The Joys of Being a Junior Ranger

The Joys of Being a Junior Ranger

Every summer, our family develops a new passion. One year, it was geocaching. One year, it was watching “American Ninja Warrior.” This year, our passion involves visiting some of the sites of the National Park Service.

During the visit, our children collect a Junior Ranger booklet from the Visitor’s Center. They then work on earning their Junior Ranger badges.

It has been a great joy to visit some of our nation’s national parks and monuments. We learn so much about the parks through the Junior Ranger program.

New Rangers at Capulin Volcano
Our Junior Rangers

What is the Junior Ranger Program?

Our son loves nature and animals. As I was researching Rocky Mountain National Park before a visit last year, I stumbled upon the Junior Ranger program. Each park has its own booklet and badge (or patch) for children. And since each park is unique in what it offers, each Junior Ranger book offers something new for our children to learn or explore.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Junior Ranger
Our daughter takes the Junior Ranger Oath and receives badges number 19 and 20 at the Visitors Center


How does it work?

Sometimes the kids will have to identify animals they saw or heard at the park. Other times, they will have to illustrate a feature of the park. Still other times, they might write about the historical significance of a park. It’s always different. And each park requires completing a different amount of activities based on a child’s age.

At Agate Fossil Beds NM
It’s a tradition for us to take our picture in front of the NPS sign at each site we visit.

What are the Rewards?

Once they have completed their booklet, our kids take the work to a Park Ranger who will review it and then award them a Junior Ranger badge. At some parks, our kids have been awarded the badge after raising their right hand and completing a pledge to protect and preserve the park’s natural features. I think my kids love this aspect, and feel a little bit of a let down if they simply receive a badge without saying the pledge. And since the kids are so excited to earn badges at each park, we decided to buy each of them a Junior Ranger vest to wear with their badges.

My kids and me at the Mesa Verde Visitor’s Center.

Learn More

If you have school age children, I would highly encourage you to investigate the Junior Ranger program and add a park or two to your summer adventures. You can find out more about the Junior Ranger program at Select any park and look under the kids and youth tab to discover the Junior Ranger program for that park. You also can read more about the NPS Every Kid in a Park program that gives a free yearly pass to Fourth Grade students here.

Update: July 2023

As our kids grow older, they are more reluctant to participate in the Junior Ranger program. I’m getting older too, but still love the fun of the program. Anyone want to loan me their kids for a trip to one of our National Parks? Just kidding, I’ll wait it out for some grandkids.


You Might Also Enjoy:

Our photo tribute to some of the National Parks sites we’ve visited throughout the years.

New Mexico has amazing park sites. See our guide to six of the state’s more underrated, but not to be missed parks.

All photos and content are by Family Well Traveled and use of photos or content without permission will result in legal action.

2 thoughts on “The Joys of Being a Junior Ranger”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.