Basics of the 4th Grade National Park Pass and Road Trip Itineraries for Families

The 4th grade national park pass is designed to give families the opportunity to explore and learn about the national parks in the country. The official name of the program is called Every Kid in a Park. It was started by President Obama in 2015, and it allows fourth grade students and their families to visit federal public lands and waters for free during that child’s school year. Here is all you need to know about the fourth grade national park pass and some road trip itineraries to help you make the most of this free pass for your family.

4th grade national park pass Yellowstone
Visit Yellowstone for Free with the 4th Grade National Park Pass

How to Get Your 4th Grade National Parks Pass

It is very simple to get your fourth grade national park pass. All you have to do fill out some questions and within a few minutes your family has a 4th Grade National Park Pass. You can learn more about the program, fill out the questions, and print out the 4th grade national park pass here. Be sure to print it out before you get to the national park of your choice, as they will not print it out for you and will not accept the electronic version on your phone.

Once you arrive at the national park, show the park ranger at the entrance station the printed voucher of the fourth grade national park pass and they will give you a plastic card in exchange for the voucher that says Every Kid in a Park.

4th grade national parks pass print out
4th Grade National Park Pass

Why Should You Get a 4th Grade National Park Pass

Families with fourth graders should definitely print out the 4th Grade National Parks Pass and take advantage of this program by visiting multiple national parks during the school year. It is essentially like having an annual pass for the family for free, so why not create a road trip that hits several national parks and save your family the admission fees.

Each national park or monument usually carries with it a $20-35 fee per vehicle per day (check out the prices here). Just think about how much money your family would save if you printed out the 4th grade National Park Pass and planned a national parks road trip.

In addition, I believe that by exposing kids to these parks sooner, it could benefit them in many different ways. I think it would help kids realize the importance of our public lands at a young age and will hopefully inspire their entire generation to work harder in preservation efforts and sustainable practices.

4th grade national parks pass tree
Our 4th grader admiring the view! Destination Inspiration: Not sure where to go? You've come to the right place!

How Long is the National Park 4th Grade Pass Valid For?

The fourth grade national park pass is only valid for the school year. It expires on August 31st of the current school year. This is why it’s important to get this pass as soon as possible so that it can be used during spring and summer. Note that the national park 4th grade pass will not work at state/local parks.

Glacier Fam 3
Enjoying our National Parks 4th Grade Pass

Who can use the  4th Grade National Parks Pass?

The national park 4th grade pass allows a family to enter with a fourth grader (and anyone else in the vehicle). If you visit a park that charges entrance fees per person, the 4th grade national park pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free. If you visit a site that charges vehicle entrance fees, the 4th grade national parks pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in one passenger vehicle. Note that the 4th grade pass cannot be used if entering a large group of people in a commercial bus or even a very large “van”.  

Road Trip Ideas for the Fourth Grade National Park Pass

Our family took advantage of the 4th grade national park pass during Spring break, Christmas break, and summer vacation when my son was 9/10 years old. As a family, we learned about the history and geology of many areas of the country while we hiked trails and the kids completed activities for their junior ranger badges. Here are some itinerary suggestions to take advantage of the 4th grade national park pass and enjoy a wonderful national parks vacation with the family.

Minneapolis Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Mount Rushmore
  • Badlands NP
  • Grand Teton NP
  • Yellowstone NP
  • Glacier NP
  • Theodore Roosevelt NP

Approximate Time Taken

2 weeks

Summary of the Road Trip

This trip was the first time our family planned a national parks road trip. Our family flew in and out of Minneapolis and began our drive towards South Dakota. Mount Rushmore was a classic stop with great views of the monument, an informative visitor’s center and nice side views from the drive. The Badlands were desolate but stunning and the Notch Trail hike was a family favorite. The scenery changed dramatically when we entered Wyoming and saw the Grand Tetons in the distance. Although Grand Teton National Park is small, its beauty was amazing. Highlights included white water rafting on the Snake River, hiking Jenny Lake and Colter Bay, and the town of Jackson Hole. It was then onto Yellowstone where everything seemed out of this world. There was not a sight that disappointed! We loved Grand Prismatic Spring, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Upper and Lower Geyser Basin, Lamar and Hayden Valley, and Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive and views from Grand Teton to Yellowstone were amazing.

From there we drove up to Montana, stayed in Whitefish, and visited Glacier National Park. The Going to the Sun Road was the most scenic and scariest drive I have done! Highlights included Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake Overlook, St. Mary Lake, and the solitude of the Two Medicine area. Our final national park on this trip was in North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was the most peaceful place I have visited, and also the one that surprised me the most. The town of Medora was a hit with everyone in the family. Overall, it was one of the best national park vacations we’ve ever had and the 4th grade national park pass saved us a ton of money!

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Park Pass


Theodore Roosevelt NP North dakota national parks

Salt Lake City Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Capitol Reef NP
  • Bryce Canyon NP
  • Zion NP
  • Canyonlands NP
  • Arches NP
  • Monument Valley (but the 4th grade national park pass doesn’t work there)

Approximate Time Taken

6 days

Summary of the Road Trip

We love knowing Utah has five amazing national parks, each one with their own version of beautiful landscapes. We live in Salt Lake City, and a family road trip through Utah gives you a taste of each of the Mighty 5. Capitol Reef is less popular than the other national parks, which means it’s less crowded. There are short and long hikes, offering some nice variety. Get some rest in Fruita before heading to Bryce Canyon National Park along Scenic Byway 12. The challenging part about Bryce Canyon is that all hikes start by descending from the high plateau – which means all hikes finish with an upward climb. But the hoodoos and rock formations are wonderful. Ruby’s Inn and other nearby hotels are great for an overnight stay. Venture south to Zion National Park and hike up to Emerald Pools, Angels Landing or Observation Point. Then continue through the park for an overnight stay in Kanab.

The next day, head south into northern Arizona. You can stop in Page to hike Horseshoe Bend or Antelope Canyon (not national parks or monuments, but beautiful). Continue west toward Blanding, Utah, and drive through Monument Valley to see the spot where Forest Gump decided he was done running (wink, wink). Stay in Blanding overnight and then tackle the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, before juggling a night in Moab with an adventure into Arches National Park. After having your fill with Utah’s Mighty Five, take the family – and the plethora of memories – back to Salt Lake City to finish your six-day round trip road trip through Utah. 

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Park Pass


Contributed by: Jason Carlton with Carltonaut’s Travel Tips

Mighty Five 4th grade national parks pass

San Francisco Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Presidio
  • Muir Woods
  • Yosemite
  • Sequoia
  • Kings Canyon

Approximate Time Taken

One week

Summary of the Road Trip

Don’t have much time but want to experience all the natural beauty of the Golden State? Take a trip around San Francisco Bay Area’s National Parks before hitting the road to the Sierras for Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia. Start by exploring San Francisco for two days, a city with an easily accessible National Park – Golden Gate Recreational Area. There are no entry fees, simply take public transport to your destination or park for free at the Crissy Field Parking Lot behind Sports Basement on Mason Street.

Visit Baker Beach for stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Fields for a bracing walk to the end of the pier to spot sea lions, before heading to the Warming Hut for a hot chocolate. If you are there on a summer Sunday, stop at Off The Grid, a weekly food truck event held at the Presidio’s Main Parade Ground. Next, head to Muir Woods National Monument either by taking the ferry to Sausalito from San Francisco’s historic ferry building and shuttle, or by driving to the entrance. You MUST book parking reservations in advance, as it is not possible to pay at the car park. This beautiful grove of old-growth Redwoods is a must-see if you are in the Bay Area, both for its natural beauty and historical significance.

After enjoying the Bay Area, pack up the car and head inland to one of America’s grandest National Parks: Yosemite. Most of Yosemite’s best-known attractions are easily accessible for families with strollers. The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls is a highlight not to be missed and easily hiked even with small children. Take at least three days for Yosemite before hitting the road again to see some of the biggest trees in the world at Sequoia National Park. Visit Giant Forest, to see the world’s largest living Sequoia, General Sherman. In nearby Kings Canyon National Park, you will find Grant Grove, an area with a high number of enormous trees on an easy-to-hike boardwalk.

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Park Pass


Contributed by: Sarah from Tiny Trailblazers

4th grade national parks pass Yosemite

Atlanta Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Castillo San Marcos
  • Fort Matanzas
  • Fort Pulaski
  • Fort Sumter
  • Congaree NP
  • Smoky Mountains NP
  • Kingsley Plantation
  • Fort Caroline

Approximate Time Taken

2 weeks

Summary of the Road Trip

We began in Atlanta and after exploring all of the fun things to do in the city, we headed north towards the Great Smoky Mountains. We stayed in Pigeon Forge, which was the perfect home base for our Smoky Mountain hikes. We then made our way to Greenville, biked and enjoyed the small city, and headed towards Congaree National Park. While not my favorite national park, the boardwalks, and the shaded canopy was a nice change of pace from the city. Charleston was a fantastic city filled with Southern charm and delicious food. While there, we took a ferry to Fort Sumter and learned more about the place where the Civil War started.

We drove south towards another charming city, Savannah, and headed towards Tybee Island to walk around Fort Pulaski. The Timucuan Preserve had two national monuments within five minutes of each other, the Kingsley Plantation and Fort Caroline. The kids enjoyed obtaining their junior park badges at both locations before we headed towards St. Augustine. The Castillo San Marcos was a sight to see! It is the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., and the walkable downtown was perfect for our family. Then, we began the long drive back to Atlanta. While this was more of a national monuments trip, our 4th grade national park pass came in handy.

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Park Pass


St. Augustine with Kids
Enjoying our Fourth Grade National Parks Pass

Seattle to Denver

National Parks Visited

  • Mount Rainier NP
  • Yellowstone NP
  • Arches NP
  • Mesa Verde NP
  • Rocky Mountain NP

Approximate Time Taken:

2 weeks

Summary of the Road Trip

As part of a four month cross-country road trip, our family spent two weeks visiting national parks in the West. Starting from Seattle, WA and ending in Denver, CO, we headed south to Mount Rainier, across to Yellowstone and then back south again to Arches and Mesa Verde. We finished off our national park road trip with a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Visiting Mount Rainier with kids is not difficult, as there are plenty of easy trails for little ones to tackle. You’ll see old growth forests, as well as alpine meadows. At Yellowstone National Park, the highlight of the park is seeing the animals that roam freely throughout the park. During a visit, you’ll most likely see bison, deer, elk, and possibly a bear! Remember to keep a safe distance from the animals, especially with little kids. Another highlight of the park is the hot springs and geysers that populate the landscape. Yellowstone actually sits on the remnants of an ancient volcano, and deep below the surface of the park flows hot magma!

While visiting Arches National Park, be sure to spend a morning hiking the trails and exploring the natural stone arches throughout the area. When the afternoon heat starts rising, head down to the nearby town of Moab for an icy treat and a cold drink. At Mesa Verde National Park, learn about the ancient dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. You can even walk through some of these dwellings. The Park Rangers lead guided tours of many of the cave dwellings, and will answer any questions your kids may have about the Ancestral Pueblo.

To finish off the road trip, head to Rocky Mountain National Park, and drive along the Trail Ridge Road. This route will take you all the up to 12,000 feet above sea level! End the road trip with a stay in Denver, CO.

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Parks Pass


Contributed by: Astrid from The Wandering Daughter

4th grade national parks pass mt rainier

Baltimore Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Fort McHenry
  • Gettysburg
  • Shenandoah NP
  • Historic Jamestowne
  • Yorktown Battlefield
  • George Washington Birthplace

Approximate Time Taken

1 week

Summary of the Road Trip

To make the most out of our 4th grade national park pass, we planned a Spring break trip filled with history. After arriving in Baltimore and visiting the sports stadiums and Inner Harbor, we enjoyed a visit to Fort McHenry. The introductory movie cannot be missed as it puts you right in the action of the battle and flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem. The ramparts and visitor’s center were excellent as well. From there, we headed to explore Washington D.C. and its Smithsonian Museums. Then we stopped in for a quick visit to George Washington’s birthplace and then onto Yorktown Battlefield, the battle in which the British surrendered, ending the American Revolution. After spending a couple of days in Colonial Williamsburg, we walked through the original site of the British settlement in Historic Jamestowne.

We then headed into Richmond and toured the White House of the Confederacy and headed towards Shenandoah National Park. We drove most of the Skyline Drive and enjoyed stopping at scenic viewpoints along the way. We hiked Dark Hollow Falls and Stony Man which provided beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Mountains, and waterfalls. After the park, we headed towards Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The museum had interesting maps and relics, but most of all, my kids loved collecting their Junior Ranger badges here and visiting where Lincoln gave the famous “Gettysburg Address”. After enjoying the town of Gettysburg too, we drove back to Baltimore to head home.

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Park Pass


4th grade national parks pass Gettysburg

Denver Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Colorado National Monument
  • Great Sand Dunes
  • Mesa Verde National Monument
  • Bandelier National Monument

Approximate Time Taken

8-10 days

Summary of the Road Trip

Head west on I70 From Denver through Colorado’s diverse mountain landscape to explore Colorado and New Mexico’s stunning national parks. The first stop on this road trip is the Colorado National Monument. Reserve a camping spot in advance and camp out for two nights. There’s plenty to do like hike, rock climb and take in the stunning views. Then, head south to the Great Sand Dunes. The drive will take you through many of Colorado’s charming mountain towns

Situated in southern Colorado, surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the Sand Dunes are remote and unique. Hike, sand sled and play at the beach (Yes, the beach in the mountains!). The Great Sand Dunes Lodge is a clean little motel located right at the park entrance. Head south towards Santa Fe. Stay in Santa Fe and enjoy all that this city different has to offer. Our kids especially love Meow Wolf, a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory place of discovery and imagination born of art. Make a day trip out to Bandelier National Monument, just outside of town. Here your kids will learn about the ancient Pueblo’s who lived here from about 1150 to 1500 AD. They can also climb ladders up into cliff homes. Now that their curiosity has been whetted, head north to Mesa Verde to dig in deeper. The ancient Pueblo people flourished here approximately 1400 years ago, building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. 

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Parks Pass


Contributed by: Liana from Insider Families

Great Sand Dunes 4th grade national parks pass

Los Angeles Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Sequoia
  • Kings Canyon
  • Yosemite
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Muir Woods
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Channel Islands

Approximate Time Taken

17 days

Summary of the Road Trip

Our family trip began and ended in Los Angeles, and covered a mix of National Parks plus other attractions between Los Angeles and San Francisco. After spending a few days exploring Los Angeles, we were on our way to see the majestic trees at Sequoia National Park. On the way, we stopped and climbed the 300+ steps to the top of Moro Rock for a spectacular view! Seeing all the massive trees while strolling through the Giant Forest was amazing. Don’t miss the General Sherman Tree, considered to be the largest living sequoia tree. We spent the night in one of the rustic Grant Grove Cabins, then left early the next morning for the winding drive into the gorgeous Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon. While some might skip the drive because it is somewhat remote, the beauty of this area is hard to describe. The family-friendly hiking through Zumwalt Meadow and the Roaring River Falls was well worth it!

From Kings Canyon, it took several hours for us to reach the south entrance of the iconic Yosemite National park!  Entering through the south entrance gives you the option to stop at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Be prepared for some amazing views as you catch a glimpse of El Capitan for the first time after you enter the park. Remember to book well in advance if you want to stay in the park at places like The Ahwahnee. We did find several options for larger families in nearby El Portal. During our Yosemite visit, part of my family did the 8 mile hike down from Glacier Point on the Panorama Trail, while my youngest daughter and I checked out some of the easier trails, like the Mirror Lake Loop and the trail to the Lower Yosemite Falls. Expect big crowds during the summer months, so get out early! On our 2nd day in the park, we drove north into Tuolumne Meadows along Tioga Road, where we explored Lembert Dome and enjoyed the spectacular scenery. I definitely wish we had stayed longer!

After leaving Yosemite, the next three days were spent exploring the San Francisco area, where we visited Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods, and Point Reyes National Seashore. From there, it was a beautiful drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, where after a few stops along the way, we ended up in Oxnard. The next morning we hopped on our early morning ferry ride for our exciting day trip to Santa Cruz Island, part of the unique Channel Islands National Park. Our adventure on the island included a ranger-guided hike, and time spent snorkeling in the chilly Pacific Ocean. We were fortunate to see the Channel Islands fox during our visit. Plus we saw California sea lions and harbor seals, which made for some great snorkeling memories! The best part about our California road trip was how each national park we visited was so unique! 

For those of you interested in visiting all 9 of California’s national parks, check out this California national parks road trip.

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Parks Pass


Contributed by: Kath from FamilyTravelsUSA

Yosemite 2 4th grade national parks pass

Fort Worth Round Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • White Sands
  • Saguaro
  • Petrified Forest
  • Grand Canyon
  • Mesa Verde
  • Bandelier
  • Petroglyph

Approximate Time Taken

13 days

Summary of the Road Trip

Our first parks hopping in the southwest began with driving 7 hours from home in the south of Ft. Worth, Texas to White City in New Mexico. Without a doubt, Carlsbad Caverns with its amazing stalactites and stalagmites formations in the Big Room made our jaws dropped. The next stop was White Sands National Monument, which is still in New Mexico. Not just our son, my husband and I had a blast here as well. Who would have thought you can sled and made a snow angel in the summertime? When we entered Arizona, the weather changed dramatically. It’s really hot and dry, the temperature reading in the car crept up to above 100 fast and stayed like that until we got to Tucson in the late afternoon. But it didn’t stop us exploring Saguaro with its giant cacti. They are very tall. Even with our son sitting on my husband’s shoulders, they still looked tiny standing next to the saguaro (the giant cacti).

From Tucson, we drove up north and our son had a hard time seeing petrified wood spread all over the Petrified Forest NP. He wanted to bring them home, but he knew that he could only hug, touch, lift, and put them back to its place. Then we spent a couple of nights at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This park amazed me the most. It seems like everywhere we went, nature never stopped showing off its best to us. Desert View, Yaki Point, Ooh Aah Point, Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and the Abyss are just a few points that you shouldn’t miss on your first visit. Then we crossed to Colorado to see the cliff dwellings built by the Indian Pueblo at Mesa Verde. Different views of nature but as impressive as the ones we visited on this trip. Before we headed home to Texas, we drove back to New Mexico, this time to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We had to climb 4 wooden ladders to reach the Alcove House located 140 feet above the ground at Bandelier and searching for the rock carvings left by the Native Americans and the early Spanish settlers at the Petroglyph. All in all, this first national park hopping trip was great and our son got to do the Junior Ranger program in all the parks we visited.  It was a great use of the fourth grade national park pass.  

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Parks Pass


Contributed by: Umiko from Two Worlds Treasures

texas 4th grade national park pass

Cross Country Road Trip

National Parks Visited

  • Cuyahoga Valley
  • Indiana Dunes
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Arches
  • Canyonlands
  • Capitol Reef
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Zion
  • Lake Mead
  • Joshua Tree
  • Grand Canyon
  • Sunset Crater Volcano
  • Montezuma’s Castle
  • Petrified Forest
  • Fort Smith
  • Little Rock Central High

Approximate Time Taken

18 days

Summary of the Road Trip

Our family took this trip during the early summer of 2020. We decided to leave on a cross country adventure and use our 4th grade national park pass that our daughter had to visit some major parks out West we had not explored. I decided to plan this family road trip and add to our route other national park sites we hadn’t explored and stay away from some of the big cities. We visited Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio and hiked the Ledges and crossed through to visit Indiana Dunes (which was underwhelming, in my opinion). Then we drove through Iowa and Nebraska to head towards Rocky Mountain National Park. From there, we crossed the state of Colorado towards the Mighty Five of Utah. We loved hiking to Delicate Arch, cooled off on the Sulphur Creek Trail in Capitol Reef, and went hiking in Southern Utah for a few days. We hit Las Vegas and then crossed into Joshua Tree, and headed on Route 66 towards the Grand Canyon. We visited a few other national park sites along the way back home and enjoyed our almost 3 week escape.

For a better summary of our trip, check out the Youtube video showing where we went and what what we did:

Money Saved with the 4th Grade National Parks Pass

$ 350

If you are thinking of planning a national parks road trip to take advantage of the 4th grade national park pass or even the annual pass, then these itineraries are great options for you to consider. Check out some of our Youtube videos on visiting National Parks:

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18 thoughts on “Basics of the 4th Grade National Park Pass and Road Trip Itineraries for Families”

  1. Great informative post! And such a good idea to include itineraries from other contributors! I’ve been tossing around ideas for our big summer 2020 trip and these itineraries will help!

  2. This is an awesome article! I failed to use our 2 oldest son’s 4th grade National Park Passes to their potential, and now after reading this…I plan to do it better with our 3rd son who will get his pass in a year. Thanks for these awesome examples!

  3. A few months before summer vacation arrives I like to remind people about the 4th grade passes. I think it really saves a lot of money for a family road trip. It’s great that this post gives choices of places to go from different cities in the country.

  4. I love this program. We have a rising third grader this year, but this really gets us thinking about travel planning for next year.

  5. I had no idea about the 4th grade National Park pass, is it specifically for 4th graders because it relates to what they are learning at school that year?
    Great post, I’m filing this for when we have a 4th grader of our own!

    1. It is because in 4th grade kids are old enough to appreciate the outdoors and have a better understanding of how to take care of our national parks. It is a fantastic benefit!

  6. Seem like a great guide for all the road trips. I would love to go for a road trip in the USA at some point, thank you for giving me the ideas

  7. Wow, your 4th grader sure saved you a ton of money. These are wonderful trips through our beautiful national parks. Well detailed.

  8. So unfair you need to have a 4th grader! 🙂 I would have printed the pass every time we would go to the US, and why don’t we have something similar in Canada?

  9. What a fantastic program! It is a great way to get kids (and their families) to love your national parks. I wonder how they decided to do it for 4th graders! Anyway each of these trips sounds epic! Even without a 4th grader, i’d love to go to all these parks!

  10. It’s such a great opportunity that 4th graders have with this pass! It looks like you guys had some awesome trips 🙂 I’m going to bookmark this for when my kids are a little older and we can take advantage of this pass as well.

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