How to Get the (Free) 4th Grade National Park Pass Today! [2018]

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.


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.

The Annual 4th grade pass.


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.

4th grade national park pass
4th grade national park pass

Select “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.

4th Grade National Park Pass


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 2018.

Thus, it’s really important to get this pass as soon as possible.

We also don’t know how long this program is going to be in existence for. Things were slightly shaky last year and while there are a lot of people who want to see this program continue in 2019 and for years after that, you never know what can happen when it comes to our government.

Zion National Park.

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.

If your group visits a site that charges vehicle entrance fees, the 4th grade pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle.
Please note that commercial vehicles can’t use a pass to get in.
Non-commercial vehicles are defined as: 
Passenger car, van, pick-up truck, converted school bus, recreational vehicle, etc., used to enter a Federal recreation site for non-commercial purposes.
If you arrive at a site on bicycle, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults on bicycles.

Rules to note

  • No refunds —  No refunds are given for previously purchased passes, or if you forget your pass when you visit. So if you previously purchases an annual pass and then found out about the 4th grade pass, there’s no refund available for you.
  • Cannot transfer your pass — Students can’t transfer the pass to anyone else.
  • Passes can be replaces for free — If you lose your pass, get a new one by visiting the website and signing up again. Note that this is different from the policy for standard annual passes which can’t be replaced for free.

I cover the rules for the 4th grade national parks pass but if you can click here to see the full list. 


Can teachers get a 4th grade pass?

Educators can get one paper pass for each of their fourth-grade students.

You qualify as an “educator” if you’re a teacher at a U.S. or U.S. military school, or you’re an adult who engages fourth graders through a youth-serving organization. For example, a camp director, a home-school leader, an after-school leader, or a religious group leader.

To get the passes for your students go back to the same website listed above. Instead of clicking on “Fourth Graders” simply click on “Educators.”

On that page there will be four PDFs you can download which are activity guides for your students.

These activity guides have lessons which are meant to show kids things like why our parks are worth protecting and give them history lessons on our nation’s native peoples.

To get the passes input your contact information and then enter the number of students that you have. You can only print up to 50 passes at a time but if you have more than 50 students you can just do this multiple times.

4th grade national park pass for teachers.
4th grade national park pass for teachers.

Does the 4th grade pass work for state parks?

The pass doesn’t cover fees for local, city, or state parks and recreation areas unless they say that they accept this pass.

Some states like Nevada have put in their own programs for kids to get into parks for free, so always check with your local areas to see what options you might have.


Does the pass cover other fees?

The pass doesn’t cover things like parking fees, camping, boats, and special tours.

Also, some sites are managed by private operators and those private operators may not honor the pass. This is why it’s always a good idea to call the federal land before you visit just to make sure that they take the pass if you are in doubt.


Why 4th grade?

4th grade students were chosen for this pass for a few reasons.

There’s a sweet spot for “middle childhood” 9 to 11 year olds that many believe is a perfect time during their formative years to impress upon them the importance of our public lands.

It’s also when many schools teach state history programs so visits to the national parks go hand in hand.


Junior ranger program

If you’re bringing children to national parks then you may also want to look into the Junior Ranger program offered at many different national park sites.

The kids complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate.

Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5 to 13, although the program is open to just about everyone. You can find out more about this program here. 


Final word on the 4th grade national park pass

The 4th grade national park pass is a terrific program for kids to make it out to our national parks and other public lands. It helps reduce financial barriers to these parks and gives the entire family a reason to get out end explore nature.

As you can see signing up for the program is very easy you just need to make sure that you follow the rules so that everything goes smoothly.

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