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Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Program: Free Fun For Kids

With amazing history, beautiful views and being a budget-friendly way to travel, our family loves visiting the national and state parks systems.  With three kids, the parks and historic sites offer a bang for my buck that I can’t get anywhere else.  While we love the National Parks Junior Ranger Program, the Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Program is closer to home and easier to complete since we’re within driving distance of every park.

If your kids are ready to learn, explore and take on the challenge of becoming a Junior Ranger, here’s everything you need to know about the Junior Ranger program for Georgia State Parks.

Georgia Junior Ranger Program Information
Earning a badge is just part of the Junior Ranger fun that kids experience.

Everything You Need To Know About Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Program

Every single Georgia State Park participates in the program. However, that also includes historic sites and partner attractions. If you live in Georgia, chances are you’ve got easy access to a state park that’s less than a few hours away from your home. That makes a day trip, with the kids, an easy itinerary.

We started our Junior Ranger journey with a trip to Panola Mountain State Park, which is just south of Atlanta, and just visited the “newest” state park site – Hardman Farms State Historic Site. Our kids love these little trips.

In short, the Junior Ranger program starts with an activity book for kids to complete at their park visit. Upon completion, the kids can turn in their ranger book for a badge and be “sworn in” as an official ranger of the park they visit!

Panola Mountain State Park, Panola Mountain State Park events, Panola Mountain Things to do with kids
The Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger program really helps get kids excited about exploring. Photo: Panola Mountain

What Is The Best Age For Kids To Start The Program?

About ages 7-8 is recommend for kids to start completing the Junior Ranger program for Georgia State Parks. There’s a way around this though! We complete one Junior Ranger activity book as a family when we visit a park. Upon completion, all of my kids take the pledge and everyone earns a badge. It’s a great way to introduce younger kids who may not be able to complete the activities on their own yet.

Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Activity Books

What kind of activities are involved? Each book is designed specifically for that state park or historic site. You’ll learn about the specific features and history of each site! Without the activity book, kids can breeze through sites and exhibits without any depth of knowledge.

When working through a Junior Ranger book, however, they pay a lot more attention to what’s around them since they are seeking out the answers for the book. They’re more engaged and learn more! It’s also adds a lot more fun.

Junior Ranger Book For Georgia
Junior Ranger activity books help kids learn about nature, history and conservation.

Earning Your Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Badge

Once you complete the specified number of activities, head back to where you picked up your book (typically the official Visitors Venter of each park). Make the official Junior Ranger pledge, be sworn in by a park ranger, and get a badge!

The badges are different for each site, so you can start a fun collection. They’re made of wood and quite fun to collect and compare. This is one of the few times that involving your kids in activities doesn’t break the bank, and it will have your kids learning about Georgia. 

Taking the Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Pledge
Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks. Check out more about the family pictured at VanPatten Adventures on Facebook. 

Special Events Designed For Kids

Sometimes parks will have special events geared toward your junior rangers! Check out the Junior Ranger Events Calendar for information on kid-friendly events and special opportunities to earn badges!

Before you head out to a park, make sure you check the Georgia State Parks website to ensure that the facilities you want to visit are open. Weather and refurbishments can cause parks to be temporarily closed.

More Junior Ranger Challenges

If collecting the 59 Junior Ranger badges isn’t enough for you, there are five additional rewards you can obtain. Guests can earn up to 5 additional embroidery stickers by completing more park activities.

To earn additional reward stickers, complete each outdoor activity 5 times and then take the page to a ranger to collect your reward for these categories:

  • Outdoor Fun: Play in the dirt or on a playground, golf, mini golf, disc golf, play tag or hide and seek, build a fort, fly a kite, or dance with the wind.
  • Wet Zone: Fish, swim, canoe, kayak, paddle board, aqua cycle, pedal boat, ride in a boat, or creek walk.
  • Blaze a Trail: hike, bike, ride a horse, or walk your dog.
  • Kids Care: Want to help a ranger? Attend a volunteer day at a park. You could be asked to pick up trash, remove invasive plants, stain picnic tables, plant trees or help with trails.
  • Camp Out: Spend the night in a tent or an RV. Make sure to use your 5 senses when it gets dark.

Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Camp Information

If your kids are ready to take learning to the next level, consider signing them up for the Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger camps! Each year a limited number of registration spots open for select state parks that offer the camps. Learn about plants at Vogel State Park in Blairsville, hikes and crafts are included with the Skidaway Island State Park near Savannah and campfire fun is available at Chattahoochee Bend State Park.

Be sure to sign up for the Georgia State Park email newsletter for yearly information on the camp dates and registration information.

Fun Ways To Display Your Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Badges

Looking for a fun way to display your badges? Turn them into Christmas ornaments! We used patches that we get at each National and State park, but you could do the same with your badges. All you need is some ribbon and hot glue.

We have a “travel tree” where we hang all our patches and ornaments collected on our travels. If you would rather not use the badges for this, then start a patch collection like we did. Super affordable and a fun way to remember your park outings! Every purchase supports our state parks.

How to display junior ranger badges
Display those hard earned badges in a fun way.

There are also great ways to display your Junior Ranger badges available for purchase at the Georgia State Parks. Check out the Visitors Center gift shops to purchase passport books, framed badge displays and even Junior Ranger vests that kids can wear with their badges displayed!

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