Our National Parks annual pass is getting a workout on this trip! For a family who only had visited one National Park before this trip (the Grand Canyon), we certainly are making up for lost time now.
We purchased our America the Beautiful annual pass at our inaugural stop at Glen Canyon Dam, near Lake Powell. The $80 we spent for this is the best money we’ve spent on this trip for sure! The pass allows our family access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites. The pass covers entrance and standard fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle, including our big RV. Children age 15 and under are admitted free.
We’ve already used our pass for entrance into Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Badlands and Mammoth Cave!
Another awesome program for families hitting the National Parks is their National Junior Ranger Program. This has been an awesome way for our kids to get involved by participating in the activity based program in each park.
At the Park’s Visitor Center you pick up the Junior Ranger program workbook. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5-13 and your age will determine how many activities you need to complete in order to earn your Park badge. I wondered if our kids would be too old for this program, but it has proved to be challenging and fun for them actually. It gives them something to look forward to with each park visit. All kids love a collection, so why not start one where they learn along the way and earn something free to take home at the end.
Kids usually have to attend a park ranger event, take a hike and answer many questions on wildlife and aspects pertaining to each particular place. The great thing about my kids doing it at this age, is that they can do the book by themselves or at least work together, which is really nice! I think these programs would be pretty tough to do with a 5-7 year old. At the end of each experience, the kids share their answers with a park ranger and are sworn in as Junior Rangers before receiving a badge or patch from that park. So far, they have ten under their belt!
It has been a fun way for the kids to learn things that they never would’ve known before. They now point out sagebrush bushes while hiking and know what the symbols on the National Park Service logo mean. Two months ago none of us could’ve told you that!