Entry Into Canada’s National Parks Is Free For 2017
Canada’s National Parks and historic sites will have free entry for the year of 2017. This is to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday.
The free Parks Canada Discovery pass can be ordered now and shipped world wide: Parks Canada Admission. Due to overwhelming demand for the passes the Parks Canada website has been crashing. You may get an error message and have to try again later. The passes will continue to be free through 2017 so there is no urgency.
What If I Am Arriving To Banff Without A Free Pass?
If you are arriving at the east Banff park gates without a park pass stop at the drive-thru kiosk and they will issue you a free pass for your vehicle. This is where you will be arriving if coming from Calgary. If you have entered Banff from another entry point stop in at a parks visitor office and get a pass to display on your vehicle. Locations are listed further down in this article.
Is A Park Pass Still Required To Be Displayed On My Vehicle If It’s Free?
Parks Canada would still like everyone to get a pass. When people stop at a park gate or a visitor center it is an opportunity for the parks staff to interact with them. This is when they can be provided important safety and wildlife information.
Expect Banff National Park To Be Busier In 2017
Being one of the most popular places in Canada you can expect that Banff National Park will be extra busy in 2017. Parks Canada is advising that people book early or consider visiting the park outside of the peak times.
What Is Free And What Is Not With The Parks Discovery Pass
Admission to all national parks, historic sites and national marine conservation areas and lockage at Parks Canada canal and historic waterways. Regular fees still apply to camping, overnight backcountry use, mooring and reservation fees.
Information For Those Planning To Visit Canada’s National Parks In 2018 Or Later
Below is all the regular information that applies to Canada’s National Parks when the free admission will not be in place from January 1, 2018 and beyond.
The entry fees associated with the Canadian National Parks in the Rocky Mountains are a source of confusion for many people. It starts with the term “entry fee.” You have to pay for the number of days you will be in the parks, it’s not a flat entry fee. It gets even more confusing. The pass is associated to the vehicle entering the parks, yet the charge is per person in the vehicle. The people themselves are not required to carry a pass around with them in the parks, it remains in the vehicle on the dashboard. Baffled yet? Read on and hopefully it will all make sense.
When Are You Required To Buy A Park Pass?
If you are entering a park in your own vehicle or a rented vehicle and will be stopping or using the park in any way, you are required to have a valid pass. This includes stopping at a viewpoint or pullout to enjoy the scenery or to take photos, a quick stop to see Lake Louise, using a picnic area, attending an event, festival or conference or stopping in a town or village such as the Banff town site, even it is just to grab a quick bite to eat. Camping, hiking or use of any park facility also requires a park pass in addition to any applicable camping fees.
Don’t be confused thinking you don’t need to buy a park pass because you are staying in accommodation outside of the park and only entering during the day to sight see. For example, if you are staying in Canmore as a base to explore Banff National Park you still need a valid park pass for each day you enter into the park.
If you drive on either of the scenic parkways such as the Icefields Parkway (#93N) that runs from Lake Louise to Jasper or the Bow Valley Parkway (#1A) that runs between Banff and Lake Louise you are required to have a park pass, even if you are not stopping.
A pass is not required if you are driving straight through Banff National Park on the Trans Canada Hwy #1 and are making no stops. The same applies for driving straight through Jasper National Park on the Yellowhead Hwy #16.
Do I Buy A Pass For Each National Park In The Rocky Mountains?
You do not need a separate pass for each park. You can visit all the Rocky Mountain Parks such as Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes and Elk Island National Parks with the same pass. As long as it is valid for the total number of days you will be visiting. Example: You entered a park on June 10th and paid for a total of 4 days. The park pass would be valid to June 14th until 4pm. During that time you can come and go in between the parks as you wish.
Types Of Canada National Parks Passes Available
There are two types of passes, a daily pass and an annual pass. For each type there are four pricing categories.
- youth ages 6-16
- Adult ages 17 to 64
- Senior age 65 and up
- Family/Group is up to 7 people traveling together in one vehicle
Daily Pass – valid until 4pm the next day regardless of what time it was purchased. If you were visiting the parks for several days you would buy the amount of daily passes needed for time you plan to spend in the parks. Example you enter a park on August 17th and pay for 3 days. Your pass would be valid to August 20th until 4pm.
Annual Discovery Pass – valid for a full year until the end of the calendar month from the date purchased. Example: an Annual Discovery Pass purchased on August 17th 2014 would be valid until August 30th, 2015
The Annual Discovery Passes provide entry into over 100 National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites. Historic sites you may want to visit in Banff are the Banff Park Museum and the Cave and Basin.
Cost Of Daily Park Passes And Annual Passes
Daily Pass Prices
- Adult $ 9.80
- Senior $ 8.30
- Youth $ 4.90
- Family/Group $ 19.60
Annual Discovery Pass Prices
- Adult $ 67.70
- Senior $ 57.90
- Youth $ 33.30
- Family/Group $ 136.40 (up to seven people arriving together in a single vehicle at a National Park or National historic site)
Cash and major credit cards are accepted as payment.
When Is It More Economical To Buy An Annual Discovery Pass?
Whether it’s one individual or two or more people traveling in one vehicle it is more economical to buy an annual pass when you will be in the parks for 7 or more days. At $9.80 a day for an adult you can see that once you hit 7 x $9.80 = $68.60, the annual pass at $67.70 starts to be cheaper. The daily family/group fee of $19.60 x 7 = $137.20, the annual family/group pass is $136.40
If you are spending less than 7 days in the Rocky Mountain parks consider if you will spend any additional days in the same parks or any other Canada National Parks within the next year. If so, it may be beneficial to purchase the annual pass.
Where Can I Buy A Park Pass?
There are several entry gates that have ticket kiosks manned with park attendants.
- East Banff gate, this is where you would enter Banff National Park when driving in from Calgary or Canmore on Trans-Canada Highway #1. If you have already purchased a park pass you don’t have to stop at this gate each time. You need to slow down to the posted speed limit, but you can drive by in the pass-through lane.
- Yellowhead Highway #16 at Jasper East Park Gate when coming in from Hinton or Edmonton.
- Banff-Windermere Highway #93S at Kootenay West Gate, used when driving in from Radium Hotsprings or Cranbrook
- Yellowhead Highway #16 at Jasper West Gate, used when driving in from Kamloops or Prince George.
- There are also ticket kiosks located at each end of the Icefields Parkway.
Parks Canada Tourist Office Locations
If you have come through a gate that was not attended you need to head to one of the following locations to purchase a pass.
- Lake Louise – next to the Samson Mall in the village of Lake Louise
- Banff – in the town at 224 Banff Avenue
- Jasper – in town at 500 Connaught Drive
- Yoho – at the Field Visitor Center (May to September only, use the Lake Louise visitor center the rest of the year)
- Kootenay – (May to September only) in the village of Radium on the main street
You can purchase an annual pass prior to your trip online or by phone. Call 403-760-1343 or 1-888-773-8888 between 8am and 4pm M.S.T. (Mountain Standard Time) or online here: Parks Canada Annual Discovery Park Pass.
Additional places to purchase park passes in Banff National Park
- Wilson Mountain Sports – in the Samson Mall in the village of Lake Louise
- Online through Banff/Lake Louise Tourism
Do I Need To Purchase More Than One Park Pass For The Same Family Traveling In More Than One Vehicle Or For An RV Towing A Car.
The answer is yes. Regardless of whether you are buying day passes or have or will be purchasing an annual pass you will need a pass for each separate vehicle stopping or spending time in the parks.
-You have an RV (Recreational Vehicle) that will remain in a campsite within the parks and car that you will use to travel around with. Both the RV and the car will need a park pass valid for the number of days that they will be in the parks.
-One portion of a family will be heading to the parks in a vehicle to start their vacation and an additional member will be arriving later in another vehicle. The first vehicle has a valid pass either purchased for a number of days or has an annual pass. The second vehicle arriving will also have to purchase a pass valid for the number of days it will be in the parks.
-For whatever reason a group or family is traveling through the parks with two vehicles and will be stopping for a quick bite to eat or to see Lake Louise, do a hike or sightseeing, etc. It really doesn’t matter what the purpose is, a park pass is required if you are stopping in the parks for any length of time or reason. Both vehicles will need a separate pass. The price of each pass would be according to the number of people in each vehicle.
How Do I Deal With A Park Pass If I Am Traveling On A Motorcycle?
You need to purchase a parks pass like any other vehicle. Parks Canada realizes that if you display an annual pass or any pass on a motorcycle in the parks that it’s there’s a chance it’s going to be stolen. Make sure to have your park pass with you when parking your bike so that you can present it if asked by a parks officer.
Do I Pay If I Am Entering The Parks By Means Other Than My Own Vehicle Or A Rented Vehicle?
Technically the park pass is associated to your vehicle or rental vehicle. You display the park pass receipt on the dashboard or hang the annual pass from your rear view mirror during your stay. If you have arrived by public bus, shuttle, taxi or tour group you do not purchase a pass. People are not required to carry or present a pass as a pedestrian while in the parks. Although when coming in on a tour bus or shuttle there is likely a part of your tour package payment or ticket purchase that has been applied towards a park fee.
What Do The Park Pass Fees Pay For?
The park pass fees stay in the park area where they were purchased. In the Rocky Mountain National parks they are used for wildlife protection such as the fencing on Trans Canada Highway that runs through Banff National Park. It also pays for the building and maintenance to the wildlife underpasses and overpasses that cross the highway. Maintenance to picnic areas, trails, parking areas, scenic pullouts, scenic parkways, interpretive signs, day use areas, public safety and public washrooms are all part of what the fees cover.
I Want To Extend My Time In The Parks, What Do I Do?
Prior to your pass expiring, visit one of the Parks Canada offices. If you initially paid for just a few days inquire if you can upgrade to an annual park pass. Show your original receipt and they will apply the amount to the cost of the annual pass. (As long as the initial receipt was within the last 30 days)
Do Park Officials Check For Park Passes?
Yes, pass checks are done on vehicles in all areas of the parks from public parking areas, accommodation parking lots, camping sites, trail head parking lots and especially ski hill parking lots. In recent years check points have been set up by Parks Canada on the roads leading up to the ski hills. If your vehicle does not have a valid park pass clearly displayed while you are parked anywhere in the parks you can be issued a ticket.
Do I Have To Pay Camping And Other Fees On Top Of The Park Pass?
The park pass only covers entry into the parks. You need to pay any additional campground fees, day use fees, back country camping permits and fishing licence fees separately.
Provincial Parks Are Not The Same As National Parks
If you are visiting any provincial parks that have fees associated with them they are completely unrelated and not covered under the National Parks pass.
Further information about the various parks can be found here: Parks Canada Rocky Mountain Park Information