Anyone who wants to visit Banff National Park needs a Parks Canada Pass. What passes are available, and what can you do with them? In this post, I will try to answer all your questions about a Banff National Park pass.
You’ve probably seen them behind the windshield of cars in Alberta: a card hanging from the mirror or a receipt taped to the window. Indeed: entrance passes for Banff National Park. You need such a pass in all national parks in Canada. Let’s look at all these passes’ ins and outs.
What Passes Can I Buy to Enter Banff National Park?
Parks Canada issues two passes that allow you to enter Banff National Park. These are:
- Discovery Pass
- Day Pass
The Discovery Pass is valid for one year. The day pass gives you one day of access to Banff National Park. It’s nothing more than a receipt as proof of purchase. The day of entry is used for the validity of the day pass. Regardless of the time of entry, this pass is valid until 4 pm the next day.
How Much Does a Discovery Pass Cost (2023)?
The price you pay for the Discovery Pass depends on the category you fall under. Parks Canada distinguishes three prices:
|Family/Groups||CAD 145.25 (up to 7 people in one vehicle)|
Note: All prices include VAT.
Children up to and including 17 years are admitted free of charge.
You will earn back the investment in a Discovery Pass if you spend at least seven days in one year in one of the member national parks.
How Much Does a Day Pass Cost (2023)?
The Day Pass has four categories:
|Commercial Group, per person||CAD 9.00|
Note: All prices include VAT.
Children up to and including 17 years have free admission.
Is it Worth Getting a Discovery Pass?
Yes, if you want to spend a week or more in Canada’s national parks. A Discovery Pass typically saves costs (see the cost chart above). If you’re traveling in a group, the savings from purchasing a Discovery Banff Pass add up quickly.
Besides, the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site (CAD 4.25 per adult) and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site (CAD 8.50 per adult) are also free to enter with the Discovery Pass. This is not the case with a Day Pass.
How Long Is a Discovery Pass Valid for?
A Discovery Pass has a validity of one year. It is, therefore, an annual pass.
Where to Get a Parks Canada Pass?
You have two options to get a Parks Canada Pass: you can buy your pass online, or you can buy it in person.
You can also order one by phone by calling +1 403 – 760 1343 or +1 888 – 773 8888 between 8 am and 4 pm Mountain Standard Time.
You’ll pay the same price as in person, but you must also cover the shipping.
Before you travel, allow it plenty of time to arrive. I would advise delaying the purchase of the pass online if you are traveling to Canada from outside of North America.
To buy a Canada Parks Pass in person, you can visit participating Parks Canada locations such as visitor centers and at some park gates.
The pass will be registered to your name or vehicle’s license plate. If you buy a pass in person and plan to drive into the park, be prepared for a long line at the East Gate on summer weekends.
If you are visiting Banff National Park through a tour operator, ask them if they will take care of purchasing your park pass(es). Your entry fee has probably been included in your tour or ticket cost.
Are there any Advantages to Purchasing a Parks Canada Pass Online?
Yes, purchasing a park pass online can save you time and hassle at the park gates. You can also purchase your pass in advance to avoid any last-minute issues.
The downside is that you must pay for shipping and wait for it to arrive. So if you order online, do it well before your trip to Banff.
I Purchased My Parks Pass Online But Did Not Receive It In Time. Can I Enter?
Yes, as long as you have proof of purchase, you can enter the park.
Why Does Parks Canada Sell a Day Pass and a Discovery Pass?
According to the official website, Parks Canada’s mission is to ‘protect and present significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage nationally, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure these places’ ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations’.
What other Parks Do I Have Access to with the Day Pass or Discovery Pass?
The Discovery Pass is valid across Canada and gives you access to over one hundred national parks from coast to coast. This includes national parks (including Banff National Park), national historic sites and national marine protected areas from Parks Canada.
A Day Pass has limited validity. It gives you access to the national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes and Elk Island.
Another distinction is that a Discovery Pass includes admission to national heritage sites like Cave & Basin in Banff, whereas a Day Pass does not.
Which Parks Do I Not Have Access to with a Day Pass or Discovery Pass?
Your Day Pass, or Discovery Pass, is only valid in areas managed by Parks Canada. It does not apply to provincial parks, territorial parks, municipal parks or other areas not managed by Parks Canada.
Where to Buy a Discovery Pass or Day Pass in Person?
There are several places where you can buy a park pass in person. I’ve listed them in the table below. I also included locations in Calgary. National Park Gates (westbound, eastbound, north or southbound)
|Westbound||Banff East Park Gate|
|David Thompson Gate|
|Jasper East Park Gate|
|Eastbound||Kootenay West Gate: Banff-Windermere Highway (#93S)|
|Jasper West Gate: Yellowhead Highway (#16)|
|North- or Southbound||Niblock Gate in Banff National Park|
|Icefields Parkway Gate|
Banff Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: 224 Banff Avenue, Banff, AB
Phone: +1 403 – 762 1550
Lake Louise Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: Samson Mall, 201 Village Rd, Lake Louise, AB
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833
Yoho Visitor Centre (May – September)
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: 5764 Trans-Canada Hwy, Field, BC
Phone: +1 250 – 343 6783
Kootenay Visitor Centre (May – September)
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: 7556 Main Street East, Radium, BC
Phone: +1 250 – 347 9505
MEC – Calgary
Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 10 am-9 pm; Saturday, 9 am-7 pm; Sunday, 9 am-6 pm
Address: 830 – 10th Ave SW, Calgary
Phone: +1 403 – 269 2420
Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association
Opening hours: See website
Address: 911 Sylvester Crescent SW
Phone: +1 403 – 252 8474
Can You Buy a Day Pass for Several Days at Once?
Yes, you can buy a day pass for Banff for 2, 3, or 4 days. Basically, for as many days as you wish.
Calculate what your best option is; a Day Pass or a Discovery Pass. Besides the number of days you’ll visit a Parks Canada park, this also depends on if you buy an Adult, Senior of Family/Group Pass.
Does a Parks Canada Pass Work for Kananaskis?
No, a Parks Canada Pass is only valid within a national park like Banff and Jasper National Park.
If you plan to visit Kananaskis, you must purchase a separate pass. It’s called the Kananaskis Conversation Pass. You can buy a daily or an annual pass.
Do I Need a Parks Canada Pass for Canmore?
No, Canmore is located just outside the park boundaries, so you do not need a park pass to visit. However, if you set out to go hiking around town, you’ll need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass (see above).
Is a Parks Canada Pass Per Person or Per Vehicle?
A Parks Canada Pass can be purchased either per person or per car. The Family category Day Pass and Discovery Pass are valid for up to 7 people in one vehicle.
It doesn’t have to be the same group of people accompanying the pass holder each time. Family passes are more expensive than adult passes (see the cost table above).
PLEASE NOTE: Every vehicle you drive into the park requires a pass. While one park pass is valid for up to 7 people in one vehicle, you will need to purchase two (Family) park passes if you divide those seven people between two vehicles.
If you are entering the park with a Recreational Vehicle (RV) towing a car, you will need a Park Pass for both vehicles. Why, you ask? Well, you may park your RV on a campsite and use your car to explore the park.
Do I Need a Parks Canada Pass in Banff?
In Banff National Park, you need a pass as soon as you stop there. It doesn’t matter with what mode of transportation you get into the park. Both the Discovery Pass and the day pass suffice.
Do I Need a Parks Canada Pass if I Don’t Enter Banff by Car?
Yes, you still need a Park Pass even if you don’t drive into the park. The Parks Canada Pass is required for all visitors to Banff National Park, regardless of your mode of transportation . This includes visitors on foot, by bicycle or by public transport.
Do Children Also Need a Parks Canada Pass?
No, children (until 17) do not need a Discovery Pass or Day Pass to visit Banff National Park. See also the next section.
What’s the Best Way to Show My Day Pass or Discovery Pass?
If you have purchased a Day Pass, you must display the receipt in a prominent place on the left-hand side of your vehicle’s dashboard.
If you purchased a Discovery Pass, you can display it on the inside of your vehicle’s mirror. Please note that the Discovery Pass is not valid if you haven’t signed the box on the back of the pass.
What’s the Fine for Not Having a Parks Canada Pass?
The Parks Canada website states that violations of the Canada National Parks Act and the National Parks General Regulations can result in ‘eviction, court appearance and/or fines up to CAD 25000’.
You will usually be fined and asked to return to the park entrance to purchase a pass.
Can I Drive Through Banff National Park without a Parks Canada Pass?
Yes, you can if you don’t stop (except for fuel) within the park boundaries. The Trans-Canada Highway passes through Banff National Park as part of the country’s east-west highway system.
While you can drive through Banff National Park without a park pass, buying a Discovery Pass is probably a good idea to visit other national parks as well. Read the post Beauty Beyond Banff to learn more about the parks bordering Banff.
Can I Stop in Banff National Park without a Parks Canada Pass?
No, you must have a Parks Canada Pass once you stop in the park, even if it’s just you in the car. The number of people in your vehicle doesn’t matter.
Can I Drive on All Roads Inside the Park as Long as I Don’t Stop?
No, you can only drive through Banff National Park without a Parks Canada Pass if you use the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) without stopping.
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N) and the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) are scenic byways and are not open to through traffic. Drivers and passengers of vehicles using these roads must have a Parks Canada Pass.
Can I Pass On My Parks Canada Pass to Others?
You may not transfer your Day Pass or Discovery Pass. They are not valid if resold or transferred. As the pass holder, you must be present when using the pass. Therefore, you must sign the back of the Discovery Pass. The pass is only valid for you and your passengers in the vehicle you drive in the park.
Do I Need a Parks Canada Pass if I Arrive in Banff by Train?
If you arrive in Banff by train, you should also have a Day Pass or Discovery Pass. It doesn’t matter by what mode of transportation you get into the park.
You don’t need a Day Pass or Discovery Pass if you’re passing through on your way to a destination outside the park and are not staying in the park.
How to Display My Parks Canada Pass on My Motorbike?
You can display your park pass on your motorcycle by affixing it to the windshield or show it to a Parks Canada employee upon request.
I am Canadian. Do I need a Parks Canada Pass?
Yes, Canadian residents also need a Day Pass or Discovery Pass to visit Banff National Park.
Do Banff Residents Need a Parks Canada Pass?
Yes, Banff residents also need a valid park pass to access the amenities and facilities within Banff National Park.
Does a US National Park Pass Work for Banff?
No, US National Park Passes are not valid in Banff National Park. You’ll need to purchase a Parks Canada Pass to visit.
Do I Have to Pass Through the Banff Park Gates When I already Have a Pass?
No, you don’t. You can use the right lane. This lane has no gate and allows you to enter the park without stopping.
This lane is open to anyone with a Day Pass or Discovery Pass and to vehicles just passing through.
Does Parks Canada Check for Valid Passes?
Yes, Parks Canada staff check for valid park passes at different locations throughout the park. This may be at the gates to the Icefields Parkway or at roadblocks set up at popular locations throughout the park.
You’re most likely to get checked on the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive near the entrance to Cascade Ponds and at Lake Louise.
During the ski season, there may be check-stops at Sunshine Village or Lake Louise Ski Resort. If you’ve parked your vehicle without a valid Parks Canada Pass, you’ll receive a warning ticket and be instructed to purchase a pass.
Always display your pass in your vehicle to avoid fines.
Do I Need a Parks Canada Pass for the Towns of Banff and Lake Louise?
Yes, if you plan to stop and visit these towns, you will need a pass. Driving through the communities of Banff and Lake Louise without stopping is not allowed without a Parks Canada Pass, as the towns’ roads are not suited to through traffic. Therefore drivers and passengers of vehicles using these roads must have a Parks Canada Pass.
Can I Enter Provincial Parks with My Pass?
Many provincial parks are free of charge. If you enter a provincial park that requires an entrance fee, your National Park Pass will not be valid.
Alberta’s provincial parks are free except for Kananaskis Country, which requires a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. This pass is also needed for the Bow Valley Corridor (the area between Canmore and Exshaw) and hiking around Canmore. You can buy a day pass or an annual pass.
Does the Parks Canada Pass Include Parking?
No, the Park Pass does not include parking. You will need to pay separately at each location that requires paid parking, such as most locations in the Town of Banff and the Lake Louise parking lot.
Do You Need A Parks Canada Pass To Visit Lake Louise, Moraine Lake or Peyto Lake?
Yes, you’ll need a valid park pass to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, as they are located within the boundaries of Banff National Park.
Do You Need a Parks Canada Pass to Ski in Banff?
Yes, the same answer as above. The three ski resorts of Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay are all within the park’s boundaries, so purchasing a Parks Canada park pass is mandatory.
Can I Get a Discount on a Parks Canada Pass?
There are discounts available for Park Canada Passes. However, only certain groups are eligible (see below).
Are Seniors Eligible for a Discount?
Yes, seniors (65+) are eligible for a discounted annual pass. See the table above for the current price.
Are Canadian Veterans Eligible for a Discount
No, veterans in Canada are not entitled to a discount on a Parks Canada Pass. However, some sites in Banff National Park occasionally give veterans discounts, like ski resorts. Check if that’s the case before visiting the park. You might be able to save quite a bit.
Are CAA/AMA Members Eligible for Discount?
Yes, AMA members are eligible for a slight discount on a Discovery Pass. Passes obtained through AMA remain valid for a year. However, you must buy them for the month of your trip.
What if I Lose My Parks Canada Pass?
If you lose your park pass, then that’s too bad. You’ll need to purchase a new one, unfortunately. To avoid losing it, keep your pass displayed at all times.
Do Parks Canada Passes Sell Out?
Parks Canada Passes do not typically sell out, as they are available online and at various locations throughout Banff National Park, including visitor centers and park gates.
However, there may be long lines and wait times to purchase a pass during peak season, so buying your pass in advance is a good idea to avoid delays.
Is a Parks Canada Pass Tax Deductible?
This depends on your specific tax situation. In general, if you are using the park pass for business purposes, you may be able to deduct the cost of the pass as a business expense. However, if you are using the pass for personal reasons, it is not tax deductible.
Do Canadians Really Have Access To Free Discovery Passes With a Prescription?
Yes, believe it or not, this is true in some cases. A Parks Canada Discovery Pass may be prescribed at the doctor’s office to encourage you to spend more time outside.
It’s part of a program with local doctors advising getting some fresh air to improve overall health.
In a few Canadian provinces, like BC and Alberta, doctors can write prescriptions for the yearly pass, which grants entrance to more than 80 parks across Canada, including Banff and Jasper National Parks.
What Is a Banff National Park Indigenous Pass?
The Banff National Park Indigenous Pass is a special pass available to Indigenous peoples who live in or near Banff National Park. It provides free access to the park and is meant to acknowledge the importance of the park to Indigenous cultures.
As is found on their website, Parks Canada is committed to maintaining a network of national heritage sites that respects traditional use and recognizes the contributions of First Nations in caring for these places.
Indigenous people can obtain a short-term access pass to Banff National Park at park gates, visitor centers, campgrounds and national historic sites in Banff.
What Happens to the Proceeds of the Discovery Pass?
Proceeds from the Day Pass and Discovery Pass are used in various ways. These include maintaining interpretive facilities, visitor centers, restrooms, trails and overlooks.
Money is also used to research the park’s flora and fauna and to monitor wildlife. In addition, park rangers monitor safety and compliance within the park.
Banff Travel Guide and FAQ
Where is Banff National Park, Canada?
Banff National Park is in the southwest of the province of Alberta. It’s home to the towns of Banff and Lake Louise and borders the province of British Columbia in the west of Canada. You can easily access famous places like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake and the stunning Icefields Parkway from these locations.
Banff and Lake Louise are situated in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, close to the boundary with British Columbia, as shown on the map of Banff National Park below.
Is Banff, Canada safe?
Generally speaking, yes. Like most areas, Banff has crime, but it’s still a safe travel place. But Banff has a lot of wildlife, including bears and cougars, so you should always carry bear spray and exercise caution when hiking in the mountains.
What is the best time to Travel to Banff, Canada?
The best time to travel to Banff, Canada, depends on your reason for visiting the park. If you’re going for the stunning nature the park’s famous for, you’d better visit from June to September. The best months to ski are from January through March.
WEATHER IN BANFF, CANADA: AVERAGE TEMPERATURE
The worst months to visit Banff National Park are November, April and May. It’s too chilly to go sightseeing in November, and there isn’t enough snow on the slopes yet. The iconic lakes in the park are still frozen in April and May, and it can still be quite cold.
How do I travel to Banff, Canada?
Want to fly to Banff? Calgary International Airport (Code: YYC) is the closest airport. It’s 130 kilometers (81 mi) to the east of Banff.
Several cities, including Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, and Dallas/Fort Worth, have direct flights into Calgary.
Pick up a rental vehicle at Calgary International Airport, or take a private transport service to your destination. The trip to the park takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Viator has several good options. Click the link to check the options and latest rates.
Banff Car Rental
Want to rent a car during your stay in Banff National Park? Rent one at Calgary International Airport or in the city of Calgary. Yep, there are rental firms in Lake Louise and Banff, but as these are small towns, your rental options can be limited.
Avis is a reputable car rental company, which I’ve used many times. Book now with Avis
What do I pack for Banff, Canada?
The time of year will affect what you should bring with you on your trip to Banff, Canada. If you plan to spend your summer vacation in Banff National Park, you should be okay with light-colored, breathable clothing. Bring a few sweaters, too, as Banff’s summer evenings can be chilly. You’re in the mountains, after all.
When visiting in winter, bring a heavy jacket, such as a parka, and other winter clothing, such as warm pants, long underwear, and (fleece) sweaters. Don’t take it lightly because Banff’s wintertime lows can reach well below zero.
Banff Travel Planning Guide
Do I need a visa for Banff?
Most likely not. Citizens of the US, most European countries, Australia and New Zealand don’t need a visa to enter Canada. Not sure? Click the link to see whether you need a visa or not. The typical length of stay in Canada for people with visa-exempt passports is 90 days.
Do I need travel insurance for Banff?
You bet. Feel confident while traveling with a plan from Travel Insurance Master, one of the top names in travel insurance, for just USD 10 on average per day.
What’s the best way to book my Banff accommodation?
If you plan to book a hotel, hostel or bed & breakfast, Booking.com is your best bet. It has the most hotels listed and often offers the best rates.
Do I need to rent a car in Banf?
Absolutely. While Banff is one of the few national parks in North America with a sizeable public transport network, I strongly advise renting a car if you want to make the most of your visit.
Will my phone work in Banff?
It depends. In the towns of Banff and Lake Louise, you should have good to excellent reception. However, in more remote areas, the signal is spotty. In many places, there will be no signal at all.
What’s the best site to buy Banff flights?
If you’re looking for cheap flights to Banff, I recommend Skyscanner. No surprises with suddenly increased rates (for taxes, seats or luggage) upon checkout. What you see is what you get.