Free Admission to National Parks
USFWS Photo by Larry Jernigan
Every Kid in a Park Program Gives You Free Admission to National Parks
Are you thinking about a family adventure to a national park this year? Thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program from the Department of the Interior, any family with a U.S. fourth grade student (or homeschool equivalent) can get free admission to national parks. What is even better is that the Pass covers family and friends too!
The Pass is good for ALL children under age 16 and up to three adults who visit with the fourth grade student. It covers entrance fees to the park whether the fees are charged by person or by vehicle. It even covers arrival by bicycle!
Get FREE Access to Hundreds of Parks, Lands, and Waters for an Entire Year!
Yes, that is FREE admission to hundreds of national parks, lands, and waters for an entire year!
But wait, there’s more. In addition to the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation also honor the Every Kid in a Park Pass at sites where entrance, standard amenity, or day use fees are charged. Here are some examples of fees that are waived:
- Entrance Fees: Fees charged to access lands managed by the National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Standard Amenity Fees: Fees charged for use of Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, and Reclamation sites that have a combination of basic amenities such as picnic tables, trash receptacles, toilets, developed parking, interpretive signing, and security.
- Day Use Fees: The Army Corps of Engineers day use fee covers boat launch ramps and swimming beaches.
View from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
It Gets Even Better!
In North Carolina, entrance to most State Parks is free. Falls Lake State Recreation Area, Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, and Kerr Lake State Recreation Area charge for entry in the summer months and on some other days. The per-car fee is charged daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, holidays in April, May, and September and on weekends. Your Every Kid in a Park Pass DOES NOT provide free entrance during these periods. You may be able to get free admission to the W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, but not to the John H. Kerr Reservoir. Call ahead to make sure.
Other states that have State Parks with entrance fees may also honor the Every Kid in a Park Pass. In 2016, State Parks in Wyoming, Maryland, Indiana, Idaho, and New York all honored the Every Kid in a Park pass. Of course, it is best to call ahead to make sure.
The Every Kid in a Park Pass is Offered to Fourth Grade Students Every September
Why fourth grade students? Children ages nine to 11 were chosen because they are open to new ideas and are likely to connect to the nature and history found in our national parks. The Pass is available to fourth grade students every year. Over time, every child can get a free Pass to explore our national parks.
The Pass is available every September and is valid for one year. It is valid over the summer months too.
How to get Your Pass
How do you get the Pass? Visit the Every Kid in a Park website. Your fourth grade student will need to complete an adventure diary game to get the Pass. Rising fourth grade students can get a Pass. You will need to print out your Pass and take it with you. You can exchange your paper Pass for a limited edition plastic Pass at some parks. To find out which parks offer the exchange, check out the Pass exchange list.
Lava Field, Sunset Crater National Park, Flagstaff, AZ
Are There Any Rules?
There are some rules. Your fourth grade student has to accompany you on the visit. You will have to print it out and take the paper Pass with you. If you have a plastic Pass, you must take that with you. Digital copies are not acceptable.
The Pass only covers entrance fees, not parking or camping or other fees that may be charged after entering the park. The Pass doesn't cover areas managed by private businesses. Each Pass has its own unique barcode, so you cannot copy and share your Pass.
You can find the complete list of rules here.
Children listen to an Abraham Lincoln re-enactor in a courthouse lobby. Credit - NPS
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