S.A., and Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons on the continent (it's deeper than the Grand Canyon!)
Some of the best things to do here include:
- Looking for General Sherman, the most giant tree in the world.
- Climbing an enormous granite dome called Moro Rock.
- Driving through the famous tunnel log.
- Exploring Crystal Cave.
- Hiking the 22-mile trail to the top of Mount Whitney!
Educational Resources for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:
- The Bear Essentials- lower elementary, science
- Explore Your Watershed- middle school, science
- Service Learning Trips at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park- high school
Location: South Carolina
Located in the heart of South Carolina, Congaree National Park is one of the most unique mountain forests you'll ever see. Think towering trees, winding waterways, and floodplain ecosystems to get an idea of what visiting this epic park is all about.
A few of the best things to do in Congaree include exploring its hiking trails, canoeing, and spotting wildlife and flora. Turtles and river otters are usually the stars of the show when it comes to wildlife sightings, and you'll also get the chance to see some of the largest Chestnut Oaks and Loblolly Pines in the United States.
Even though the park is relatively small and not the most popular east coast national park, there's plenty to see at Congaree. I'd highly recommend visiting if you're up for exploring some of the lesser-known national parks in the U.S.
Biscayne National Park is your go-to if you're looking for an escape that combines beach and nature! Located in the Florida Keys, this national park is unique because it's 95% underwater, so you must go below the surface to explore it fully.
Naturally, the only two ways to explore under its waves are through snorkeling or scuba diving expedition. If you'd instead not get wet, you can book a sailing or glass-bottom boat tour.
After exploring the sea, you'll also want to explore the 5% of the park that isn't water-based, including exploring islands spread out all over and going on a hike in search of wildlife and unparalleled nature.
Educational Resources for Biscayne National Park:
- "The Carbon Budget"- upper elementary school, climate change, earth science, math
Yellowstone National Park is accessible all year round, but the most spectacular scenes can be witnessed in the summer when the highest mountain pass, Tioga Road, is open.
The road connects the park to the mining towns of Sierra and takes you along the mountain lakes, Tuolumne Meadows, and trailheads. As you drive past these unreal landscapes, you will be mesmerized as you enter the park. The best attractions include the Yosemite Falls and the breathtaking views of Half Dome and El Capitan.
If a hidden gem is what you're after, look no further than Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California.
As a great alternative to nearby Yosemite due to its similar terrain, Lassen is a beautiful place to visit to discover California's volcanic landscapes and escape the crowds.
Here, you'll find all four types of volcanoes (Shield, Composite, Cinder Cone, and Plug Dome) and bubbling mud pots, sulfur vents, geothermal areas, lakes, and more.
During your visit, don't miss out on Bumpass Hell to see some of the most active hydrothermal waters, kayaking at Manzanita Lake, hiking to the top of a cinder cone volcano, and visiting Kings Creep Falls.
Educational Resources for Lassen Volcanic National Park:
- Earth Cookies- middle school, math, science, social studies
- Bumpass Hell - Exploration of an Active Hydrothermal Area- high school, science
Everglades National Park is one of the largest national parks on the east coast, protecting 15 million acres of Floridian wilderness. The park covers many subtropical ecosystems, including marine, mangroves, and pinelands.
Even though alligators are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Everglades, an insane range of wildlife also calls this national park their home.
Fun fact: Did you know that Everglades National Park is the only place where crocodiles and alligators co-exist?
The best way to explore Everglades is by booking a boat tour in the Gulf Coast area for a chance to spot manatees and dolphins. If you're up for a unique adventure, you can also participate in a ranger-led program, where you'll dive deep into the park on a canoe or during a night trek.
If you want to check out the Everglades independently, you can always go on a hiking trail or opt for a scenic drive. A few of the best hiking trails to get you started include the Eco Pond Trail, a flamingo hot spot, and the Anhinga Trail to see tons of alligators going about their business.
If you'd rather see alligators from the safety of your car, you can drive down the two roads in the Everglades: Royal Palm to Flamingo and the Tamiami Trail from Shark Valley to Everglades City. These are two incredibly scenic drives that will have you covering a ton of ground in a short time.
Educational Resources for Everglades National Park:
Seeing Bryce Canyon National Park is once in a lifetime experience.
Even though the park is open all year round, summer is the best time to visit when the weather is pleasant – not too hot or cold. The park offers spectacular views from the overlooks such as Natural Bridge, Rainbow Point, Bryce Point, and Yovimpa Point.
If you want an up-close experience with hoodoos (tent rocks – the main highlight of Bryce), you should hike from fun trails, some of which are Navajo Loop, Peek-A-Boo Loop, and Fairyland Loop. No matter what you decide to do at the Bryce National Park, you'll be surprised by its beauty in every corner.
Educational Resources for Bryce Canyon National Park:
- Shaping Landscapes Over Time & Space- upper elementary, science
- Bryce Canyon National Park: Hoodoos Cast Their Spell- middle school, social studies
Located in Alaska, Denali is the second-largest park in the United States. The park is famous for its breathtaking landscape, abundant wildlife, and incredible hiking opportunities. You can easily spot grizzly bears, deer, moose, and wolves when you visit the park.
The park has about 90 miles of driving, but only 16 miles can be covered through self-drive. From there, you can take a guided tour. The best part of the park is that it doesn't get dark early due to the proximity to the north pole. That means you can spend all day exploring the park and enjoying as many activities as possible!
Educational Resources for Denali National Park:
National parks are incredible destinations that offer a chance to experience nature in its purest form. You can enjoy views, hiking trails, and wildlife while feeling far away from everyday life for hours at a time!
Help your students learn more about our country's national parks with these awesome posters. They're ready for download and can be used immediately!
Tips for Visiting National Parks with Kids
Practice Leave No Trace
Strive to leave the national parks as you found them, if not better. Take your garbage, don't feed wildlife, follow signage and always listen to ranger instructions to protect the national parks and the nature in them. The Leave No Trace mantra is a learning experience, so try to continue some of those habits back home or at school.
These are the 7 Leave No Trace Principles:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
Get a National Parks Passport
If you're on a mission to visit all the national parks in the U.S., you must get yourself a National Parks Passport.
Even though it's not an official passport per se, it's super fun to get stamped every time you explore a new national park.
Did you know that over 90% of visitors to national parks never go further than two miles from the road?
Plan and go deeper on trails to see every national park's hidden beauty. Exploring parks on lesser-known trails is also an amazing way to avoid crowds.
Talk to park rangers
Nobody knows a national park better than a park ranger does. When you first arrive at any national park, check in at the visitor center and speak to a ranger to get all their tips, recommendations, and things to consider to ensure your visit goes as smoothly as possible.
Ensure you also ask the rangers for their favorite secluded spots, sunset hikes, etc. Park rangers always have insider information on how to enjoy their respective parks best.
Fun Fact: I first learned about the 'Every Kid Outdoors' program from a park ranger at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona
If possible, spend at least one night within the national park you're visiting
Most national and state parks have lodging options or campsites available for people who want to spend the night in the park. Some offer super comfortable lodging like the Grand Canyon, whereas other parks may offer simpler accommodation or a campground on which you can pitch a tent.
If possible, plan to spend at least one night at the national park you visit. Many national parks provide incredible stargazing opportunities, not to mention overnighting will give you the chance to experience a few trails before and after daily visitors leave.
Always do your research first. Some national parks require advanced reservations for their campsites/lodging, whereas others work on a first-come, first-serve basis. Moreover, some may require permits for overnight stays.
Stay on designated trails
Not only are trails marked for your safety, but also as a way to keep national parks as intact as possible to prevent erosion and human influence over the landscape.
Choose the right time to visit
Each park is different, so doing proper research before your visit is vital.
Some national parks or sections close during the winter to keep visitors safe (e.g., the North Rim section of the Grand Canyon). Moreover, some of them might get extremely hot during summer (e.g., Arches National Park).
Plus, there's a high season for many parks, so visiting during that time might not be ideal if you prefer more solitary experiences when out in nature. In that case, shoulder season tends to be the best time to visit most national parks, but you may also want to check if the weather conditions will be right.
Do an itinerary backward to avoid crowds
If you're visiting a popular national park that tends to get crowded, you may want to consider doing things in the opposite way.
For instance, if you're visiting Bryce Canyon during the busy season, you may want to visit Sunset Point during the sunrise time and Sunrise Point during sunset. They both provide incredible sunsets and sunrises, but since they're both usually advertised for their names, they tend to get highly crowded (everyone heads to Sunset Point for Sunset and Sunrise Point for sunrise).
Final Words on Every Kid Outdoors initiative
The Every Kid Outdoors program is great to get kids excited about the great outdoors. By providing a free pass to any fourth grader, the program ensures that every kid has the opportunity to explore and enjoy the many outdoor recreation sites managed by the federal government. With so many different agencies involved, there are plenty of options for everyone to find something they love. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring!
We hope you have a great time outdoors! Remember to take your Every Kid Outdoors pass with you and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.