While on our family’s road trip this year, we had the opportunity to learn about and participate in the National Park Junior Ranger program. This is a FREE program for kids available at dozens of National Parks! When your kids complete the age-appropriate requirements for a Park’s Junior Ranger program, they can earn a patch or badge.
For both of the programs my kids completed, they were required to participate in a ranger-led program. Pictured above is the ranger-led hike our family took in the Grand Tetons to Inspiration Point at Jenny Lake!
My husband and I also found this a really enjoyable activity – and one we would doubtfully signed up for were it not for the Junior Ranger program!
The ranger-led requirement was the one that took the most effort and planning for us to complete. The kids also had to do a Grand Teton bingo, and some coloring and activities which we had them work on in the evenings at our hotel. We also had to watch a short video.
At the end, we had the kids bring in their completed forms to a ranger station where they took an oath to become Grand Teton Junior Rangers. They then earned a patch and were so excited!
It was really simple for us to also have the kids complete the Yellowstone Junior Ranger program as it is right next to the Grand Tetons! Just remember that each National Park will have its own unique program and age-appropriate requirements. This meant we had to pick up separate workbooks once we got into Yellowstone.
As with the Grand Teton program, the Yellowstone Junior Ranger program required that the kids participated in a ranger-led event. This could really be any activity or even that a ranger oversees, such as a lecture or a hike. Our kids ended up going on a short walk with a ranger in the Madison area of Yellowstone. Once again, my husband and I were impressed how interesting WE found it!
In the photo above, the ranger is telling my kids how to identify lodge pole pines and shared that 80% of pine trees in Yellowstone are lodge pole.
We were so impressed with these programs and of course, I wanted to share them with you because they are FREE and available at many National Parks! In the State of Washington, I found the following programs:
- Ebey’s Landing National Historic Site
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
- Mt Rainier National Park (not on the list – but I did find the information)
- Nez Perce National Historic Park
- Olympic National Park
- Whitman Mission National Historic Site
There is also a FREE WebRangers program if you’re not able to make it out to the National Parks. I’ve not fully delved into it, but it appears your children are able to earn some of the badges from the convenience of home. If you’ve spent some time on the WebRangers program, I’d love to hear about it.
Finally, I want to mention that there are FREE National Park Entrance Days that happen each year! These would be excellent opportunities to take your kids to complete a National Park Junior Ranger program!
For 2013, there are still a couple more fee-free entrance dates:
- September 28
National Public Lands Day
- November 9-11
Veterans Day weekend
Have your kids participated in a Junior Ranger program before? Which one? Additional tips, experiences, ideas – please share them!