Stamp It: Passport to Your National Parks Program

Back in May I learned about the Passport to Your National Parks program through the National Park Service and I’ve been dying to get our brand new passport books stamped with my kids. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it just has not happened yet, but I didn’t want to keep you from having your own adventures in our national parks and getting your passport books stamped.

First, here’s the scoop on the program. National parks across the country have stamping locations where you can record your visits with a cancellation stamp (similar to a mark you find on stamped mail). The passport book breaks up the country into nine regions, each of which is identified by a different color stamp. For example, stamps for the Western Region (California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii) are green while those in the North Atlantic Region (New York, Connecticut, Maine, etc.) are brown.

These cancellation marks record the name of the park as well as the date of the visit. It’s free to get your passport book stamped and the stamping locations can often be found at a park’s visitors center (the passport books are available online for $8.95 or can be purchased at many parks). Just ask a park ranger to have your book stamped. Your kids will love this, and will be excited to go to new parks and historic sites to get new stamps.

While the official passport is useful, and includes a free map and guide to the national park system, look into several companion guides written by Randi Minetor if you want to get serious. I picked up the three that are available as small paperback books (North Atlantic, Southeast and National Capital regions) and each are $11 or less. My understanding is that the author may make guides for several more regions available in e-book format so stay tuned.

These companion guides are fantastic because they share what you need to know about where the stamping locations are, the number of stamps you can obtain at certain parks (many times you can get more than one), the hours the parks are open and any related fees. Randi also lets readers know the level of difficulty in obtaining the stamps, from easy to tricky. For those marked tricky, Randi lets you know exactly how and when to obtain the cancellation stamps.

When my kids and I have a chance to get our first stamps later this summer, I’ll be sure to put up a follow-up post to share our experiences with you. For now, I hope you can get out and get some passport stamps of your own.