Ontario Parks gatehouse

Are Ontario’s provincial parks free in 2017?

If you ordered the FREE 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass, we wish you a wonderful time exploring Canada’s national parks.

BUT 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.

But I got my pass from Parks Canada, and your parks are in Canada?

There’s a difference between national parks (Parks Canada) and other kinds of parks located in Canada. And the free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass is only accepted at Canada’s national parks.

In the same way, not every park in Ontario is managed by Ontario Parks. There are many different kinds of parks.


map of locations of provincial and national parks

How many different kinds of parks could there possibly be?

In short? Lots.

For instance, Ontario Parks are provincial parks. Parks Canada are national parks.

But there are also:

  • amusement parks
  • municipal parks (like the local playgrounds in your community)
  • conservation areas
  • regional forests

Any time you see:

©Parks Canada

…you know you’re looking at national parks.

Any time you see:


…you know you’re looking at provincial parks.

So what are the national parks in Ontario? Algonquin, right?

Nope, Algonquin’s actually a provincial park.

There are five* national parks (Parks Canada) in Ontario:

*The free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass is also accepted at National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites.

Pinery, Killbear, Killarney, Algonquin, Sandbanks — these are all provincial parks. You can find a map of Ontario’s provincial parks (Ontario Parks) here.

How come I hear people talking about the Ontario Parks annual pass?

Because we have one too. Here’s what the two passes look like side by side:

©Parks Canada

Our Ontario Parks passes (annual and seasonal permits) are available for sale in provincial parks and online. These passes offer unlimited daily vehicle entry to all of Ontario’s provincial parks.

However, unlike the national parks pass, which is free this year, Ontario Parks passes cost money to purchase. You can find out the prices and details in our online Park Store or by asking at your local provincial park.

Why aren’t Ontario’s provincial parks free this year? Aren’t YOU doing anything to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday?

Canada’s national parks (Parks Canada) are part of the federal government, while Ontario’s provincial parks (Ontario Parks) are part of the provincial government — we’re two completely different organizations.

Canada’s sesquicentennial is a national celebration, so it makes sense that the federal government (national parks / Parks Canada) take the lead.

At Ontario Parks, we’ll be marking Canada150 with a variety of special events.

From Voyageur Tours (dress up and paddle a canot du nord like it’s 1796!) to Spirit Walks, we’ve got lots of fun events in store that celebrate our Canadian heritage.

Voyageur Canot at Samuel de Champlain

And the closer we get to Canada Day, the more events you’ll see in our Calendar of Events.

HPHP logoOntario Parks also offers an annual free day-use day to celebrate Healthy Parks Healthy People, a world-wide movement of the health benefits of being outdoors. In 2017, Healthy Parks Healthy People day will be held on July 21.

Tell your friends

We’re excited to think that many Ontarians might be getting back to nature in 2017.

But we don’t want their first trip to include frustration. We’d hate for them to plan a wonderful day outside, or line up at one of our busiest parks only to find out that the free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass isn’t accepted at provincial parks.

So please: take the time to share this post and remind your friends and family that the free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Passes is only good for day use at  NATIONAL PARKS, not at PROVINCIAL PARKS (Ontario Parks).

“Pass” it on 😉