Families of 4th & 5th Graders Get in for Free to Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan through August 2021
Most people don’t realize that the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan will let your whole family in for free if your 4th or 5th grader is participating in the national Every Kid Outdoors program. (This is the same program that is giving out free Christmas trees to 4th & 5th graders.)
Visits to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore have been more popular than ever, and we predict that trend will continue into 2021 as families look for fun ways to experience the outdoors together.
While Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore currently does not charge an entrance fee, one is being considered.
The fee for an entrance pass to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is $25 per vehicle as of 2020.
How the Program Works
In 2015, President Obama announced the creation of a new initiative, Every Kid in a Park, that would allow 4th-grade students (along with their families) free access to National Parks in the US.
The goal was to get kids away from screens and into the outdoors.
From day one, the goal of the program was to provide a pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters for a full year. But, because the name of the program, and the publicity surrounding its announcement, emphasized parks, most people did not realize that the passes also work in National Lakeshores, National Forests, and other federal properties.
The name of the pass has been changed to Every Kid Outdoors to help correct the public’s perception of the program.
In Michigan, we have one National Lakeshore where this pass comes into play: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Getting the Pass is simple.
Fourth-grade students just need to visit the Every Kid Outdoors website, participate in a short educational activity, and then download a paper voucher to print and bring with them on their visit. Every Kid Outdoors begins each year on September 1 and goes through August 31.
5th Grade Students can also get free passes through Aug 31, 2021.
This is because they missed out on using their passes as a 4th grader due to the pandemic. As a result, current fifth-grade students can download a voucher to access the National Parks, Lakeshores, Forests, and other lands included in the program.
How to Use Your Pass
- Show your voucher to a ranger when you enter. If there is no ranger, leave it on the dashboard of your car.
- If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person, the voucher admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
- If your group visits a site that charges vehicle entrance fees, the voucher admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle.
- If you arrive at a site on a bicycle, the voucher admits all children under 16 and up to three adults on bicycles.
The passes come with several rules.
One is that the student holding the pass must be present in order for the family to access free admission.
Other important rules include:
- You must print the voucher. They can’t accept electronic versions of the paper for access.
- No refunds are given for previously purchased passes, or if you forget your voucher when you visit.
- If you lose your voucher, get a new one by visiting the website and printing a new one.
- Commercial vehicles can’t use a voucher to get in.
Participating Michigan & National Destinations
Every Kid Outdoor Passes will get your 4th or 5th grader into more than Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan.
If you’re into nature or backpacking, you might want to use it to visit Isle Royale National Park up in Lake Superior.
The pass is also good for access to River Raising National Battlefield Park in SE Michigan.
Michigan National Forests and Grasslands access is included with the pass as well. There are so many of these places scattered throughout Michigan. You can find activities and locations by using the US Forest Service’s online visitor map.
Some of the National Forest access points, like in the Huron-Manistee National Forests, require a parking permit. Your pass can waive that fee.
Of course, the passes work to get your family into any of the National Parks in the US.
Heading to Zion, the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone National Park this summer? Be sure to bring your 4th or 5th grader and their pass along to get the entrance fee waived!
You can find more ideas for trips and ways to use your pass on Recreation.gov.
What to Expect at Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes is more than just a series of big sand dunes.
The National Lakeshore has so much going for it, and is so spread out, that you’re going to want more than a day to explore.
Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect when you use your pass at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Some of the highlights at Sleeping Bear Dunes include:
Climbing the massive dune climb
Swimming in Lake Michigan
Hiking to epic views
Stargazing from the Dune Climb
Biking the Heritage Trail
Exploring the shops in Glen Arbor
Stopping everywhere along Pierce Stocking Drive
For the full rundown on how to have the best family experience at Sleeping Bear Dunes, read this.
Michigan Travel Resources
When you’re done at Sleeping Bear Dunes, there’s a lot more explore in Michigan.
Use these resources to plan your next MI travel adventure and have fun!