Our adventure out West last year took us to a number of national parks—Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Although our visits varied—hiking here, a ranger program there, and kiddos working to complete Junior Ranger badges—there was one thing we did at every national park: We stamped our NPS passports. If you don’t already have your own passport to the national parks, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and it’s the perfect time to start this tradition.
You can buy the “Passport to Your National Parks” book for about $10 in the gift stores at national park sites. (Or you can head over here to pick one up online.) The passport cancellation stations can usually be found in the visitor’s centers of NPS sites. The cancellation stamp includes the name of the park as well as that day’s date—so always test to make sure it’s correct before stamping it in your book!
Some sites also have a special image stamp for their park (Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands pictured above and Devil’s Tower below). Since this year is the centennial celebration, the National Park Service has announced it will have special centennial passport cancellation stamps at the national parks.
In addition to the cancellation stamps, the passport book also has room for a select number of special edition passport sticker stamps. Each year a new set of stickers is produced, featuring about 10 different parks, but the NPS gift shops usually have a variety of past years on hand as well. (We have picked up a few of these sheets over the years—but of course the stickers haven’t made it into our book yet and I couldn’t find where we put them before this post went up. Hmmm… )
We have had so much fun collecting the cancellation stamps during our visits to national parks that our camping buddies got our kiddos the kids’ NPS passport edition. This book is set up a little differently—it has more educational content—and doesn’t have a dedicated area for the cancellation stamps, but our kids turned the “ranger autograph” section into their special spot to collect the stamps.
As our whole family works to collect stamps at all the national parks we visit, the books will serve as a wonderful souvenir for years to come. It’s the No. 1 thing you must do at every national park!