Discover new ways to enjoy the outdoors! The National Park Service’s Junior Ranger motto is “Explore. Learn. Protect.” And that is exactly what your 4 to 13-year-olds get to do! Explore national parks in the Bay Area; Learn about the park’s natural wildlife, landscape and history; and Protect those parks so we can trek through them for years to come! After completing a series of activities (like counting rings on a fallen tree, word games and deciphering secret codes), kiddos can earn an official Junior Ranger patch and a Junior Ranger certificate. Keep reading to find out exactly which parks offer this cool program. And we’ve included a few virtual options as well!
How it Works
It’s simple! Go to one of the parks listed below. Pick up the Junior Park Ranger book at the visitor center (or sometimes you can download and print from home). Have fun doing all the activities and then turn in your completed book to a park ranger and get your badge and/or certificate. And the best part is that it’s FREE and available year-round.
Where to Go!
Muir Woods National Monument
Spend time in the forest! Follow the directions in your book and then chat with a ranger about your time in the park. Discuss what you learned and what you’re still curious about. And then Wala! Your kiddo gets a badge and a certificate and you are now the proud parent of a Junior Park Ranger! Get the book here!
Best for Ages: 4-11+
Website: Muir Woods National Monument
Travel just north of the Golden Gate Bridge and explore the wonders of nature in the Marin Headlands. Learn about ocean ecology, the history of the inhabitants of years past and how to study animal scat! Get the book here!
Best for Ages: 6-12
Website: Marin Headlands Visitor’s Center
photo by Alcatraz Cruises
Explore one of the most iconic prisons in the United States. Dive into the mystery and unique history of this national park. Are you ready to become an Alcatraz Jr. Ranger? Get the book here! Follow the map and complete the exercises along the way! Books are also available on Alcatraz Island at the Dock Information Station. And if you can’t make it to Alcatraz, don’t worry. You can visit virtually using the Jr. Ranger Photo Gallery and an Alcatraz Ranger will send your little one a badge!
Best for Ages: 4-12
Website: Alcatraz Island
Fort Point National Historic Site
Explore the fort. Learn about its incredible history. And protect the fort’s beauty and environment so that generations can enjoy it for years to come! Try a scavenger hunt, interview a ranger and learn about the day in a life of a soldier (Fort Point defended the Bay after the Gold Rush and through World War II). Get the book here!
Best for Ages: 4-11+
Website: Fort Point National Historic Site
This Junior Ranger program searches for birds that live and visit China Camp’s shorelines and oak woodlands. You might find hummingbirds, raptors, shorebirds and waterfowl. Kiddos will also get an up-close peek at nests and feathers. Don’t forget your camera! The program will be guided by naturalists/educators Suzanne Mirviss and Paula O’Connell. And good news! All kids must be accompanied by an adult—so you can join in on the fun as well! Register Here
Best for Ages: 7-9
Date: April 9, 2022
Time: 10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: China Camp Ranger Station
Website: China Camp
*Pro-tip: Weather can be temperamental—layers work best! Snacks are welcome and water is encouraged.
San Francisco Maritime Park
Pick up your Junior Ranger activity book at one of three locations. Learn about a fleet of historic vessels and visit the maritime museum. At the same time, complete the activities and then find a park ranger who can review your kiddos hard work and award them with a well-earned Junior Ranger badge. Books are also available for download here for 5-8 yeard olds and 9-12 year olds.
Best for Ages: 5-12
Hyde Street Pier, Foot of Hyde Street/2905 Hyde Street
Municipal Pier (Aquatic Park Pier)
Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building (Maritime Museum), Foot of Polk Street/900 Beach Street
Website: San Francisco Maritime Park
Point Reyes Junior Ranger
Come to Point Reyes and pick up your Junior Ranger book at one of the park’s visitor centers. Explore the history of the Coast Miwok (people who call this area home) and learn about marine life (especially elephant seals and gray whales). When you finish your Junior Ranger book, return it to one of the visitor centers to get sworn in as an official Junior Park Ranger and receive your Junior Ranger patch. Too much time exploring to finish the book while you are in the park? Complete it later and mail it here: Bear Valley Visitor Center, Point Reyes National Seashore, 1 Bear Valley Road, Point Reyes Station, CA, 94956.
A ranger will check your work and mail the book back to you with a patch! Can’t make the trip to Point Reyes? Become a Virtual Junior Ranger!
Best for Ages: 5-12+
Website: Point Reyes National Seashore
Initiated in the summer of 2020, close to 10,000 people participated in Virtual Junior Ranger Programs. Because they were so successful, the staff decided to continue the programs. And now—a dual language Junior Ranger program is available online. Check it out for yourself! And click here to access six different modules to complete at your own pace.
Beach Buddies Junior Ranger Book
The Beach Buddies Jr. Ranger book features Petey Plover, a cute little bird with a brown Ranger hat. Petey guides you through fun activities that teach you how to keep your beaches clean and safe in fun and easy ways. Get the book here!
Best for Ages: 6-10+
Virtual Junior Ranger Railroad Explorer
Ready to become a railroad explorer? Learn more about the transcontinental railroad, which helped link the United States from coast to coast! Complete this book, check your work and complete the pledge in the back of the book.
Junior Ranger Sounds Explorer
Meet Lucy, the listening owl. Follow her as you explore the sounds of the park, learn the science behind those sounds and appreciate why we need to protect those sounds. Complete this book, check your answers with this key, have a parent sign the certificate to become a Junior Ranger Sounds Explorer. To find out more about natural sounds and why sounds matter, check this out!
Best for Ages 5-10+
Junior Ranger in Space
Co-designed with NASA, click here to access the Spaceflight Explorer Jr. Ranger book. Complete with math and matching puzzles, thinking questions, spot the difference photos, scrambled words and anagrams, children will learn about the Moon, space vehicles and national parks. Take the pledge, make your own badge, and show off your certificate proudly!
Best for Ages: 5-8
Junior Ranger Angler
Let’s go fishing! Get your booklet here! Learn about fishing, aquatic life and safety while you meet fish, learn about different types of fishing and get to know the gear. Parents, check their work and then scroll to the bottom of this page to print a badge.
Best for Ages: 5-12+
Junior Ranger Scientist
Explore magnificent caves, learn what cave scientists actually do and start protecting our natural environments and the things that make caves special! Complete this booklet and send it to this address: Jr. Cave Scientist, GRD-Academy Place, PO BOX 25287, Denver, CO 80225. Via mail, you will receive your booklet, a badge and a personal letter to your little explorer.
Best for Ages: 5-12+
Junior Ranger Night Explorer
Here’s the booklet! Try the “exploring with your Senses” and the “Take a Planet Walk” sections. Complete as much of the book as you can. Sign the book and take a look at your well-deserved virtual high-five.
Best for Age: 5-12+
— Nicole Findlay and Garrick Ramirez