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Banff Park Pass – What It Is & Why You Need It!

When planning a trip to Banff National Park, it’s important to know what you need and why. We’ve seen an increase in park fees in the area over the past few years, so it can get confusing on what you need for where.

The purpose of this post is to answer questions related to the Banff Park Pass, so you don’t have any worries about it during your trip. You’ll know what the Banff National Park fees are and where to buy your pass for Banff National Park.

View of Cascade Ponds with mountain background

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What is the Banff Park Pass

It’s often referred to as a Banff park pass or a Banff National Park pass, but it is actually a Canada National Park Pass.

The fees that are collected from the national park passes help to pay for the facilities in the park, like scenic parkways, trail upkeep, public safety and information centres. The fees that are collected from the pass for Banff National Park stay in the park to help fund the services in Banff National Park.

Empty Bow Valley Parkway for biking in Banff

Types of Canada National Park Passes Available

There are two types of Banff park passes you can purchase:

  1. Daily Admission Fees – Daily admission fees are good for Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park, Waterton National Park and Elk Island National Park. The Banff day pass is good until 4pm the following day, regardless of time of purchase.

             
  2. Annual Discovery Pass – Valid for an entire year, the annual Discovery Pass will get you entry into ALL national parks in Canada plus National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites.

Need Help Planning Your Trip?

Our Banff Travel Guide has everything you need to get the MOST out of your trip to Banff!

Banff Travel Guide - Ebook

Do you need a Banff Park Pass if you are driving through?

To put it simply, you need a Banff park pass to enter Banff National Park. However since the TransCanada Highway passes through Banff National Park, you do not need a park pass to drive through. Except on the scenic parkways. If you decide you want to take a scenic path down the Bow Valley Parkway or along the Icefields Parkway, then you will need a Banff National Park Pass.

You also need a park pass if you get to Banff without a car, stop at any of the Banff picnic spots, Banff viewpoints, stop in a town or do any camping.

Picnic tables at Taylor Lake campground

To make it simple, if you are doing anything other than a quick pitstop for the toilet or gas, then you need to pay the Banff National Park entrance fee.

Where to buy a Park Pass in Banff

You can purchase a daily Banff park passes or annual Discovery Pass from Banff and Lake Louise Tourism online. You can also purchase the Discovery Pass online from Parks Canada.

If you decide to purchase your Discovery Pass online, make sure you’ve left an acceptable amount of time for it to be mailed to you.

You can also purchase your Banff day pass or annual park pass at the gates into the national park or national park visitors centres.

There are also several participating places where you can purchase your pass for Banff National Park in person, like MEC

Is there a benefit to buying a Banff Park Pass online?

The only real benefit to buying your annual pass online is that you don’t need to lineup to buy your pass once you reach the Banff Park Gates. If you arrive late at night and want to get out exploring first thing the next morning, you probably don’t want the extra hassle.

In addition, there are times when the lineup to enter Banff National Park can get quite long. This would be on a long weekend or weekends in the summer. If you are going through the park gates in the morning on a weekday, you don’t have much to worry about.

If you have the time to order it in advance, then you might as well buy your Banff National Park pass online and save yourself the extra hassle of buying it on arrival. Just be aware that you will have to pay a minimal shipping charge as well.

How much advance time do you need? For standard shipping expect $4-7 dollars for shipping and 5-20 business days (location dependent). Express shipping (2-5 business days for Canada or 5-7 business is also available at an extra charge.

What is included with your Banff Park Pass

As we mentioned, for the Banff National Park day pass, admission to the other mountain national parks is included.

For the annual Discover Passes, it includes admission into all National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites.

Kids and nature lovers will enjoy looking at the tiny fish who enjoy the warm thermal waters below the Cave and Basin

What isn’t included with your Banff National Park Pass

The daily Banff park pass does not include entry into National Historic Sites like the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. It does not include entry into any provincial parks, which includes the fee for nearby Kananaskis Provincial Park.

Cave and Basin Historic Site in Banff National Park

Also not included in your national park pass is camping fees, admission into the Hot Springs, tours or any parking fees (like parking at Lake Louise or in the town of Banff).

Banff National Park Fees

Daily admission fees for Banff National Park are:

  • Adult – $10.50
  • Senior – $9.00
  • Youth – free
  • Family* – $21.00

*Family includes up to 7 people in the same car

An annual Banff Discovery Pass costs:

  • Adult – $72.25
  • Senior – $61.75
  • Youth – free
  • Family* – $145.25

*Family includes up to 7 people in the same car

Which Banff Park Pass should you buy?

That completely depends on your trip. If you are visiting Banff National Park for a weekend, then you are better off paying a daily admission fee

However, if you plan to stay any longer than 6 days then you are better off buying an annual Canada National Park Pass.

Even if you only plan to visit for a weekend, will you visit any other national park in Canada in the same year? If so, then you might as well buy the annual Discovery Pass.

Your pass must be displayed either by hanging it on the rearview mirror or on your dash with the date side showing. The pass is supposed to be signed by the pass holder and it can be sold or transferred.

Banff Park Pass FAQs

Do park officials check for park passes?

You can encounter check-stops where they will be checking for your park pass. If you are not able to present your pass, you’ll be asked to pull over and buy a pass.

We’ve seen these check-stops at several places around Banff National Park, but most often at Lake Louise and Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive near Cascade Ponds entrance.

We’ve also seen vehicles checked quite frequently at Sunshine Village during the ski season. Vehicles without a valid Banff Park Pass on display are given warning tickets and requested to purchase a pass.

Do you need a pass to enter Banff National Park?

Yes, you need a park pass to enter Banff National Park, The only exception is if you are driving straight through the park without stopping.

What is a Banff Park Pass?

The Banff Park Pass is either a daily admission fee to Banff National Park or the annual Discovery Pass which is admission to 100 Canada National Parks, National Marine Conservatoin Areas and National Historic Sites.

How much does it cost to drive through Banff National Park?

If you are driving straight through Banff National Park without stopping (which includes stopping at any viewpoints, at any picnic spots, in any towns or driving along a scenic parkway), then it doesn’t cost anything to drive through Banff National Park.

If you plan any stops, then you need to purchase either a daily park pass which costs $10.50 per adult, $9.00 per senior or $21.00 for a up to 7 people in the same car. Youth are free to enter Banff National Park.

Do I need a Banff park pass to ski?

Yes, if you are skiing in Banff then you will require a Banff park pass.

Do you need a Banff pass for Sunshine?

Yes, if you are skiing at Sunshine Village, you will require a valid park pass which can either be a daily park pass or the annual Discovery Pass.

Parks Canada frequently checks vehicles in the Sunshine parking lot for a valid Banff park pass and will issue a notice of violation. We frequently see cars with warning tickets on their windshield at Sunshine.

Do you need a park pass for Two Jack Lake?

Yes, Two Jack Lake is in Banff National Park and therefore, requires visitors to have a valid daily park pass or the annual Discovery Pass.

Do you have to pay to go to Lake Louise?

Aside from requiring a Banff park pass, there is a parking fee at Lake Louise from May to October. If you have a pass and have paid for parking (only from May to October) then it’s completely free to visit Lake Louise and the surrounding area.

Do you need a park pass for Banff town?

Yes, if you plan to stop in the town of Banff then you will require a Banff National park pass.

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Banff Park Pass - Here's the Banff Park Pass explained. We have all the details on how much the Banff National Park entry fee costs and how to get your Banff Park Pass online.