“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver

National Park Service Junior Ranger Program

Did you know that almost all national parks have a Junior Ranger program? Anyone from the ages of 4 – 110 (my kids think that’s so funny) can participate, and it’s totally free.

Junior Rangers are charged with the mission to “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” the parks. Each park has a series of activities to complete – some are crossword puzzles or mazes, some are simple field studies or listening to a ranger talk.

How long the activities take to complete is mostly up to you and how long you’re visiting. We were in Grand Canyon for three days so we spread our activities out over that time. We were only at Statue of Liberty a few hours, so we hustled through those activities (but it’s important to note that since Statue of Liberty had a lot less ground to cover, the activities were much shorter). Sleeping Bear Dunes wasn’t hard at all, mostly because we were familiar with the area and could complete some activities quickly.

Working on Junior Ranger activities at Grand Canyon National Park.
Working on Junior Ranger activities at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
(Fuzzy pen helpful but not necessary.)
Working on Junior Ranger activities at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

When you’ve completed all the activities, take your book to a ranger station to review your book with a ranger. When your book is completed, you’ll receive your Junior Ranger badge. (This can vary by park – at Sleeping Bear Dunes the kids received a badge, patch, and certificate.)

Taking the Junior Ranger oath at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

So far we’ve completed Junior Ranger programs at three national parks – Grand Canyon National Park, State of Liberty National Monument, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Each park has a slightly different program, each focusing on the parks history, wildlife, and landscape.

Taking the Junior Ranger oath at Statue of Liberty National Monument.

Tips & Links

Tip – Some parks have their Junior Ranger books available online. This can be a great timesaver as you won’t have to stop at a ranger station to pick them up. We had our books mailed to us, and we completed 5 of the 11 activities before we entered the park. (As native Michiganders and long-time visitors, this wasn’t hard at all.)

Click here to have your Sleeping Bear Dunes Junior Ranger book mailed or emailed to you.

Click here to read more about the Junior Ranger program and find other parks with their Junior Ranger materials online.

You can also earn Junior Ranger badges from home. Click here to learn more.

Do you have a kid entering fourth grade? Don’t forget about the Every Kid in a Park program. This program allows fourth graders and their families to enter national parks for free! It is the coolest program. We used it to enter Grand Canyon National Park last year.

I hope this info is helpful to you and encourages you to get out and explore. Explore, learn, and protect!



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