Free 2017 Parks Canada pass only good for national parks, Ontario warns

Sorry, your 2017 Discovery Pass does not include Ontario's Algonquin Park.
Sorry, your 2017 Discovery Pass does not include Ontario's Algonquin Park. Tibor Kolley/Globe and Mail/CP Images

Got a free Parks Canada pass? Great. Just don’t try to use it in provincial parks as well, Ontario Parks warns.

The free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass allows access to all national parks in 2017 to mark Canada’s 150th birthday. Camping, tours, and other for-fee services are not included.

READ MORE: Parks Canada hoping visitors will get a free 2017 pass, even though they don’t need one

Demand for the passes even caused the Parks Canada website to temporarily go down last December.

In a recent blog post, Ontario Parks reminds nature lovers that there’s a difference between national and provincial parks, as well as conservation areas and regional forests.

For example, it’s commonly thought that Algonquin Park is a national park,when in fact it’s a provincial park.

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“Before you hit the road, make sure you know the difference between national and provincial parks in Ontario because only national parks (Parks Canada) are offering free day-use in 2017.”

Every province has its own set of rules: in Quebec, each person over the age of 18 must pay to access the park. In Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan vehicles require a permit. In Alberta, day use of provincial parks is usually free with some exceptions.

READ MORE: ‘Free’ Parks Canada passes actually costing taxpayers $5.7 million

Surprise costs can be frustrating, Ontario Parks states in its blog post, so “remind your friends and family that the free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Passes is only good for day use at national parks.”

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The free national parks pass has proven to be popular; more than two million were ordered in the weeks after it became available.

New York Times article published Jan. 4, listed Canada as the No. 1 place to visit in 2017, in part because of the free admission to Canada’s 200 national parks.

— With a file from Jodi Hughes