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A Quick Guide to National Park Fees in Canada 2022

From the flat grasslands and plains, to the rugged tundra and boreal forests, to the soaring mountains and glaciers and finally, to the roaring Pacific ocean, Canada’s National Parks showcase outstanding examples of beautiful landscapes.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about visiting National Park fees and Discovery Passes in Canada in 2022. It’s sure to help you plan your next National Park adventure!

Kayak view of paddling on aquamarine Moraine Lake, Banff National Park
National Park fees must be paid to visit 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, lake access, visitor centres and other facilities. Some of Canada’s National Parks are exceptionally remote and have few visitor services.

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

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.

View of a winding road above ocean in Cape Breton
Driving and hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park is an unmissable experience in Nova Scotia

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, PEI). In other provinces, there is a daily fee much like National Parks (Ontario, Manitoba). 

Rock with fossil is being held close to camera, with views of mountainous Yoho National Park terrain and glacier in background, above bright blue glacial lake
Holding ancient fossils in Yoho National Park, BC

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.

Read Next: 42+ Amazing Things to Do in Banff in Winter: Complete Travel Guide

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.

Lake view with clouds reflecting in completely still surface of the water
The beautiful lakes of Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, the perfect place for a multi-day canoe trip

Regular daily admission fees

National Park fees in Canada vary between parks.

For example, the entry fee per day in 2022 for Banff National Park is:

Adult: $10.50
Senior: $9.00
Children and Youth aged 17 or under: Free
Family/Group: $ 21.00 (up to seven people 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 a pass that provides free entry to all National Parks/Reserves, Marine Conservation Areas and Parks Canada-run National Historic Sites.

A Discovery Pass pays for itself in as little as seven days of national park visitation (compared to daily admission fees).

If you’re planning to visit Canada’s Rocky Mountain National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay) for a week or more, I’d definitely recommend getting a Discovery Pass.

Elevated view looking down on canoeist on calm Maligne Lake, approaching peninsula with scattered trees, with background of huge mountains
Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

Another bonus of Discovery Passes is faster entry into national parks. At road entrances into Banff National Park, for example, there is no need to stop at the Parks Canada gatehouse if you have a valid Discovery Pass displayed.

Traveling to Canada’s East Coast and love history? Consider getting a Discovery Pass for your trip, as there are so many National Historic Sites in this area.

Gemma standing on wooden boardwalk in temperate rainforest, looking at huge fallen tree
Discovering huge trees in the temperate rainforest of Pacific Rim National Park (more info about this hike here)

Regular Discovery Pass prices

The price of a Parks Canada Discovery Pass in 2022 is:

Adult $72.25
Senior $61.75
Family/Group $145.25

Discovery Passes are valid for 12 full months from the date of purchase.

Each pass must be signed by the pass holder, who has to be present when the pass is used.

The Family pass includes up to 7 adults in the vehicle. It doesn’t have to be the same group of people accompanying the pass holder each time.

Gemma hiking up a trail with alpine meadows and mountain panoramas behind
Hiking in Banff National Park is magnificent

How to buy a Discovery Pass

It is possible to buy Discovery Passes online or in person. You can purchase a pass in person at various Parks Canada locations (list available here) or at participating MEC retail locations across Canada.

If you buy the pass online, allow plenty of time for it to arrive before your intended trip.

Read Next: Flying next to Canada’s highest mountain in Kluane National Park, Yukon

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

Other National Park pass options

Another option is to get a single location pass. These allows unlimited entry to a single national park. This is a great idea if you live near a national park/historic site OR have a trip planned that involves extensive travel in one park only.

Though not available for all of Canada’s national parks and historic sites, there are single location passes for many of the most popular destinations. Examples include Pacific Rim on Vancouver Island, Waterton Lakes in Alberta and Fundy National Park in New Brunswick.

Some of the passes can be purchased online, but most are obtainable in person only.

Check out these amazing Parks Canada destinations next:

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Burgess Shale, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Eva Lake, Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia

Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

Mount Logan, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Mount Norquay Via Ferrata, Banff National Park, Alberta

Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake Canoe Guide, Banff and Yoho National Parks

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 to some of the most beautiful places in Canada! offtracktravel.ca

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yvonne

Wednesday 18th of May 2022

My daughter has her Indian status card. I am still in the works for my metis card. does her card cover the car or just her ?

Gemma

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

Hi Yvonne,

I believe it depends on your destination. For example, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the 'Open Doors' program requires each adult to have a Métis citizenship card or specially-designed pass. In Nova Scotia, Mi'kmaq can apply for a vehicle identifier that covers up to seven people (including the driver) in one vehicle. If you let me know where you are going, I can try and do some research for you.

Saba Jabir

Friday 13th of May 2022

My husband bought a discovery pass for our family. Can I use it when he can't go with us.

Gemma

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

Hi Saba,

Yes, you can.

R Stephens

Tuesday 10th of May 2022

Hi,

A group of several friends will be visiting Banff and Jasper this summer. We're not going to be there long enough to justify annual passes for each of us, and we will have rental cars for part of the time and use public transport part of the time, so we're still not clear about how the passes work.

- We will be taking a shuttle bus from the Calgary Airport to downtown Banff. I understand that there is a park gate on the road into town but the shuttle bus will not stop. Can we buy a pass upon arriving in town. Do we need one?

- We plan to walk to one of the trailheads in Banff (Tunnel Mt) one day. Is there a gate upon arriving to the trailhead? Or is everyone expected to have a pass with them when just walking around town?

- We will be taking the Roam bus in Banff on another day to a hike. Can we buy passes at the trailhead, or again are we supposed to have them regardless of what we're doing/where we are going?

- We will be taking a tour bus from Banff to Jasper then renting a couple of cars in Jasper. We assume we need individual passes for the trip there, and then can get family/group passes for the time that we're using rental cars?

- We assume there's no way to use a family/group pass if we're on foot/public transport?

Sorry for all of the questions. Thanks!

Gemma

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

Hi there,

Some great questions there! Hopefully my answers will help with your planning.

If the shuttle bus does not stop, you do not need to buy a pass. It is likely that the shuttle company has factored the cost of the pass into your ticket.

No, there are no gates of this kind at trailheads in Banff (or any other national parks in Canada, to the best of my knowledge). There are only entrance gates on the main roads in and out of the park.

Since you will be entering Banff NP by shuttle, exploring by public transport and then leaving via tour bus, you will not need to show a pass while visiting Banff National Park. The one place where you would be asked is at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, if you do decide to visit.

Since you will be using park facilities (hiking trails etc), it would be appreciated if you did contribute by purchasing a pass.

Regarding the tour bus to Jasper, again, the pass would have been factored into the ticket by the tour company.

Once you rent the vehicle in Jasper National Park, you will definitely need a pass.

Juergen

Saturday 30th of April 2022

Gemma, (great page, helps me a lot until now)

Couldn't find more information regarding my problem, so I may ask you:

When buying a Discovery Pass, I understand, Parks Canada will always send me a pass as "printed on hardover paper" via post mail, to my country (Europe), that will take some time (maybe 2 weeks). So my problem: when shall I buy the pass prior to my departure by plane?

Isn't it possible to only receive an email (like a voucher or a receipt) from Parks Canada, which I print out, take it with me to my destination, and eventually, arriving at the first national park gate, present it and it will be replaced by a original pass?

Kind regarde Juergen

Gemma

Monday 2nd of May 2022

Hi Juergen,

Glad this post was helpful for you! No, there is no such system in place at this time - a physical pass is always mailed. Instead of purchasing a pass online in advance, you could just could just buy one at the participating locations after you have arrived in Canada. Find example locations for each park by navigating to the 'plan your visit' section then 'park passes' e.g. Banff National Park.

Pam

Saturday 23rd of April 2022

Hi - we are coming from Scotland and hiring 4 bikes (one person each bike) - does that mean we need a pass each? Thanks

Gemma

Wednesday 27th of April 2022

Hi Pam,

That's a good question! I reached out to my contact at Parks Canada to get this answered for you. They said that some parks will accept groups of cyclists and motorcyclists arriving together with a Family/Group pass, instead of individual passes. The best plan of action would be to communicate directly with the national park you plan to visit to confirm. You can reach the National Information Service at 1-888-773-8888, or 819-420-9486 (from outside Canada), or e-mail them at [email protected]