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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of our National Park Service. In particular, I love the Junior Ranger Program they offer and generally any family vacations we take revolve around going to new parks and collecting more Junior Ranger badges for B and C. The parks are one of my happy places and I absolutely love visiting them.
I’ve shared on Instagram a few times pictures of the various badges we’ve collected and I often get questions about what this Junior Ranger program is. In a nutshell, the National Park Service offers a program (usually free, though there are a few exceptions) in many of its parks known as the Junior Ranger program. At participating parks, you can pick up a Junior Ranger activity book, usually at any visitor center. In these, you’ll find several activities and tasks your child will need to complete around the park or visitor center, sometimes based on age, in order to earn a Junior Ranger badge (or in some cases, a patch) for that park. Once they’ve completed all the required tasks, they’ll present their booklet to a ranger who will usually ask them a few questions about what they learned, then have them repeat a pledge, after which they get a badge.
There can be variations on this – some parks offer a patch instead of a badge, or even give both for extra tasks. Some parks offer both an in-person version of their program as well as an online version. Some parks offer several different badges, either based on age or different topics (eg. the Santa Fe Trail badge is offered at several different parks). No matter what, the Junior Ranger program is an excellent way to help your kids learn more about the parks you’re visiting and take home an extra little memento from their time there.
The Park Service does have a page with a list of Junior Ranger programs at different parks, but I’ve found as we’ve planned road trips and visited different places that it’s not comprehensive. So today I thought I’d offer a list of all the Junior Ranger programs at parks in the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming – part of Arizona is technically in this region as well, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m keeping that in the Southwest Region for a future post. I’m also including an interactive map so you can figure out which ones are closest to you. If you happen to be taking a vacation this summer in any of these states, I highly recommend stopping at a park to earn a badge! And if you’re planning on visiting multiple parks, definitely look into getting an America the Beautiful pass (or a FREE pass for fourth graders and their families!) as it can definitely save you money!
In the list below, you’ll find links to all of the Junior Ranger programs at the various parks, either to the National Parks website, or to a write-up I’ve made about our experience doing that particular activity. Please note that this is not a list of all the National Parks in the states listed, so if you want to visit parks that don’t offer a Junior Ranger program as well, check out the National Parks website. And if you’re wanting a way to remember your visits to the National Parks as well, passport books or this beautiful passport journal can be a fun way to keep track!
- Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (LaJunta)
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Montrose)
- Colorado National Monument (Fruita)
- Curecanti National Recreation Area (Gunnison)
- Dinosaur National Monument (Dinosaur) – please note that the dinosaur quarry and fossils are located only in the Utah side of the park
- Florissant Fossil Beds (Florissant)
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Mosca)
- Mesa Verde National Park (Mancos)
- Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park)
- Santa Fe National Historic Trail (various) – can be done at home
- also has Junior Wagon Master Program
- Big Hole National Battlefield (Wisdom)
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Fort Smith)
- Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (Nohly) – technically in North Dakota, but entrance is in Montana
- also has Junior Trader Program
- Glacier National Park (West Glacier)
- Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (Deer Lodge)
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Crow Agency)
- Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (Williston) – technically in North Dakota, but entrance is in Montana
- also has Junior Trader Program
- Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (Stanton)
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Medora)
- Badlands National Park (Interior, or also near Wall)
- Jewel Cave National Monument (Custer)
- Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (Philip)
- Missouri National Recreational River (Yankton)
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Keystone)
- Wind Cave National Park (Hot Springs)
- Arches National Park (Moab)
- Bryce Canyon National Park (Bryce)
- also has Geodetective Patch
- Canyonlands National Park (Moab)
- Capitol Reef National Park (Torrey)
- Cedar Breaks National Monument (Cedar City)
- Dinosaur National Monument (Vernal)
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (visitor center is located in Page, AZ, but book can be printed at home and mailed for badge)
- Golden Spike National Historic Park (Corinne)
- Hovenweep National Monument (Montezuma Creek)
- Natural Bridges National Monument (Lake Powell)
- Rainbow Bridge National Monument (Lake Powell – only accessible by boat or hike)
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Alpine)
- Zion National Park (Hurricane)
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Lovell)
- Devil’s Tower National Monument (Devil’s Tower)
- Fort Laramie National Historic Site (Fort Laramie)
- Fossil Butte National Monument (Kemmerer)
- Grand Teton National Park (Moose)
- Yellowstone National Park (Junior Ranger books are $3)
- Oregon & California National Historic Trail (CO, UT, WY) – can be done at home
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (MT, ND, SD) – can be done at home
- Pony Express National Historic Trail (CO, UT, WY) – can be done at home