New For 2018, Free Admission For Youth 17 And Under
On January 1, 2018 the admission to national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation sites managed by Parks Canada is free for youth 17 years of age and under. It does not include provincial parks, territorial parks, municipal and private parks or historic sites not managed by Parks Canada.
Entry Information For Those Planning To Visit Canada’s National Parks
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.” It’s not a flat entry fee, you have to pay for the number of days you will be in the parks. What gets confusing is that 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 it remains in the vehicle. A separate pass is not required for each person, only one pass needs to be purchased for the driver and number of passengers in the vehilcle and placed on the dash or hung from the mirror of the vehicle. Baffled yet? Read on and hopefully it will all make sense.
When Are You Required To Buy A Park Pass?
The driver and passengers entering into a park in their own vehicle or a rented vehicle that will be stopping or using the park in any way are required to have a valid park pass. If you rent a vehicle in a National Park you will also need to puchase a valid park pass for you and your passengers for each day you will be spending in the parks.
Many visitors misunderstand in thinking they don’t require a pass if they are making a short stop in places such as Banff or having a quick bite to eat on their drive through.
Some examples of when a park pass is required:
- 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 within a park
- 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
- if you are a driver or passenger of a vehicle brought into a park to ski for the day
Misunderstandings With Accommodation And Park Passes
Accommodation booked in a park does not include a park pass. If you brought in a vehicle or will be renting one you need a pass for each day you and your passengers are staying in the park.
Some visitors staying in accommodation outside of the parks incorrectly think they do not need a park pass when coming into a park. For example: If you are staying in the town of Canmore near Banff or Hinton near Jasper. You need a valid park pass for each day you enter any of the Rocky Mountain National Parks, whether it be Banff, Jasper, Kootenay or Yoho National Park.
A Park Pass Is Always Required For The Icefields Parkway #93N And The Bow Valley Parkway #1A
If you drive on either of the scenic parkways such as the Icefields Parkway (#93N) that runs between 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. They are considered scenic roadways, not essential transportation routes. A park pass is required at any time for drivers of vehicles on these roads and their passengers.
When Is A Park Pass Not Required?
Canada’s main Trans Canada Highway #1 happens to pass right through Banff National park. and Yoho National Park. Therefore if you are using the highway only as a route of travel and making no stops in the parks you are not required to purchase a park pass. The same applies for driving straight through Jasper National Park on the Yellowhead Hwy #16.
If you are a passenger coming into the parks on a transporation bus, shuttle or tour you are not required to purchase a park pass. The entry fee is considered to be taken care of by the bus or tour company or with your fare.
Do I Pay For A Pass 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 are not required to purchase a pass. People are not required to carry or present a pass as a pedestrian while in the parks.
Do I Buy A Pass For Each National Park In The Canadian 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, each with four pricing categories.
- 17 and under (admission is free)
- Adult ages 17 to 64
- Senior age 65 and up
- Family/Group is up to 7 people traveling together in one vehicle
Daily Pass – a daily pass is 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 a pass for the 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 2018 would be valid until August 30th, 2019
The Annual Discovery Passes provides 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 Discovery Passes
Price Per Day For Daily Passes
- Adult $ 9.80
- Senior $ 8.30
- Youth 17 and under is free
- 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 A Daily Family/Group Pass or An Annual Discovery Pass
Do the calcuations to see find the most economical option for you. Once you have more than 2 adults entering for a day or a couple of days it’s cheaper to buy the daily Family/Group Pass at $19.60 a day.
Whether you purchase an annual Discovery Pass depends on how many people there are and the number of days. If you plan on visiting the parks for 7 days or longer it’s generally more econcomical to buy the annual pass regardless of the number of people.
Adult daily pass at $9.80 per day x 7 days = $68.60. The annual pass for one adult is cheaper at $67.70
If you have two adults at $9.80 x 7 days = $137.20. The family/group pass is cheaper at $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.
What Costs Or Admissions Are Not Covered By The Parks Discovery Pass?
Admission to all national parks, historic sites and national marine conservation areas managed by Parks Canada are covered by the pass. Fees still apply to camping, overnight backcountry use, mooring, reservation fees, firewood and fishing licences. The pass does not include provincial parks, territorial parks, municipal and private parks or historic sites not managed by Parks Canada.
Where Can I Buy A Park Pass In the Canadian Rockies
There are several entry gates that have kiosks manned with park attendants.
- East Banff gate – this is where you enter Banff National Park when driving west 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. Slow down to the posted speed limit and drive by in the pass-through lane.
- Jasper East Park – This is the gate you will approach when heading west from Hinton or Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway #16
- Kootenay West Gate – used when driving in from Radium Hotsprings or Cranbrook on the Banff-Windermere Highway #93
- Jasper West Gate – used when driving in from Kamloops or Prince George on the Yellowhead Highway #16
Icefields Parkway – There are pass kiosks located at each end of the Icefields Parkway near Lake Louise and Jasper.
Parks Canada Tourist Office Locations
If you have entered a park where there was not a gate or the gate was unattended 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 on the Trans Canada Hwy (May to early October only) use the Lake Louise location the rest of the year.
- Kootenay – (May to September only) in the village of Radium on the main street
Additional places to purchase park passes in Banff National Park
- Wilson Mountain Sports – in the Samson Mall in the village of Lake Louise
Purchase Online Or By Phone
You can purchase an annual Discovery 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 at: Parks Canada Annual Discovery Park Pass. Daily or Discovery Park Passes can be also be purchased online at Banff/Lake Louise Tourism
AMA Members Discounted Discovery Park Pass
AMA members can receive a slight discount on an annual Family/Group Discovery Pass. See more info here: AMA Travel Parks Canada-Discovery Pass. The passes through AMA are valid for one year, but they must be purchased for the current month of travel.
Do I Need To Purchase More Than One Park Pass If The Same Family Is Traveling In Separate Vehicles Or IF A Recreatioan Vehicle (RV) Is 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 a 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 there’s a chance it’s could be stolen. Keep it on your person and make sure to have your park pass with you when parking or getting back on your bike so that you can present it if asked by a parks officer.
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 fine.
Further information about the various parks can be found here: Parks Canada Rocky Mountain Park Information