When visiting Banff National Park, one essential item you’ll need is a valid park pass.
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a vacation, having a park pass is a requirement.
But don’t worry because obtaining one is straightforward, and we should know as we are often in Banff.
We’ll break down the pass types available, where you can purchase them, and answer some of the most common questions about the Banff Park Pass.
So, let’s get started.
Written by Lou
What Is The Banff Park Pass?
The Banff Park Pass isn’t a specific pass – rather, it’s an umbrella term for the two types of National Park Passes available: the annual Discovery Pass and the daily park pass.
We’ll go into detail on each of these, but first, let’s see why and when you need a pass and when you don’t.
Why You Have To Pay To Enter Banff National Park
The fees to enter the park contribute to the preservation and maintenance of the park and play a vital role in funding essential services such as the maintenance of scenic parkways, day-use areas, trails, public safety, education, and information services.
It is important to note that these fees remain in the park, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy Banff’s natural wonders.
Do You Need A Park Pass For Banff?
If you visit Banff National Park, even for just a day, you’ll need a pass.
Regardless of your itinerary—driving, camping, exploring, or shopping in downtown Banff—you must have a pass.
Can You Drive Through Banff National Park Without A Pass?
If you’re only passing through and not stopping (except for gas), you don’t need a pass.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
For scenic parkways like the Icefields Parkway (93N) and the Bow Valley Parkway (1A), you’ll need a pass, even if you’re not stopping.
If you’re planning to pull over for any activities, like hiking or camping, for example, make sure you have a pass.
Types of Banff Park Passes Available
Now let’s look at the differences between the two types of park passes to help you decide which one is right for you:
Daily Park Pass
This pass is perfect if you’re visiting for a day or two.
The daily National Park Pass is valid for 1 day (or more) of admission to the park.
This pass covers entry to Banff National Park and the other mountain national parks of Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes, and Elk Island.
The day pass is valid until 4 pm the following day after purchase, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the park.
There is no charge for children 17 years and younger.
Keep in mind that the day pass does not include entry to national historic sites.
If you’re entering the park with a tour group, then check with the tour company to see if your park pass is included in the package.
To purchase the day pass, you can buy it on-site at the Banff National Park gates or online (see below).
Annual Discovery Pass
If you’re visiting Banff NP for a few days, visiting several times throughout the year, or visiting other Canadian national parks the annual Discovery Pass is the more cost-effective option.
The Discovery Pass is valid for 12 months from purchase, and you get unlimited access to 100 national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas across Canada during that time.
That means you can visit Banff National Park as often as you like within 12 months for no additional cost.
There are various options available to suit your needs.
You can choose between a single adult pass, a single senior adult pass, or a family/group pass (covering up to seven people arriving in the same vehicle).
You also get access to the Cave and Basin in Banff, which is popular with visitors.
The Annual Discovery Pass is available online, at entrance gates, or at visitor centres. Once it’s been used, you cannot transfer or sell it to anyone else.
How Much Does A Banff Park Pass Cost?
So, how much does it cost to get into Banff National Park? The cost of your pass depends on its type.
Here’s a quick overview of the current 2023 Park Pass prices according to the Parks Canada website:
How Much Is A Day Pass For Banff?
|Adult – person aged 18-64 years old||$10.50|
|Senior – person aged 65 and over||$9.00|
|Youth – Aged 17 and under||free|
|Family/Group – up to 7 people traveling in one vehicle||$21.00|
|Commercial Group, per person||$9.00|
How Much Is The Discovery Pass?
|Adult – person aged 18-64 years old||$72.25|
|Senior – person aged 65 and over||$61.75|
|Family/Group – up to 7 people traveling in one vehicle||$145.25|
Prices can change, so it’s always a good idea to check the official Parks Canada website for the most current information.
Where can I buy a Park Pass?
You can buy your park pass online or at one of the entrance gates or visitor centres.
Most people purchase a pass at the entrance gate to Banff National Park.
Here are the options available:
You can buy a Banff day pass or a Discovery Pass online at Banff and Lake Louise Tourism.
You can also order a Discovery Pass through the Parks Canada website and get it sent to your home before you visit Banff.
print Your Park Pass
Yes, you’ll need to print your park pass if you’re ordering it online, regardless of whether you have a temporary Discovery Pass or a day pass.
The printed pass serves as proof of purchase and allows park staff to verify that you have paid the required fees to enter the park.
To print your Park Pass, access the confirmation email you received after purchasing your pass online.
Discovery Pass Delivery Times
Delivery times vary based on your location. In Canada, standard delivery takes 1-2 weeks, while express shipping takes 2-6 business days.
In the United States, standard shipping takes 2-4 weeks, and express shipping takes 2-6 business days.
International delivery may take 2-4 weeks or longer. You can select express shipping if you want to get your pass sooner.
These are estimated delivery times, so it’s always a good idea to order your Discovery Pass well in advance to allow for any unforeseen delays.
Postage charges are not included in the cost of the Discovery Pass.
Temporary Discovery Pass
If your Discovery Pass doesn’t arrive in time, you can print off the confirmation email you received at the time of purchase, as it will show a valid pass.
Parks Canada will allow this to be used until one month from the date you bought the pass online.
Park Entrances and Visitor Centres
You can purchase a pass at any of the following park entrances or visitor information centers where Parks Canada staff will help you, answer any questions, and provide you with additional information and a brochure about the park.
Banff East Park Gate – Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1)
This is the entrance to Banff National Park if you’re driving west from Calgary or Canmore on Trans-Canada Highway 1.
If you already have a Park Pass, you don’t need to stop, just keep in the right-hand lanes and continue into the park.
Jasper East Park Gate – Yellowhead Highway (Hwy16)
Entrance to BNP if you’re traveling west from Hinton or Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway 16.
Kootenay West Gate – Banff-Windermere Highway (Hwy 93S)
Entrance to the park if coming from Radium Hotsprings or Cranbrook in British Columbia.
Jasper West Gate – Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16)
Entrance into Banff if driving from Kamloops, Prince George, and Prince Rupert in British Columbia.
If you’re entering Banff National Park from the west on the Trans Canada Hwy 1, you can purchase a pass at one of the visitor centres, such as the one in Field (see below) as there is no entrance gate.
A Parks Pass can be bought at the following visitor centres.
Parks Canada Visitor Centres
Banff National Park
Banff Visitor Centre
224 Banff Avenue
Open 8am – 8pm MST daily
Lake Louise Visitor Centre
Samson Mall, 201 Village Road
Lake Louise, AB
Open 8:30am – 6:30pm MST daily
Jasper National Park
Information Centre National Historic Site
500 Connaught Drive
Check the Parks Canada site for up-to-date open times
Icefields Centre at Columbia Icefields
Open mid-April to mid-October.
Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park Visitor Centre
7556 Main Street East
Radium Hot Springs BC V0A 1M0
Open May to September.
Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park Visitor Centre
Field, BC V0A 1G0
Open May to September.
Monday – Friday: 8.30am – 6.30pm. Saturday + Sunday: 9am – 5pm.
Where Else Can You Buy A Banff Pass?
Specific National Park Campgrounds
You can buy a Park Pass if you’re camping at a staffed campground in Banff National Park, such as Johnston Canyon.
Check out the Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service for up-to-date info.
Which Pass Should I Buy?
If you’re visiting Banff National Park, or other national parks or attractions multiple times throughout the year, then the Discovery Pass is the best option.
But if you’re only visiting once or twice, a single day pass per day is your best bet.
If you’re traveling in a group or a family of up to 7 people in one vehicle, the family/group pass can be the most economical choice.
Apart from granting access to Banff National Park, the Discovery Pass also gives you access to the Cave and Basin, which the daily pass doesn’t, as I mentioned earlier.
Where Do You Display The Park Pass?
If you have a Discovery Pass, hang it from your rear-view mirror with the date facing forward. This ensures that it is clearly visible and easily identifiable for park staff.
For day passes, stick it on the driver-side dashboard or windscreen with the date showing.
National Park Pass for Banff
I hope this guide to the Banff Park Pass has been helpful and cleared up any questions you might have about it.
I recommend you check for any updates or changes to fees and regulations on the Parks Canada website before your visit to be sure you have the most up-to-date information.
Why don’t you check out what you can do in Banff once you’ve got your pass?
Banff Park Pass FAQs
There seem to be a lot of questions about the Banff Park Pass and what it covers, so I will try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions I’ve seen.
Do you need a Park Pass to ski in Banff?
Yes, you will need a park pass to ski at Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, and Norquay in Banff National Park.
A Discovery Pass is recommended if you’re spending a few days skiing. Alternatively, a single-day pass will cover your skiing activities for the day.
Do you need a pass to get into Lake Louise?
Yes, a park pass is required to enter Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This includes both the lake itself and the nearby ski resort.
Do I need a park pass to visit the town of Banff?
Yes, you’ll need a park pass to visit the town of Banff. This includes all attractions and activities, such as shopping, sightseeing, restaurants, and more.
Do I need a park pass to stay in Banff?
Yes, you need a park pass to stay in Banff. This includes hotels, RVs, camping, and any other accommodation options. Park fees are not included in the cost of accommodation and must be purchased separately.
Can I use the same Park pass in Banff and Jasper?
Yes, the same pass can be used for Banff and Jasper as both the Discovery Pass and the daily pass allow you to visit the other mountain national parks, which include Jasper.
Do I need a park pass To Visit Canmore?
No, you don’t need a park pass for Canmore. Canmore is not within Banff National Park. However, you will need to buy a Kananaskis Conservation Pass if you want to explore Kananaskis and areas of the Bow Valley.