ULTIMATE Guide To Purchasing A Banff Park Pass (Parks Canada Pass)

We have received many questions about Banff Park Pass and Parks Canada passes, and in this post, we hope to answer any questions you may have. Simply put, all visitors must have either a Canada National Park Day Pass or an annual pass known as the Discovery Pass. This applies to any national park in Canada, but this article will focus mainly on the regional Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.

These parks include Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, Waterton National Park, and Jasper National Park. There is no official “Banff Park Pass.” Instead, visitors must have a valid day pass for the parks of the Canadian Rockies or a Parks Canada annual pass. This is valid for all Canadian national parks, including Glacier National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park, which are close to the Canadian Rockies.

It’s a pretty simple topic, but many questions come up, and we hope to answer them all.

Do I Need A Banff Park Pass?

Looking Down Banff Ave Toward Cascade Mountain On A Fall Day With Great Light

All visitors to Banff National Park and the surrounding parks must have a park pass, regardless of transportation. That means even if you walk into the park from Calgary, you still need a park pass. There is no “Banff Park Pass.” Instead, visitors must purchase a daily or annual admission pass from Parks Canada. The Canada National Park Pass includes Banff and all of Canada’s national parks.

The Rockies have five national parks: Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, and Waterton National Park. Kananaskis Country is not included in the Canadian National Parks system and is instead a provincial park. If you have plans to visit a park with a tour operator, check with them to see if they have your pass. Banff, Field, Waterton, and Jasper are all within a park, so even town visitors must have a valid pass. Please purchase your pass and help support the park system you intend to enjoy.

If you drive through Banff National Park via the TransCanada or Jasper National Park via the Yellowhead Highway, you do not need a pass. However, you need a pass if you’d like to stop at any scenic locations or hiking trails. The scenic drives of the Icefields Parkway (93) and Bow Valley Parkway (1A) require a pass.

Where Can I Purchase A Canada National Park Pass?

The Park Gates In Jasper For The Icefields Parkway
The Park Gates in Jasper

You have two options to purchase your Canada National Park Pass. The first option is to buy the pass on the Parks Canada or Banff Lake Louise Tourism Board websites. The online price does not save you money, as you pay for shipping. Shipping is relatively affordable and varies by country ($4.00 – $15.75 for express). Please allow at least two weeks with standard shipping unless you choose Express.

This can save you a bit of time at the gate of Banff National Park, as there is often a line in the summer months. However, we should mention the time you will save is minimal. At most, the longest we’ve ever seen a line is 20 minutes (on a summer weekend day and summer holiday).

The Park Gates in Banff At The Icefields Parkway
The Park Gates Entering the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise

The second option is to purchase a pass at a park gate to one of the national parks or at the visitor centers in Banff, Lake Louise, Field, and Jasper. It’s a quick process, and the pass is registered to your name. However, there is often a long line of cars at the East Gate of Banff National Park on summer weekends.

The Eastern Park Gates To Banff Outside Canmore In Summer
East Gate of Banff National Park near Harvey Heights

You can not purchase a Parks Canada pass at any of the gates. The gates you can buy a pass are the East Gate of Banff National Park, Waterton National Park Gate, Icefields Parkway Gates, the Jasper East Gate, and a few others mentioned below. If you are driving from Vancouver to Banff from the West, you will not pass a gate to purchase a pass but can stop at the Visitor Centre in Field.

Purchase A Park Pass Online

Where to Buy a Park Pass

National Park Gates

WestboundBanff East Park GateDavid Thompson GateJasper East Park Gate
EastboundKootenay West Gate: Banff-Windermere Highway (#93S)Jasper West Gate: Yellowhead Highway (#16)
North or SouthboundNiblock Gate in Banff National Park (open in summer)Icefields Parkway Gate

National Park Visitor Centers

Banff National Park Visitor Centre (Banff, Alberta)Jasper National Park Visitor Centre (Jasper, Alberta)Yoho National Park Visitor Centre (Field, British Columbia: May to Sept.) And Tourism BC visitor Centre in GoldenKootenay National Park Visitor Centre (Radium, British Columbia: May to Sept.)
Lake Louise Visitor Centre (Lake Louise, Alberta)Parks Canada Administration Building (Jasper, Alberta)
Icefields Centre (Columbia Icefields: mid Apr. to mid Oct.)

Banff Park Pass Options

Bow Lake On A Sunny Evening With A Reflection Of Crowfoot Mountain
Bow Lake

Visitors can choose fees based on a daily or annual structure. If you plan to spend seven days or more in the parks, it is cheaper to buy the annual pass. A daily pass covers the day of purchase and can be bought by an individual or family. You’ll have to do the math and see the best option for you.

Natasha Walks Along The Moraine Lake In The Late Afternoon
Moraine Lake Lakeshore

The Banff Lake Louise Tourism Board has a helpful tool that calculates which pass you should buy based on the number of days you will be in the park. Find that here. The annual pass is known as the Discovery Pass and is of great value. It provides access to all the national parks and national sites in Canada. There is no annual pass to specific parks, such as Jasper Park Pass or Banff Park Pass.

What’s Included In My Canada National Park Pass?

Sunrise On Waterton Lake With The Prince Of Wales Hotel
Waterton National Park

Discovery Pass

The Discovery Pass includes admission to all the national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas run by Parks Canada for a year. It all depends on the length of your stay, but we recommend most groups staying over 5 days purchase a Discovery Pass.

Day Pass

A day pass is regional and for those visiting the Rockies. It includes entry into the mountain national parks: Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Waterton, Elk Island, Revelstoke, and Glacier National Park. Be careful not to confuse Glacier National Park in British Columbia with the U.S. National Park in Montana.

Most notable is a day pass does not include entry to national historical sites such as Cave & Basin in Banff, but a Discovery Pass does.

Parks Canada Pass Prices

Natasha Alden at Taylor Lake In The Fall
Recreating at Taylor Lake

You can see the price structure of fees below.

Daily Admission Fees

Adult 18+$11.00
Senior 65+$9.50
*Family includes up to seven people in the same car

Discovery Pass Fees (Annual Pass valid for 12 months from the date of purchase)

Adult 18+$75.25
Senior 65+$64.75
*Family includes up to seven people in the same car.

What Does My Park Pass Cover?

A Herd Of Bison At Elk Island National Park

A day pass, and the Discovery Annual Pass, covers areas managed by Parks Canada. As a result, it does not cover any fees associated with municipal or provincial parks. A popular example would be Kananaskis Country, which borders Banff National Park. You need the Kananaskis Conservation Pass for Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor.

This also is required for many hikes around Canmore, but not the town of Canmore. It should also be noted that it does not cover other fees associated with the park system. Fees not included include camping/accommodation, fire permits, guided tours, parking fees, Banff attractions, Canadian Rockies Hot Springs, backcountry permits, and special events.

FAQ Around Park Passes To Banff

Natasha Sits On Hood Of Truck At Two Jack Lake With Mount Rundle In Background
Two Jack Lake

Can I Enter Banff Without A Pass?

Yes, you can enter the park without a pass, but you must have one for recreation. This means that if you drive straight through on the Trans Canada without stopping (except for fuel), you are free to do so without a Park Pass. If you stop in Downtown Banff or do any sightseeing in the park, you need a Park Pass. If you arrive late at night or with public transit, Parks Canada understands it may take you until the next day to purchase a pass.

In general, we find the park wardens to be forgiving and will understand various circumstances. However, this does not allow you to take advantage of leniency. If you’re caught at a trailhead without a park’s pass, do not expect them to be so forgiving; they can issue fines and warnings as they see fit. They commonly ticket cars at popular ski resorts and trailheads without a pass on display.

How Long Does A Canada National Park Pass Last?

A day pass covers the day of purchase until the next day at 4:00 p.m. This is notable if you are leaving Banff and do not want to purchase another day for the morning/afternoon of your departure.

I’m Driving From The West – Where Can I Purchase My Pass?

If you’re coming from Vancouver elsewhere on the west coast of Canada to the Canadian Rockies, you will not pass a gate to purchase your park pass. You can buy your pass online or at any visitor center mentioned when you reach them.

If you would like to purchase in person, you can stop at Mount Revelstoke National Park or in the town of Golden at the BC Welcome Center. The next options would be Lake Louise or Field and the Kootenay Gate in the summer months.

Does Everyone In My Group Need A Park Pass?

Yes, everyone needs to be under a valid park pass. A family pass can cover up to seven people in the same vehicle. Youth under 18 do not have any entry fees to any of the Canadian National Parks.

Does Park Canada Check Pass Holders?

Most notably, they check at gates onto the Icefields Parkway and set up roadblocks on several popular roads in the summer and winter. They also make frequent checks at trailheads and around Downtown Banff to ensure all vehicles display a pass on their dashboard. On popular ski days in the winter, we find Parks Canada checking parked cars at the ski resorts while drivers are out skiing.

Where Do I Display My Park Pass?

Discovery Pass holders can hang their passes from their rearview mirror, while day passes are on receipt-like paper and can be stuck to your driver-side dashboard window.

Does My Pass Cover Provincial Parks?

No, your pass does not cover the provincial parks that border the national parks. Kananaskis Country, Mount Robson, and Mount Assiniboine are provincial parks managed by Alberta and B.C. park systems. Alberta Parks are free except for Kananaskis Country, which requires its own pass. B.C. Parks are free to enter, but many, such as Mount Robson, need a day reservation.

What Other Reservations Do I Need?

Within the Parks Canada system, you must book advance reservations for popular things, such as campsites and the shuttles to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Paid parking is in effect at Lake Louise and is not included in your Banff Park Pass.

I Purchased My Park Pass Online But Did Not Receive It In Time. Can I Enter Banff?

If you did not receive your park pass in the mail before your trip, save the receipt or email confirmation. You can present the receipt for one month from the date of purchase as a valid pass.

Do I Need A Park Pass To Drive The TransCanada?

You do not need a Parks Canada pass to drive through Banff and Yoho National Park via TransCanada. If you stop for sightseeing, you will need a park pass.

Can You Buy a Day Pass for Several Days at Once?

Yes, you can buy a day pass for 2, 3, 4 days – etc. Do the math and see if it is worth it for you to buy a Discover Pass. A Discovery Pass is valid for one year and gives you access to all national parks in Canada.

Do You Need A Banff Park Pass To Visit Lake Louise Or Moraine Lake?

Yes, anyone who intends to recreate or stop at any scenic viewpoints in the National Parks of Canada needs a pass.

Are There Any Discounts?

The only discount we know of is available to CAA or AMA members. You can find the details of the discount here.

Can You Purchase a Discovery Pass Without Providing a Car Registration Number?

You don’t have to note your license plate number when purchasing a Discovery Pass online.

Is My Banff Park Pass Transferable?

The pass is not transferable once it has been used. The pass holder must be present when using the pass. Only one person must sign the pass for a Family/Group Pass. You may not sell your pass once you leave the park. Please support the park you are recreating in and follow these rules.

My Airbnb provided me with a park pass during my stay. Is this allowed?

Airbnb hosts in the Bow Valley have been offering Park Passes to guests as an incentive to book with them. This is not allowed and is discouraged. Park passes are non-transferable. I know it’s tempting, but please consider purchasing your own Park Pass for the National Park you are recreating in.

Banff National Park entry and service fees help support visitor services and facilities. Discovery passes must be signed by the pass holder to be valid. They are non-refundable, not transferable, and rendered void if resold.

The Cost To Discovery Annual Pass And Day Pass Are The Same What Should I Buy?

The Discovery Pass includes admission to the Cave & Basin Museum, and you get a little placard. So, we’d definitely recommend purchasing the Discovery Pass. Also, if you have plans to visit Canada again and want to venture into a national park, the Discovery Pass is good for an entire year.

I have my pass. Do I still have to stop at the Banff Park Gates?

If driving from Canmore to Banff, you’ll pass the East Gate Buildings & Booths. If you already have your pass, stick to the right-hand lanes and continue with the traffic flow. Only those without a Park Pass need to stop at the gates to purchase theirs. Don’t worry, there are signs!

When Do Park Buildings Open?

Park Gates and Visitor Center hours vary by season. It’s best to check here.

Where Does Park Pass Fees Go?

The proceeds obtained from Park Passes support the upkeep of the most frequently used locations and services by national and international visitors, such as scenic parkways, day-use areas, trails, public safety, education, and information services. All revenue remains within the location where it was collected.

Where to Get a Parks Canada Pass

Everest The Puppy At The Lake Louise Shoreline

To recap, you can purchase a Parks Canada Pass online, either on the Parks Canada website or the Banff Lake Louise website. You can also purchase park passes in person at National park gates and visitor information centers. You can buy them at Cabela’s Canada and MEC (Mountain Equipment Company), but we have not verified this.

What Do We Recommend Doing?

Natasha Ice Skating On Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park (you need a pass for here)

If your trip is less than a month out, purchasing your day pass or annual pass at the park gates or visitor centers mentioned is best. There is often a line to purchase on beautiful summer days, but it should never take more than 20 minutes, as Parks Canada does a great job keeping the line moving.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!

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About Cameron

Cameron is a resident of Canmore, Alberta. After traveling the world for six years, he settled down in the beautiful Bow Valley with Natasha. He has been featured as a travel expert with numerous publications worldwide and has spoken on several occasions about the power of travel. He has a passion for all things in the Canadian Rockies and loves to spend his time snowboarding, scrambling, camping, biking, and trail running. Conservation is a deep fundamental in his life, and he aims to inspire others to care about our natural world. You can learn more on the about us page.

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22 thoughts on “ULTIMATE Guide To Purchasing A Banff Park Pass (Parks Canada Pass)”

  1. Thank you so much for putting all this fantastic and super useful information together. I feel way more prepared for my upcoming trip to Banff after reading your blog 😚

  2. Thank you so much for this really useful Blog – so helpful for us coming from the UK and trying to get our heads around what we need to do!

    Can you just tell me – are there other places, in addition to Cave and Basin Historic site, that the Discovery Pass includes over and above the day pass option? My husband and I will be in the parks for 6 days, so 6 daily passes will cost us $126, but I’m just trying to work out whether the Discovery Pass will be better if we want to visit other places that aren’t included in the Day Pass?

    • There aren’t any more big notable places included in the pass. The Discovery Pass is good for a year all around Canada, so if you have plans of returning or may potentially extend your trip you could go with the Discovery Pass. If you are certain the trip is only 6 days the better value is the day ticket.

  3. I would like to know if I can buy annual discovery part in town of Canmore or somewhere in town of banff in stead of park gate.
    Thank you so much!

  4. Lots of great information, thanks. We’re visiting Banff park on an organised package holiday next month, on coach transfers and the train. Do we need to get park passes, our agents seem to think it only applies to people in cars?

    Margaret N

    • Hi Margaret,

      All visitors to the park need a parks pass, but without knowing the details of your trip or your tour operator I can’t say if they will have your park pass for you or not. It’s best to contact them and someone should be able to give you a clear answer.

  5. Hi, thank you for this wonderful information. Me and my partner are planning to go to Banff this summer‚ for 2 people in a vehicle, by purchasing 1 discovery pass ADULT can it accommodate both of us? please enlighten me.

  6. Hi we are a party of 2 couples in 1 vehicle staying in Canmore for 3 nights planning to visit Banff,, Lake Louise, Bow Valley and Icefields then onto Jasper for a further 3 nights

    Are we classed as a family and is that 5 days

    Also wish to drive Bow Valley and unsure of September seasonal closures – is it just night??/////

  7. We are travelling from the Uk from gust through to end Sept next year and stopping at Salmon Arm, Emerald Lake, Banff, Jasper, Clearwater, Whistler and then down to Vancouver Island and will be on the west side of Canada for nearly 4 weeks before flying to the East coast for 3 weeks. Are we better off with a Discovery Pass and will this then give us access to all possible parks that we are likely to visit as first time tourists? We knew nothing about this so thank you for informing us in the way you have. Excellent site.

    • For the amount of time you are visiting I would definitely suggest getting the Discovery Pass as it covers all the National Parks in Canada for the entire year.

  8. Hi Cameron and Natasha!

    My family and I will be staying for only 2 days visiting Banff and Jasper National Parks. Do I need a Day Pass for each of the parks? On our way to Vancouver we will make a quick stop at Emerald Lake, do we need another pass for that? We arrive at night in Canmore and plan to take the Icefields Parkway very early in the morning. What do I do if the visitor center is closed at this time? Thank you guys!

    • Yes you need a Parks Canada pass for Jasper, Yoho (where Emerald Lake is located), Banff, Kootenay and Glacier National Park, but it all falls under one pass. For two days I would recommend purchasing a two day pass. Parks Canada employees are at the booths pretty early in the morning to check for Parks passes unless you plan on getting on the parkway well before sunrise.

  9. You mention that the pass is linked with your car license plate. How would that work if we purchase an annual pass – but we would be in a rental car?

  10. Hi
    Can I ask do I need to purchase Day park passes, 6 days, if I am going on a skiing holiday & staying up the mountain from Banff? All info I read states about purchasing passes if driving into Banff National Park but we are on a skiing holiday so just wondered if this was required as we will not be driving, probably on a private transfer from
    Calgary airport. Thanks

    • The ski resorts are in the National Park as is the town of Banff where the shuttles for the ski resorts depart. Unless your ski trip is to Golden, Revelstoke, or another ski resort in B.C. you need a pass.

  11. Hi!

    Thank you so much for your blog, every google search I do brings me to your blog and I have found so much unbelievably useful information! We are travelling to Canada from the UK for the first time in August and so excited. We are driving to Lake Louise from Vancouver for 3 nights and I can’t figure out which pass to buy or where to buy it from. We hope to stop at a few stops along the way to stretch our legs in Mount Revelstoke, Glacier and Yoho but have no set plans. I’m assuming we’d be best with a day pass as we’re only there for four days but can I just check that that would cover all of the parks and not just Banff?
    I appreciate answering people’s questions must take you so much time so thank you for any advice!


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