Junior Rangers: One of the Best Kept Secrets of National Parks!

Nate and Calvin get sworn in as new rangers at Death Valley National Park.

In honor of this weekend’s free admission to National Parks, Pit Stops for Kids would like to remind readers about one of the best programs the National Park system offers: Junior Rangers! It’s easy to sign up, it’s (usually) free, and it’s an excellent way to learn about aspects of the park you might otherwise miss.

Signing up is simple: you can find Junior Ranger booklets at nearly any park’s visitor center. Depending on the child’s age, they’re required to complete a certain number of pages in the booklet, then turn it in to a ranger. The tasks range from simple mazes and puzzles relating to the park to more difficult trivia questions (which your grade schooler may have to research to find the answers to). Most parks require that kids attend at least one ranger-led activity, campfire program, or guided tour while visiting in order to earn their ranger badge, but if you don’t have time or ability to get to one of these, a simple chat with any ranger is usually sufficient. Some parks even offer specially-designed Junior Ranger hikes and games, which your kids can attend (with an adult).

Our favorite Junior Ranger programs:

Zion National Park (where there was an extensive list of kid-oriented programs and times).

Mesa Verde National Park (where kids had to search through the Mesa Top museum scavenger-hunt style to find answers to questions).

The most extensive Junior Ranger program:

Yellowstone National Park, where earning that badge involves serious time and investment for older kids!

The friendliest Junior Ranger program:

Great Basin National Park, where the rangers presented the badges in full ceremony!

Be sure to take advantage of this great opportunity next time you’re visiting a national park! It adds much to the experience (and adults learn a lot more than they otherwise would as well). And if you’re taking advantage of this weekend’s free admission (August 14-15), enjoy!

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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  1. I agree, the kids loved it when we were in Oregon and Wahington this summer!

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