My Sons List of Top 5 National Parks for Junior Rangers 

 By Kimberly Dijkstra

 

National parks are the perfect vacation destination for families because of how much nature, history, and inspiration they have to offer. The Junior Ranger Program makes the trip even more exciting and memorable for children as they get the opportunity to become little archaeologists, historians, and explorers. Ideal for children ages 5 through 13, anyone can complete the activities described in the booklets, available at visitors centers as well as virtually, and earn badges. 

 

Nearly all US National Parks participate in the Junior Ranger Program. Junior Rangers pledge to follow park rules as they explore their surroundings, help protect natural and cultural resources in the park by leaving everything as they found it, and model good behavior for others by helping keep the park clean, safe, and beautiful.

 

Here are the top 5 national parks for Junior Rangers. Take the oath today!

 


 

Badlands National Park

 

The ruggedly beautiful Badlands National Park in South Dakota contains one of the world’s richest fossil beds. The Junior Ranger activity booklet includes activities like mazes, crosswords, and drawings to help kids learn more about fossils, bison of the prairie, migratory birds, and Lakota culture. 

 

Budding paleontologists will enjoy learning about the millions of years of life embedded in Badlands formations at a Fossil Talk, offered daily on the Fossil Exhibit Trail.

 


Crater Lake National Park

 

The deepest lake in the US and one of the most pristine, Crater Lake draws visitors to its clear blue waters. The park, located atop the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon, is a wellspring for scientific research.

 

The Junior Ranger Activity Book is full of educational opportunities. Drawings illustrate how Mount Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago, collapsed into a crater, and filled with rain and snow.  It also has a bingo card filled with items to look for during your visit, like Wizard Island and marmots.

 

Kids will love getting up close to the lake’s unique aquatic ecosystem on a boat tour or on a trolley tour that circumnavigates the caldera on the 33-mile-long Rim Drive.

 


Pinnacles National Park

 

Born from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, Pinnacles National Park in central California has everything, from woodlands and canyons to rare talus caves and towering rock spires. This park is a dream for fledgling cave scientists who want to learn more about the 13 species of bats that occupy the caves.

 

The Pinnacles Junior Ranger Book is chock full of fun challenges and activities that get kids engaged with the fascinating landscape and wildlife, including a rocky connect the dots, a coyote maze, and a sensitive species word search.

 


Grand Teton National Park

 

With amazing wildlife, geology, history, and ecosystems, visitors can have a grand adventure at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The extraordinary terrain contains mountains, trails, rivers, lakes, and more.

 

The Grand Teton Junior Ranger Book is a great companion for young visitors to the park. Ranger Bingo has players looking for waterfalls, lodgepole pines, sagebrush, and animals large and small. The booklet also contains a map, tips for backcountry hikers, and all sorts of information about animal habitats and geology presented in an interactive way.

 


Shenandoah National Park

 

Only an hour-and-a-half outside Washington, DC, Shenandoah National Park is bursting with deer, songbirds, reptiles, and black bears. As part of the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, the park welcomes more than a million visitors each year.

 

The Shenandoah salamander will guide you through the fun tasks in the Junior Ranger Activity Book. Arrowhead Adventures teaches what each element of the National Park Service logo represents. The Sensory Hike activity encourages you to stop and listen to the call of birds, smell some wildflowers, and record how you feel out among nature.

 

Kids can be “wildlife detectives” by looking for evidence of animals on hiking trails, in forests, and in meadows, like tracks and feathers. They’ll also learn the Leave No Trace principle that calls upon visitors to experience wild places while protecting the plants and animals that live there. 

 


 

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