A Guide to Purchasing a Kananaskis Conservation Pass

The Kananaskis Conservation Pass, not to be confused with a Parks Canada National Parks Pass is an important aspect to learn about if you plan on doing any hiking or recreating in Kananaskis Country or the Bow Valley Corridor.

It’s a fairly new pass, introduced in 2021, and is now something that must be thought about for many Albertans, including those who want to enjoy all the hikes near Calgary.

Do You Need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass?

On the shores of Kananaskis Lakes

All visitors who plan to recreate in Kananaskis Country need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass (KCP). To keep this article shorter, I’ll label it KCP throughout. The KCP is separate from the Parks Canada Day Pass, which covers Banff National Park and other Canadian National Parks. Popular areas that makeup Kananaskis Country include Spray Valley Provincial Park, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Bow Valley Provincial Park, and Elbow Sheed Wildland Provincial Park.

Banff National Park is a National Park, and Kananaskis is a Provincial Park. Each requires its own pass. If you plan on hiking in Kananaskis, you must purchase a KCP.

I’m Staying in Canmore. Do I Need One?

Grassi Lakes Natasha
Grassi Lakes is just outside of Canmore

Most visitors who choose to base themselves in Canmore over Banff have to think about the KCP more than those who are mainly visiting Banff. While staying in the Town of Canmore does not require either a National Park Pass or a KCP, the areas around Canmore do.

The Canmore Nordic Center, Grassi Lakes, Ha Ling, EEOR, and Grotto Canyon are great examples of Canmore hikes and areas requiring users to have a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. If you plan to hike in Kananaskis and Banff, you need a National Park Pass and a KCP. This is something to consider when budgeting a trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Where Can You Purchase One?

The easiest place to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass is online. You can buy your pass online and register your license plate. Passes can also be purchased in person or by Wi-Fi at Kananaskis Visitor Information Centres (Barrier, Elbow, Peter Lougheed, and William Watson Lodge) and the Canmore Nordic Centre Day Lodge. However, we find it straightforward and easy to go online; here is where you can do that.

How Much Are They?

Day passes aren’t super cheap; they are actually more expensive than the National Park Day Pass. You can purchase a day pass for $15+ tax. Passes are tied to the vehicle in Kananaskis and are not person-specific. If you pile 6 people into one car, your fee is still $15. If you are a local, a Calgarian, or planning to spend more than a week in Kananaskis, you will want to look into getting the Annual Pass, which is $90 plus tax and also tied to your vehicle.

Visitors can now register up to three vehicles and a trail from the same household on one annual pass. Passes expire at 11:59 p.m. on the last day they are valid; they are not 24-hour passes.

I’m Spending Most of My Time in Banff. Do I Need One?

If you spend most of your holiday in Banff and have no plans to venture into Kananaskis or the Bow Valley Corridor, you do not need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. Instead, you will need a National Park Pass.

If you plan to visit Banff and Canmore, research what you will be doing around Canmore to see if you need a KCP. Popular activities near Canmore requiring a KCP are Grassi Lakes, the Canmore Nordic Centre, hiking Ha Ling, the East End of Rundle, or Grotto Canyon. You do not need a special pass to visit the Town of Canmore.

Does Everyone In My Group Need A Park Pass?

Driving the Smith Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis
Driving the Smith Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis

The pass is tied to the vehicle, not the passengers or individual hikers, skiers, bikers, boaters, etc.

Who Doesn’t Need a Pass?

The passes are tied to parked vehicles, not individual people. This means that if you travel through the area without stopping, are dropping off or picking up hikers, or entering Kananaskis on foot, bike, or horseback, you do not need a pass.

Does Alberta Parks Check Pass Holders?

Alberta Parks check vehicles and license plates, not individual people. The pass is tied to each registered vehicle, meaning you don’t get a physical pass. Does Alberta Parks actually monitor vehicles? Yes, they do, especially at busy trailheads on weekends. You could be subject to a $150 fine if your car is caught without a pass while parked.

Where Do I Display My Park Pass?

Unlike a National Park Pass, which must be displayed in vehicles, the Kananaskis Conservation Pass is tied to license plates digitally, and there is no physical pass to show.

Discount Days

Rawson Lake in Kananaskis

There are some “discount” days, or essentially free days when you can recreate in Kananaskis without a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. Free days occur on Wilderness Wednesdays, which is the first Wednesday of every month. Other free days are special holidays.

  • New Year’s Day: January 1
  • Family Day: 3rd Monday of February
  • Earth Day: April 22
  • Indigenous People’s Day: June 21
  • Parks Day: 3rd Saturday of July
  • Kananaskis Country’s Birthday: September 22
  • Remembrance Day: November 11
  • First day of winter: December 21
  • Christmas Day: December 25

Other groups are exempt from having to purchase a pass. This includes:

  • First Nations person with Status
  • Albertans with low income participating in an eligible provincial support program
  • A resident of the Kananaskis Improvement District
  • Facility operator agreement holder
  • Provincial or municipal employees commuting to the work site or utilizing a fleet vehicle

Our Favorite Hikes in Kananaskis

Natasha hiking Tent Ridge
Tent Ridge is one of the most beautiful hikes in Kananaskis

So you’ve purchased your KCP and are looking to get out hiking! We love hiking in Kananaskis and try to delve into the area at least once a week. A few of our favorite hikes are Smutwood Peak, Tent Ridge, Burstall Pass, and the Blackshale Suspension Bridge (great for families!).

LOOKING FOR MORE? The Best Things To Do In Kananaskis

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About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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