If you’re a California resident with a fourth grader at home, pick up one more school supply for the coming year: a California State Park Adventure Pass, which allows your whole family to visit state parks for free through the end of next summer.
The new program—part of the First Partner’s Office and the Natural Resources Agency—is similar to the federal Every Kid Outdoors initiative, which grants fourth graders free admission to national parks. The Golden State program “will help promote a healthier, more equitable California for all—where every child has the opportunity to explore, learn, and benefit from our state’s natural wonders,” says Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California’s First Partner.
Why fourth grade? Experts have pinpointed that as an ideal developmental age for kids to connect the world they see around them with the history and natural science they learn at school. Studies also show that regular access to nature can boost kids’ physical and emotional health, reduce stress, and help them thrive academically.
Apply for the Adventure Pass by creating a free account in your name on ReserveCalifornia.com and list your fourth grader, with birth date, as a family member. Once the pass arrives by email, print it or store it on your smartphone.
Show the pass at the gate of any participating state park, and everyone in the car gets in free: your fourth grader, up to three adults (ages 16 and up), and any other kids along for the ride. The pass is valid every day, including holidays, from September 1 of your child’s fourth-grade year until August 31 of the next year. (You can also apply for the pass by calling (800) 444-7275 or visiting one of the 31 State Parks Pass Sales Offices.)
The 19 participating parks cover every region of the state and include a range of terrains and activities. Go stargazing at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, play in the sand at Seacliff State Beach in Santa Cruz, or bask among the big trees at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Del Norte County. Or, explore a few state parks that are also museums, such as the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History in San Luis Obispo County.
Good news for families with second- or third-graders: This pilot program is scheduled to run for three years, so those kids will get their turn in the future.