4th Graders: Take A Hike with Every Kid in a Park

While summer has drawn to a close, the upcoming months are an excellent time to explore the great outdoors we call home. If hitting up one of the Treasure State’s spectacular National Parks, historical sites, or recreation areas are still on your wish list, it’s not too late to take a road trip. Thanks to the government program “Every Kid in a Park," it’s a little easier. Initiated in 2015, the program permits every fourth grader and their family unlimited and free admission to all National Parks, public lands, and waters for an entire year.

First, any and all fourth graders, including home-schoolers, must take part in an online activity on the program’s website. Once complete, students print out a voucher equipped with a unique serial number, which can later be exchanged for a plastic keepsake card. Voucher in hand, fourth graders, and their families can load up the car and explore any of 2,000 federally managed lands and waters from September 1 until August 31. There is no limit to how many parks or sites families can visit, however, the fourth grader must always be present when using the voucher.  

You might be wondering, why fourth graders? To start, many states are already teaching U.S. History in fourth grade, which coincides with programs previously in place with various land and water agencies.  In addition, 9 to 11-year-olds are in a unique developmental stage where they are beginning to understand and learn about the world around them, are open to new ideas, and begin making connections with the environment.

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have a fourth grader in the family, the National Park Service has two fee-free days remaining this year: September 22 (Public Lands Day) and November 11 (Veteran’s Day). Besides the National Park Service, other participating agencies are The Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. 

While making lasting memories with your family, you can help create the next generation of supporters and advocates for America’s unparalleled public lands. For more information, or to obtain a voucher, visit everykidinapark.gov.

Ready to Hit the Road?

Whether you’re looking for a single-day outing or multi-day adventure, check out these parks and monuments in our own backyard:

Yellowstone National Park

Not only is it one of the most visited national parks in the country, but it's also America's first National Park.  Experience Yellowstone’s spectacular hot springs, gushing geysers, stunning forests, and remarkable wildlife.

Entrance Fee: $35

Glacier National Park

Dubbed the “Crown of the Continent” and home to the famed 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun-Road, enjoy the many glacier-carved peaks and valleys and over 700 miles of hiking trails.

Entrance Fee: $35

Grand Teton National Park

Located just 10 miles south of Yellowstone in Northwest Wyoming, Grand Teton provides 1,000 drive-in campsites. Famous for its stellar mountain scenery and fishing on the Snake River, it won’t disappoint.

Entrance Fee: $35

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Straddling southern Montana and northern Wyoming borders, this area offers something for everyone. Float among the towering canyon walls of Bighorn Lake, fish the famed Bighorn River, or hike, bike, and camp amidst all the beauty.

Entrance Fee: Free

Pompey’s Pillar National Monument

Just 25 miles east of Billings, this rock formation features numerous Native American petroglyphs and the signature of famed Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Enjoy the newly built interpretive center that recounts Clark's journey through the Yellowstone Valley.

Entrance Fee: $7

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Located in Crow Agency, this area memorializes the battle of Little Bighorn. Enjoy walking through the visitor center and museum, or driving through the 4.5-mile, self-guided tour road that connects two separate battlefields. 

Entrance Fee: $25

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

Called “The Breaks” by locals, these rocky outcroppings and steep bluffs are home to the 149-mile Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River. The area offers a stunning display of biology, geology, and history where families can float, fish, hike, hunt, or camp.

Entrance Fee: Free

Note: Annual 4th Grade Pass does not include amenity fees like camping, boat launching, or special tours. Contact site directly if you have questions about pass acceptance or fees.

about the author...Maria Weidich resides in Billings but feels most at home backpacking in the Beartooths.

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s September 2018 issue.

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