We’ve lived here in Yellowstone for almost two years now, and our kids are finally getting old enough to participate in some of the unique Park-run opportunities. This year Yellowstone redid their Junior Ranger program, and we didn’t want to miss out. We played “tourist” for a couple of days and got a little different view of the areas around us. The program is a great way to get families involved in the Park and digging deeper into your experience.
Available for $3 at visitor centers around the Park, the self-guided Junior Ranger program is broken up into 3 different levels/awards:
- Geyser: Ages 4-7
- Grizzly Bear: Ages 8- 12
- Bison patch: Ages 13+
Everyone uses the same booklet, but just does different pages, and has different amounts of pages requirements. Visitors (or residents) can also earn a “snowflake patch” in the winter months. To earn your patches, all Junior Rangers must complete the following:
- Attend a Ranger-Led program
- Hike a trail in the Park
- Complete activities in the booklet (again, the amount of those is based on the age of the Junior Ranger)
This year we bought a booklet for both J (5 years) and P (3 years) thinking they would like to do it together. While P happily hiked and did the Ranger Program, we agree that 3 is just a little too young and will hold on to it for him for next year. He could go through the motions of completing the booklet activities, but he wouldn’t get much out of it.
On the other hand, J really got into completing the pages and learning. He did more than was expected and asks about it often. We figure we’ll hang on to the booklet and let him complete the other badges as he gets older.
The best part about the whole program is that it really isn’t JUST for kids. I learned some great new facts about Bison at our Junior Ranger program (and I am surrounded by them most of the winter.) It’s a great way to learn alongside your child (and I just may go back and get my own Bison patch…)
Not planning on visiting Yellowstone this year but want to get the family excited about the Park? Check out the “Webrangers” program – you can do it from your own computer. There’s also a whole bunch of activities for kids on the NPS website to do before you come.
Be sure to visit your own local National Park and start earning your patches around the country!
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