Mostly this list is for me, so I can keep track of which ones we have done, how long they took, and whether I (as a parent) liked doing them. If you don’t know about the Junior Ranger program here is a brief synopsis:
“There are currently over 200 Junior Ranger Programs in the National Park Service. In each of these parks, kids interview Rangers, complete games, and answer questions about the park and the National Park Service. At the end of their experience in the park, they are sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a special certificate and official Junior Ranger badge.”
You can find more about the program as well as a list of participating National Parks on their website here. There are also quite a few State Park programs, and since we’ve earned a few of those, they are also in the list at the end.
My biggest advice? Bring your own pen and don’t push your kids too hard!
Current National Count: 112
Most Recent: Big Bend National Park – Texas
- Saguaro National Park – AZ, Jan 2014. This park is beautiful! We visited the West side (there’s also an East) and loved it. The book was easy to understand and follow and not outrageously difficult. We worked in the visitor’s center for about 45 minutes, and then drove to both the Valley View Overlook, and the Signal Hill Picnic Area. We stopped back by the visitor center on our way out to turn in our books. Read the blog post here.
- Casa Grande Ruins National Monument – AZ, Jan 2014. We did this one on a drive through in about 2 hours. The ruins are fantastic & huge! We did the minimal amount for the book, but I’d recommend exploring the visitor center exhibits a bit more. They are definitely worthwhile! Read the blog post here.
- Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – AZ, Feb 2015. Easy enough to do in a few hours around the visitor center. I loved that they had a “Not So Junior Ranger” book for the adults, and I got to earn my own patch!
- Tumacacori National Historic Park – AZ, Feb 2015 – Arizona’s oldest mission. They have booklets that are a bit like a treasure hunt. You look for the images in the park along a walking tour. Once we were done, the ranger’s asked the kids a few questions and THEN gave us the books. Kind of odd, but it was a neat place!
- Coronado National Memorial – AZ, Feb 2015 – Beautiful views from the top of the canyon! Easy to complete in an hour and a half. The ranger on duty was fabulous and helped my kids with the touch table. We walked to the picnic area, the nature trail, and up to the cave. It’s a “complete as much as you can” type of book.
- Fort Bowie National Historic Site – AZ, March 2015. Very cool park! You have to hike IN to the visitor center and then the book takes about an hour. We loved all the history here!
- Chiricahua National Monument – AZ, March 2015. One of the lesser known parks, but turned out to be a favorite! Book was pretty easy to complete and didn’t take long. Full blog post here.
These next badges constitute a pretty awesome unit study on Native America culture and history in the southwest. Most of them are easy, short, and when earned in a short time frame are pretty amazing.
- Tonto National Monument – AZ, March 2015
- Montezuma’s Castle National Monument – AZ, March 2015 – Cliff Dwellings. Super short – maybe 45 minutes total.
- Tuzigoot National Monument – AZ, March 2015. Same day as Montezuma’s Castle. Ruins atop a hillside.
- Navajo National Monument – AZ, April 2015. Short stop during a longer drive. I would love to go back someday and camp down by the ruins.
- Wupatki National Monument – AZ, April 2015
- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument – AZ, April 2015
- Walnut Canyon National Monument – AZ, April 2015
- Grand Canyon National Park – AZ, April 2015 – Not my favorite. I felt it was actually quite difficult, and kept us from truly seeing what we wanted to in the park vs. what the book needed us to do. Plus, there were a gazillion people there over spring break. If you only have one day, go for a hike and just enjoy the park.
- Hot Springs National Park – Hot Springs, April 2016. Kind of a quirky National Park is its downtown and full of history. The book requires you to walk around downtown and identify different bath houses but we enjoyed it!
- President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home – Hope, April 2016. This was a random stop, the book was a lot of reading displays so our older two did it and our youngest did not.
- Buffalo National River – April 2016. We LOVED this area of Arkansas. The book was easy enough to do in about an hour at the visitor center.
- Pea Ridge National Military Park – Pea Ridge, May 2016. We did half the book in the visitor center and then rode our bikes around the park. It was a pretty good ride!
- Joshua Tree National Park – CA, Feb 2014. We picked up our booklets at the south Cottonwood Visitor Center and then drove through the park to Jumbo Rocks Campground for the night. We definitely loved the drive and the cactus garden. We turned in our books at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center outside the park when we were through. Great booklets – easy and fun to do!
- Cabrillo National Monument – CA, Feb 2014. This was a pleasant surprise! There are tide pools, a light house, visitor center with information about Cabrillo and his explorations as well as beautiful views of the San Diego Bay! One of the best books I’ve seen – it was actually more like a newspaper. We had a lot of fun! Read the blog post here.
- Pinnacles National Park – CA, March 2014. This one is not as popular of a park, but it was gorgeous! The books were well done. We spent the night in the campground and did a hike up to the caves. The kids loved it!
- Muir Woods National Monument – CA, March 2014. Spent a very rainy afternoon here. Still fun, and all the kids were able to complete their books. The kids have to do all the activities and some were harder than others. Was able to complete in a few hours though and the badges themselves are epic! Read the blog post here.
- Point Reyes National Seashore – CA, March 2014. I love seashores. This one didn’t disappoint. There are three areas where you can complete the booklet (only have to do one) and we visited the Bear Valley Visitor Center. We also drove out to see the lighthouse, but the kids weren’t interested in doing that section after already earning their badge. Beautiful area! Read the blog post here.
- San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park – CA, April 2014. In the heart of San Francisco, this area is my favorite! I love Ghirdelli Square, the boats on the water, and the beach. We toured the Visitor Center and then went out onto the dock to explore the Balclutha. This book is super short and easy to do!
- John Muir National Historic Site – CA, July 2014. I wish I’d learn that my kids are happiest when I don’t rush them. We had someone to meet and I felt like I pushed them through this. That said, this site is pretty interesting. John Muir did amazing things for wilderness areas and National Parks and we loved learning more about it. Book was fairly easy to do. Read the blog post here.
Redwood National & State Parks – CA, August 2014. We earned this alongside the State Parks patches as the two organizations work together to promote and maintain the parks. While the books covered more than just the Redwood section (there is also a section on ocean life and beaches) we didn’t complete that part. Read the blog post here.
- Lava Beds National Monument – CA, November 2014. So glad we went here! We almost didn’t, but the geology was completely fascinating. The books weren’t difficult as Rachel and Andrew completed most of it on their own. Cara needed help, but she didn’t have to do many pages. We visited various caves as well as Captain Jack’s Stronghold.
- Marin Headlands National Recreation Area – CA, December 2014. This is part of the greater Golden Gate NRA area. So much to do here! We hiked down to the Bonita Lighthouse, explored a battery and spent some time at the visitor center. Could’ve easily spent twice as long in this park! Read the blog post here.
- Yosemite National Park, – CA, Dec 2014. We spent the majority of our time hiking, so we just did the short, one page sheet to earn our badges. We’ll have to go back and get our patches next time! Read the blog post here.
- Death Valley National Park – CA, Jan 2015. This park is massively huge. My kids were disappointed we did every page except for the scavenger hunt near Scotty’s Castle because it was too far away.
- Mojave National Preserve – CA, Feb 2015. Easily one of our favorite parks. We picked up and completed our books at the Hole in the Wall Visitor Center. Easy & fun!
- Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area – Lee Vining, November 2016. Fairly easy. There are lots of different regions for this one and the badge is the same for all of them. You can purchase a different patch though. Definitely go see the Tufas.
- Muir Woods National Monument – San Francisco, CA, November 2016. Worth doing a second time as they redid their badges. Plus I just love this park.
- Channel Islands National Park – Ventura, November 2016. We camped on Santa Cruz Island for 3 nights over Thanksgiving.
- Cesar E. Chavez National Monument – Bakersfield, November 2016. The concept of Hispanic workers’ rights was perhaps over my kids heads. The movie was terribly dull, the museum was just okay, but the gardens were incredibly peaceful.
- Mesa Verde National Park – CO, April 2015
- Fort Pickens/Gulf Islands– FL, Dec 2013. Fort Pickens is part of the larger Gulf Islands National Seashore. There are 4 places you can pick up a booklet: Fort Pickens, Naval Live Oaks, Fort Barrancas, and Davis Bayou in the Mississippi District. As such, there are a variety of requirements ranging from facts about the Forts, to wildlife observation, and marine biology. It was a great mix, and fun to do. We only visited Fort Pickens and were able to complete the badge in about an hour and a half. Read the blog post here.
- DeSoto National Memorial – Bradenton, Dec. 2015. All about Spanish Conquistadors. Peaceful. Loved the exhibits, but the movie was a little too violent for my 10 year old. Stroll through the mangroves was fabulous.
- Dry Tortugas National Park – Key West, Dec 2015/Jan 2016. Super easy book so get the badge even if you only go for a day trip. We camped for two nights. Blog post here.
- Everglades National Park – Jan 2016. This book is in conjunction with Biscayne & Cypress. If you visit all three parks and earn a badge you can also earn a patch. I thought it was well done and fairly easy to do.
- Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge – Cape Canaveral, Jan 2016. This was our first wildlife badge and it was fun! We drove around the refuge looking for wildlife and also worked on our books at the visitor center. This area is beautiful. Also nearby is the Canaveral Seashore which has its own program.
- Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve – Jacksonville, Feb. 2016. Our kids actually earned this one twice. We did both the Kingsley Plantation and Fort Caroline segments. Different books. Both were great!
- Castillo De San Marcos – St. Augustine, Feb. 2016. This is a fantastic stop in historic St. Augustine. Fun to explore, Jr. Ranger book was easy, and the fort actually absorbed canon fire, making it practically indestructible.
- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield – GA, December 2015. We spent so much time in the Visitor Center working on this book I felt we didn’t get to see the park at all. Tons of busy work (word searches, etc) that I felt weren’t necessary. Not my favorite.
- Fort Pulaski National Monument – Savannah, Feb. 2016. We biked out to the fort on the rail trail and our favorite part was watching the soldiers fire the canons. Easy enough book, make sure to walk outside and see the canon damage on the outer walls.
- Cumberland Island National Seashore – St. Mary’s, Feb. 2016. We did a 2 night backpacking trip out to the island. The ruins, the mansion, the ferral horses, and the beach were all amazing.
- Craters of the Moon National Monument – July 2016. Its seriously like walking on the moon. But its hot in the summer. You’ve been warned.
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Chesterton, October 2015.
- Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Site – Hodgenville, Oct 2015.
- Mammoth Cave National Park – Mammoth Cave, Oct 2015.
- New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park – New Orleans, March 2016. Unfortunately all the music was done for the day, and since the building was getting ready to undergo renovations there wasn’t a whole lot to do. We quickly earned our Jr. Ranger badges and moved on to other things!
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve – New Orleans, March 2016. We walked along the boardwalk, did our Jr. Ranger Books, and watched an incredibly old, outdated film that totally bored ALL the kids and the parents. If we hadn’t just come from Florida and the amazing Cypress Swamps there, maybe it would have been more impressive? At least we were with friends which always makes things more fun!
- Fort McHenry – MD, Sept 2013. You need to bring your own crayons. There was a coloring activity we didn’t do and some other things we couldn’t find. Kind of disorganized and random, but good. Read the blog post here.
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising, August 2015. Good sized book for the park. Best time of year to visit is early spring (end of May – beginning of June) or in September. We’ll have to go back as there was just too many people for us to handle.
- Keweenaw National Historic Park – Calumet, August 2015. The books says for 8+ and it really is. Cara and I did most of it together, with me teaching her along the way and mostly filling it in myself. The older two did great and its definitely a great history lesson of the area, as well as informative about mining. We enjoyed it!
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Empire, Sept 2015.
- River Raisin National Battlefield – Monroe, Sept 2015.
- Pipestone National Monument– Pipestone, June 2015. Great little park about Native American pipestone quarries. Loved the walk out to the waterfall and back.
- Mississippi National River & Rec Area – St. Paul, July 2015. This one was lame. Super short book, but the visitor center in St. Paul is small and I don’t feel like we got a good feel at all for the area. Mostly there was whining.
- Voyageurs National Park – International Falls, August 2015. Hit our all time favorite list of parks. My two older kids completed the book practically on their own, and there was a fun, easier version for my 5 year old. It was perfect. Read the blog post here.
- Grand Portage National Monument – Grand Portage, Sept 2015. MORE on the voyageurs. We were happy people. Easy enough book to do while exploring the fort.
- Glacier National Park – Sept. 2016.
- Great Basin National Park – NV, July 2014.
- Lake Mead NRA – Las Vegas, Jan 2015.
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM, Jan 2014. The caverns are definitely a must see! They are enourmous! We picked up our booklets in the visitor center and sat right down on the floor to start while the rangers cleaned our shoes (long story). We finished at the bottom of the natural entrance trail and after we toured the Big Room. We were proud of how well our kids did with all the hiking! Read the blog post here.
- White Sands National Monument – NM, Jan 2014. This was great! Most of the book can be completed in the visitor center (using the video & displays) and then there are a few that include hikes and being out on the dunes. There are 3 different levels with varying requirements but for my 8, 6, and 3 year old it was definitely do-able. Don’t forget to get your sled from the gift shop and go “sanding”! Read the blog post here.
- White Sands National Monument – NM, February 2017. We did this book again and it definitely had changed! I liked it better this time and the kids were able to get a patch instead of a badge so it worked out great!
- Oregon Caves National Monument – OR, August 2014.
- Crater Lake National Park – OR, August 2014.
- John Day Fossil Beds – OR, November 2014
- Independence Park – PA, Nov 2013. I was less impressed with the park as a whole, but the Jr. Ranger booklet was easy to follow. My kids didn’t find this one too difficult. It probably took us about 2 hours. We didn’t get tickets to go on the Independence Hall inside tour, but were still able to complete the book. Read the blog post here.
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial – SD, June 2015. Worst book EVER. Not designed for younger kids (all reading, very few photos).
- Badlands National Park – SD, June 2015. LOVE this park. Its big and requires some driving, but worth it.
- Minuteman Missile Historic Site – SD, June 2015. Plan ahead if you want to actually go down in the silo! Tours were sold out the day we were there.
- Stones River National Battlefield – Murfreesboro, Oct 2015. I’ve decided I really don’t like battlefields. Especially Civil War ones. Its too hard to imagine the entire war and then just the small piece of it. I think we’ll be skipping these from now on.
- San Antonio Missions National Historic Park – San Antonio, March 2016. Riding our bikes along the riverwalk and visiting the missions was one of our favorite things in San Antonio. Booklet was easy enough for the kids to do mostly on their own. Full blog post here.
- Big Bend National Park – Terlingua, February 2017. This park is HUGE. It takes some logistical planning to visit but totally worth it in the end. The badge was easy enough to earn, and we were able to earn all three Centennial Hiking patches as well (Hot Springs, Panther Path, Emery Peak).
- Zion National Park – UT, May 2014.
- Timpanogos Caves National Monument – UT, June 2014.
- Bryce Canyon National Park – UT, June 2014.
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – UT, July 2014.
- Golden Spike National Historic Site – UT, July 2014.
- Arches National Park – UT, April 2015
- Dinosaur National Monument – UT/CO, May 2015
- Hovenweep National Monument – CO/UT May 2016. Fun, easy book. Requires a hike but you should do the hike anyway.
- Natural Bridges National Monument -Blanding, May 2015. Day tripped in and the visitor center was under construction. Still had fun exploring the park and the book was easily doable in a few hours.
- Zion National Park – Springdale, December 2016. We spent Christmas here and Rachel & Andrew earned this badge for the second time. This round they had the really neat wooden ones!
- Prince William Forest – VA, Sept 2013. This one is loooong. Lots of activities, lots of hikes and they have to do it all. The ranger mentioned they get a lot of annual pass holders so families finish it over time. It took us a month.
- Great Falls – VA, Sept 2013. Super quick. Meant to be done in about an hour. My kids loved this one as you got to explore the remains of the old canal. The book was very well laid out, easy to follow, and worked in progression as you walked one of the trails. One of my favorites. Read the blog post here.
- Manassas Battlefield Park – VA, Oct 2013. I think this one took us about 1.5 hours. I love when the book actually tells you which exhibit in the museum to look for the answer. Soooo helpful. Also answer questions as you walk around the battlefield reading the plaques. Sam will forever remember that this is the battle where Stonewall Jackson got his nickname. You can choose between a patch or a badge on this one, and they have a super easy 3 year old “booklet” for the younger ones. Cara loved it. Read the blog post here.
- Yorktown Battlefield – VA, Nov 2013. Not my favorite. Lots of walking (through the town & outside on the battlefield) or actually driving the battlefield tour. Really hard when you have 3 young kids. Different booklets for ages 4-6, and 7+. Younger booklet was easier to complete around the visitor center. We struggled with Rachel’s. Luckily the ranger was super nice and gave us an A for effort.
- Historic Jamestowne – VA, Nov 2013. We swept through this one in about 30 minutes. Totally not the way to do it, but Rachel *really* wanted to and that’s all the time we had. We skipped the video in the visitor center and I justify it with the knowledge that we spent 4+ hours at the nearby Jamestown Settlement (not run by NPS) and I know my kids learned a ton there.
- Mount Rainier National Park – WA, September 2014
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site – WA, September 2014
- Ebey’s Landing National Historic Preserve – WA, October 2014
- Olympic National Park – WA, October 2014
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Site – WA, October 2014
- President’s Park – DC, Oct 2013. Another easy one. They are in a temporary location as they are re-doing the visitor center so there were 2 activities (based on displays) that we couldn’t do. The others involved walking around the White House grounds. As an adult, I found this one intriguing.
- National Mall & Memorial Parks March on Washington Special Edition – DC, Oct 2013. This one is short but you have to visit most of the monuments to find the answers. We did most of this one at home (questions about MLK and the freedom march) because I printed it from online. Not sure if this is a 2013 thing or not. The ranger said they are updating the regular National Mall booklet but was unsure when it would be out. Read the blog post here.
- Great Lakes – WI, August 2015. This was a surprise! We visited the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center while staying in Ashland and were surprised to find they had this book. Easy to do in just about an hour wandering around the visitor center. This was our 75th badge!
- Apostle Islands National Seashore – Bayfield, WI, August 2015. This one was great because we went out to Stockton Island and camped for 2 nights. We really got to experience the islands. You could still complete the book in Bayfield or at Little Sand Bay, but there’s not a whole lot of other activities at either location. We passed ours off to the ranger on the island which was pretty fun!
- Grand Teton National Park – WY, May 2015
- Yellowstone National Park – WY, June 2015
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – WY, June 2015
- Devil’s Tower National Monument – WY, June 2015
- Ocean Steward – WA, October 2014
- Wilderness 50th Anniversary – WA, October 2014
- Junior Night Ranger Explorer – UT, July 2014. The patch for this one is awesome!
- Paleontologist Jr. Ranger – UT, May 2015
- Underwater Explorer – FL, Jan 2016
- Centennial Jr. Ranger Activity Book – AR 2016
- California State Parks – CA, August 2014. (4 EdVenture Quest Patches, and the CA State Parks Patch) Super impressed with the extensiveness of this program! It was actually really difficult to earn, and the CA State Park program is only available during the summer. Read the blog post here.
- Oregon State Parks – OR, August 2014.
- Snow Canyon State Park – UT, May 2014.
- Roper Lake State Park – AZ, March 2015
- Lost Dutchman State Park – AZ, March 2015
- Dead Horse Ranch State Park – AZ, March 2015
- Colorado State Parks, James M. Cobb – May 2015
- Custer State Park – SD, JUne 2015 – For a state park, this was a pretty great book. Kids could earn a certificate, a seal (sticker) or a patch. Combination of ranger-led programs and booklet pages. Unfortunately the ranger checking their books kept getting interrupted and it took FOREVER to get their patches.
- Minnesota Jr. Naturalist, Pinelands – Sept 2015
- Florida State Parks – December 2015
- Texas State Parks – April 2016
- Kartchner Caverns State Park – AZ, February 2017.