If you live in Canada or have some kind of interest in visiting Canada soon (and why wouldn’t you?!), it is likely you will visit a National Park at some point. Read on to learn everything you need to know about National Park fees and Discovery Passes in Canada. It’s sure to help you plan your trip around Canada.

Aquamarine lake surrounded by dramatic snowy mountains
National Park fees must be paid to visit the famed Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada

What exactly is a National Park in Canada?

Let’s break it down before we go any further. 

Canada’s National Parks

National Parks are protected areas for public enjoyment and appreciation, managed by Parks Canada. Some National Parks are small (22 sq km, Prince Edward Island) while others are much, much larger (44, 807 sq km, Wood Buffalo).

The oldest National Park in Canada is Banff in Alberta, founded in 1885. National Parks typically have viewpoints, camping opportunities, hiking trails and lake access. Note that some National Parks are exceptionally remote and will have few visitor services.

National Park Reserves

National Park Reserves are proposed National Parks. The intention is to have a system of national parks that represent each of Canada’s natural regions; the project is so far about 60% complete.

National Historic Sites

National Historic Sites are places of profound importance to Canada’s history. These commemorate places and events that have shaped the identity of Canada

National Marine Conservation Areas

There are a small number of National Marine Conservation Areas that are managed for sustainable use by Parks Canada.

Provincial and Territorial Parks

National Parks are different from Provincial Parks and Territorial Parks. These are also protected areas, but they are administrated by the individual governments of provinces and territories. There are many more Provincial and Territorial Parks than there are National Parks.

British Columbia, for example, has over 600 Provincial Parks. In some provinces, entry to Provincial Parks is free (BC, Nova Scotia). In other provinces, there is a daily fee much like National Parks (Ontario, Manitoba). 

Flying over the glaciers of Kluane National Park, Canada
Kluane National Park is a destination definitely worth paying National Park fees to see!

Where are Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites?

There are currently 38 National Parks and 8 National Park Reserves found across the country, with at least one Park in each province and territory. National Historic Sites are also located all around Canada.

The Parks Canada website lists all of the National Parks and National Park Reserves and National Marine Conservation Areas plus the 140 National Historic Sites that they manage.

Long Beach Tofino in Pacific Rim National Park, Canada
Pacific Rim National Park should not be missed when visiting Vancouver Island, British Columbia

National Park fees in Canada

To visit most of Canada’s National Parks, Reserves, Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites, there is usually an admission (entry) fee.

For the Parks, Reserves and Conservation Areas this is a daily admission fee which means visitors have to pay the admission charge for every day they spend within park boundaries.

Regular daily admission fees

National Park fees in Canada vary

The entry fee per day in 2019 for the Rocky Mountain National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes and Elk Island National Parks) is:
Adult $ 9.80
Senior $ 8.30
Children and Youth aged 17 or under are free
Family/Group $ 19.60 (up to seven people arriving together in a single vehicle)

What other fees are there?

The daily admission fee to Canada’s National Parks does not include:

  • Any kind of camping, whether in the front country (car camping) or backcountry (accessible via foot or boat)
  • Firewood at campgrounds
  • Campsite reservations (mandatory for backcountry adventures)
  • Access to hot springs pools managed by Parks Canada, such as Radium Hot Springs
  • Guided tours and hikes not included in park admission
Canoeists paddling on mountain lake with snow capped peaks behind
Banff National Park is one of the most popular parks in Canada

What is the National Park Discovery Pass?

The Discovery Pass is an annual pass that provides free entry to all National Parks/Reserves, Marine Conservation Areas and Parks Canada-run National Historic Sites.

Regular Discovery Pass prices

The price of Park Canada’s Discovery Pass in 2019 is:
Adult $ 67.70
Senior $ 57.90
Family/Group $ 136.40

If you are visiting Canada’s National Parks for a week, a Discovery Pass already pays for itself. 

Mountain views in Kluane National Park, Yukon, Canada
Wilderness of Kluane National Park

How to buy a Discovery Pass

Order online: Have your Discovery Pass delivered to your door by ordering online.

On arrival: Visitors can purchase Discovery Passes at a National Park/Reserve, Marine Conservation Area or National Historic Site. Most will have a visitor centre or gatehouse (drive-thru kiosk) at the entrance.

Are you planning to visit any National Parks or National Historic Sites this year?

If you live in Canada or have some kind of interest in visiting Canada soon (and why wouldn't you?!), it is likely you will visit a National Park at some point. Click here to learn everything you need to know about National Park fees and Discovery Passes in Canada. It's sure to help you plan your trip around Canada! offtracktravel.ca Planning to explore Canada's amazing National Parks this year? Get prepared for your trip and learn what you need to know about the National Park fee system and Discovery Passes! offtracktravel.ca

Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in British Columbia, Canada. Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Sally Weigand Reply

    I have been told that you must make reservations a year in advance to camp in Canada parks. We planned a 2 month RV trip through eastern Canada from mid-August to mid-Oct. but have not made any reservations. Is this really necessary or highly recommended vs. taking our chances?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Campsites in Canada’s National Parks are in high demand, especially in summer. For your trip, I would make reservations in advance for the mid August to mid September portion for sure. It is not possible to book a year in advance though, the reservation system generally opens every January for the following summer season.

  2. Avatar
    Steffi Palin Reply

    Thank you for your blog

    You just mentioned that the discovery pass does not cover hikes.
    Just wondering if that was guided or all hikes.

    We are looking at camping next year and doing some day hikes and hoping the discovery pass includes access to day hikes

    Thanks
    Stef

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Steffi,

      The Discovery Pass does not cover guided hikes specifically as these often have an extra charge.

Write A Comment