How to Get Your Family Into National Parks for Free

The Every Kid in a Park program grants families fourth graders and their families free entry to national parks.
The Every Kid in a Park program grants families fourth graders and their families free entry to national parks.Craig Moore / Getty Images

President Obama's just-announced Every Kid in a Park initiative will give entire families free entry to national parks with one catch: There needs to be a fourth grader. The program, launched ahead of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary next year, attempts to engage children with the great outdoors and help families experience the parks together in celebration of the NPS centennial. All enrolled (and home school equivalent) fourth-grade students can register to receive a free Every Kid in a Park Pass, which also grants access for up to three accompanying adults. The pass is valid through August 31, 2016, intended to run the length of the school year and summer vacation before resetting for the next class of students.

While our parks are a national treasure, they can be expensive for an entire family to enjoy. The NPS's America the Beautiful annual pass, which grants adults the same access as the Every Kid in a Park pass, runs $80. A single car entrance fee for high-profile parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon currently cost $30 each, while Joshua Tree National Monument, Death Valley National Park, and Big Bend National Park charge $20. The new Every Kid in a Park pass has the potential to save families significant money over the course of the year.

While the pass pays your entry, it won't cover other costs, such as parking fees. At attractions such as Mount Rushmore, where admission is already free, there will still be a fee of $11 per car for day parking. Still, it's comforting to know that spending the day exploring the country's backcountry is cheaper than a day spent sitting at the movies. 

If you are fortunate enough to have a kid in the fourth grade, all you have to do to obtain their pass is register and order it online.