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 National Park fees in Canada in 2024. It’s sure to help you plan your next National Park adventure!
Here’s what to expect:
- What exactly is a National Park in Canada?
- Where are Canada’s National Parks?
- National Park fees in Canada
- Discovery Passes (Parks Canada’s annual pass)
- Other National Park pass options
- Canada’s provincial parks
- National Park admission FAQ
Last updated January 2024
What exactly is a National Park in Canada?
Before we go any further, I’ll explain more about Canada’s national park system.
Canada’s National Parks
Canada’s National Park system legally protects and preserves 336,343 square kilometres of land, specifically areas that are representative of Canada’s natural landscapes.
Parks Canada is the Canadian government agency in charge of managing the National Park system.
While public enjoyment and appreciation of the park system is encouraged, Parks Canada works to ensure that visitation does not risk ecological integrity.
Some National Parks are small (22 sq km, Prince Edward Island) while others are much, much larger (44, 807 sq km, Wood Buffalo).
National Parks typically have viewpoints, camping opportunities, hiking trails, lake access, visitor centers and other facilities. Some of Canada’s National Parks are exceptionally remote and have few visitor services.
The oldest National Park in Canada is Banff in Alberta, founded in 1885.
Canada’s national parks are located on land that many First Nations, Métis and Inuit have cared for and lived on since time immemorial.
National Park Reserves
National Park Reserves are protected and managed in a similar way to National Parks but are currently undergoing a process of Indigenous land claim negotiation.
Think of National Park Reserves as proposed national parks. The boundaries and conditions will be determined in agreement with local Indigenous people, who may continue to use the land for traditional food gathering (fishing, trapping, hunting) and spiritual activities.
There are proposed National Park Reserves too, with one being very local to JR and I – the potential South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve.
Parks Canada intends to have a system of national parks that represent each of Canada’s natural regions. The government is committed to creating 10 new national parks within the next five years.
National Historic Sites
1004 National Historic Sites are situated across Canada. Parks Canada manages 171 of these.
National Historic Sites are places of profound importance to Canada’s history. These commemorate places and events that have shaped the identity of Canada.
Found in every territory and province, National Historic Sites are located in both urban and rural environments. They include sacred Indigenous sites, heritage houses, battlefields and places of scientific discovery.
National Marine Conservation Areas
There are a small number of National Marine Conservation Areas that are managed for sustainable use by Parks Canada.
One of the best examples is Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec is known as one of the best places for whale watching in the entire world.
Where are Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites?
There are currently 37 National Parks and 10 National Park Reserves found across the country, with at least one Park in each province and territory.
National Historic Sites are also located across Canada.
Some of Canada’s best known National Parks are:
- Pacific Rim National Reserve, British Columbia – Long sandy beaches backdropped by temperate rainforest on Canada’s western edge
- Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon – Host to Canada’s highest mountains including Mount Logan (5959m)
- Banff National Park, Alberta – Huge snow-capped peaks and turquoise glacial lakes in the heart of the Canadian Rockies
- Jasper National Park, Alberta – Home to the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies and iconic Spirit Island view
- Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario – Towering cliffs above the colourful waters of Georgian Bay
- Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia – Drive the legendary Cabot Trail and see where mountains meet the ocean
- Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland – Glacier-carved freshwater fjords accompanied by mountains, waterfalls and beaches
National Park fees in Canada
Canada’s National Parks are funded by government contributions and user fee revenues. The latter supports visitor services and facilities.
To visit most of Canada’s National Parks, Reserves, Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites, an admission fee is charged on a daily, basis.
This means that visitors must pay a per-person admission fee for each day they spend within park boundaries.
Upon payment of the admission fee, a park pass is issued. A park pass is also known as a day-use permit.
Park pass fees help pay for park facilities and services including day-use areas, trail maintenance, public safety, education and visitor centres.
National Park admission fees
National Park admission fees vary between parks. Some parks have a seasonal fee structure, with cheaper rates in winter and/or the shoulder seasons. A few parks offer half-day passes.
Admission fees are charged as per the age of the visitor and/or the size of the group.
- Adult – 18 to 64 years of age
- Senior – 65 years of age or over
- Youth – 6 to 17 years of age
- Family/Group – Up to seven people arriving in a single vehicle
Children under 6 are always free. Since 2018, youth (under 18) have also received free entry.
Please note that daily passes for the Canadian Rockies area parks (Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes and Elk Island) provide entry into all parks in this region until 4pm the next day.
Park fees are listed on this Parks Canada search page.
2024 admission fee examples:
Banff National Park, Alberta (year-round)
|Commercial Group, per person
Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario (May to November pricing)
|Commercial Group, per person
Forillon National Park, Quebec (late June to early September)
|Commercial Group, per person
Some national parks do not charge admission fees, such as Kluane National Park and Reserve in Yukon Territory.
Rouge National Urban Park is a free admission park, though payment is required for parking at the Zoo Road Day Use Area.
National Historic Site admission fees
National Historic Site admission fees vary between specific sites.
Some Historic Sites have different seasonal pricing as well, with higher pricing during the summer peak season.
2024 admission fee examples:
Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Alberta (year-round)
|Commercial Group, per person
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Nova Scotia (July to September)
|Commercial Group, per person
Not all Historic Sites charge an admission fee. Ford Edward National Historic Site in Nova Scotia, for example, is completely free to visit.
The daily admission fee to Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites 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
- Some guided tours/hikes and interpretive programs
- Moraine Lake/Lake Louise shuttle in Banff National Park
- Additional parking fees in some parks (Bruce Peninsula, Rouge)
How to pay National Park fees in Canada
The admission fee payment process varies between national parks.
Park passes are available for purchase at Visitor Information Centers and staffed campgrounds. Some parks also have pass machines in parking areas.
In remote areas, park passes can sometimes be purchased at local businesses. This is the case for Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.
The busier national parks have roadside booths at the entrance gate(s), where you can purchase a pass without leaving your vehicle.
Cash, debit and credit cards are accepted and it is possible to pay for multiple days at a time.
If you already have a valid pass for the park (or a Discovery Pass), there is a through lane to use.
From personal experience, the following parks operate a booth system:
- Banff National Park, Alberta
- Jasper National Park, Alberta
- Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia (Meadows in the Sky Parkway)
- Kootenay National Park, British Columbia (Radium entrance)
- Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario (Cyprus Lake Road)
- Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
- Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick
- Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
- Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia
The entrance booths usually only operate during regular office hours. After this time, drop by a Visitor Information Center or staffed campground.
Discovery Passes (Parks Canada’s annual 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 can pay for itself in as little as seven days of national park visitation (compared to daily admission fees).
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.
Discovery Pass 2024 prices
The price of a Parks Canada Discovery Pass in 2024 is:
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.
Is it worth getting a Discovery Pass?
Planning to explore Canada’s national parks for a week or more? In most cases, a Discovery Pass will save you money.
If you are a group of multiple adults, a Discovery Pass will save you money even sooner!
With daily admission currently $11.00/adult for the Rocky Mountain parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier), it’s easy to see how a Discovery Pass can be a huge money saver when travelling this region of Canada.
Travelling to Canada’s East Coast and love history and heritage? There are so many National Historic Sites in this area, with entry fees ranging from $4.50 to $19.75 per adult (the latter being the amazing Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site).
How to buy a Discovery Pass
Discovery Passes can be purchased online or in person, at various Parks Canada locations (entrance gates, Visitor Centers, some staffed campgrounds).
It is also possible to purchase Discovery Passes 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. If you’re visiting Canada from outside North America, I would suggest waiting to buy the pass in person.
Other National Park pass options
Another money-saving option is to buy single location (annual) park pass. These allow 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 (BC), Waterton Lakes in Alberta and Fundy National Park in New Brunswick.
Some single-location passes can be purchased online, but most are obtainable in person only.
Canada’s Provincial Parks
Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories.
Each province and territory has its own provincial and territorial park system. 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. In other provinces, there is a daily fee much like Canada’s National Parks.
Please note that the daily vehicle fee system for the noted provinces and territories is completely different from those issued by Parks Canada for National Parks.
In other words, provincial/territorial park passes are not interchangeable with National Park passes.
When researching your trip to Canada, be careful to check whether a protected area is part of the provincial/territorial system or the National Park system.
This is particularly important in Quebec, where provincial parks are referred to as ‘national parks.’ Quebec’s provincial parks are administered by Sépaq (rather than Parks Canada).
Just to add confusion, keep in mind that there are municipal parks and regional parks as well. The vast majority of these are free to enter.
Provincial/territorial park fee systems
- British Columbia: Free day use
- Yukon: Free day use
- Northwest Territories: Daily vehicle fee
- Alberta: Free day use*
- Saskatchewan: Daily vehicle fee
- Manitoba: Daily vehicle fee
- Ontario: Daily vehicle fee
- Quebec: Per person daily fee
- New Brunswick: Per person daily fee
- Prince Edward Island: Free day use
- Nova Scotia: Free day use
- Newfoundland: Daily vehicle fee
- Nunavut: Free day use
*Except Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor, which require a Conservation Pass (daily fee)
National Park admission FAQ
Yes. Campground guests are not exempt from the daily admission fee in national parks (unlike in some of Canada’s provincial parks).
Yes, if you don’t plan to stop. See more details in the above answer.
The Parks Canada website has a handy search function just for fees
In the case of a main highway route traversing a National Park, you are allowed to drive the highway without paying the admission fee as long as you don’t stop and use any park services (parking lots, hiking trails etc.)
Examples would be Highway 4 through Pacific Rim National Reserve (BC), Highway 114 through Fundy National Park (New Brunswick) and Highway 30 through Cape Breton National Park (Nova Scotia).
There are two major exceptions to this rule, both in the Canadian Rockies.
Highway 93 (the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper) and Highway 1A (between Banff and Lake Louise) are considered scenic parkways and a valid park pass is required to drive them.
But what about other park roads, you ask? Roads that are not considered through routes also require a pass.
For example, the core area of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (Nova Scotia) is accessed via Highway 8. There is no other highway entrance or exit. The only reason to enter the park boundaries is to visit the park itself, so a park pass is required.
No, you don’t have to be related to receive the group vehicle rate for entry into Canada’s national parks.
By law, all visitors to Canada’s national parks must purchase a
national park entry pass and display it on their vehicle.
Park Wardens enforce park regulations as required by the Canada National Parks Act. Violators risk being issued a fine.
We have personally had our pass checked many times. In one instance, the warden could not see our pass and therefore left us a warning notice (our van does not have a rearview mirror so we have to leave our Discovery pass on the dashboard instead).
The notice stated that we needed to physically show a valid park pass to Parks Canada staff ASAP or be fined. Luckily, the warden was still close by when we returned to our vehicle so we were able to show them the pass right there and then.
Park passes should be displayed prominently on the dash of your vehicle.
Discovery Passes should be hung on the rearview mirror where possible. If your vehicle doesn’t have a rearview mirror (our van does not), display the pass prominently on the dashboard as above.
The pass holder must be present when using the pass. A Discovery Pass should be signed by the pass holder. It is void when re-sold or transferred. If you haven’t signed it after receiving it, you’ll be prompted to do so when you first use it at a National Historic Site.
National parks and provincial parks are separate systems. Parks Canada administers Canada’s national parks while provincial parks are managed by individual provincial governments. See provincial parks section for more information.
Yes! Park passes for parks in the Rocky Mountains region (Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes and Elk Island) can be used interchangeably. Daily passes are valid until 4pm the next day.
Check out these amazing Parks Canada destinations next:
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada