Day passes will be mandatory to explore these 5 B.C. parks this summer

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As of June 23, the B.C. government will require people visiting Joffre Lakes, Golden Ears and specific trails at Mount Robson, the Stawamus Chief and Garibaldi parks to reserve ahead.

Hikers at Upper Joffre Lakes near Pemberton, B.C. As of June 23, the provincial government is requiring anyone visiting this park, as well as four others this summer, to reserve a free day-use pass to avoid crowding and protect the environment. (Leon Wang/Shutterstock)

When summer officially begins, so too will the B.C. government’s mandatory day pass program for five provincial parks.

From June 23 until Oct. 22, day-use passes will be required for visitors to Joffre Lakes, Golden Ears, the Berg Lake Trail at Mount Robson, the Backside Trail at Stawamus Chief Park and the Diamond Head, Rubble Creek and Cheakamus trailheads at Garibaldi park.

The free passes can be reserved online one day before visiting and are an extension of a pilot program introduced last summer to reduce crowding during COVID-19.

According to the province, day use in B.C. parks has increased by 34 per cent since 2011 and park visitors often stay on popular trails that can become overused and crowded in areas such as viewpoints.

Overuse of trails can also have negative impacts on the environment such as trail widening, soil erosion, altered hydrology, damaged vegetation and increased garbage from people littering.

Stu Burgess, operator at Golden Ears Park, said in a statement the day-use pass program has been a safe and effective way to manage the volume of traffic entering the park.

People climb up a rock face towards the first peak on the Stawamus Chief mountain above the waters of Howe Sound in Squamish, B.C., on Saturday, July 2, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

In 2018-19, B.C. provincial parks had 26 million day-use visits and over 42 per cent of this visitation was in the South Coast region. 

“People in B.C. love the outdoors. For many of us, it’s an important part of who we are,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman in a news release.

Heyman said the day pass program both protects nature and improves managed access to parks and trails.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Victoria, the minister said each of the five parks will have different caps on how many people can visit per day during peak hours and those will be adjusted “based on experience.” Heyman did not specify what those numbers are now.

Based on stakeholder feedback after the pilot launched last year, day-use will no longer be required this summer for Mount Seymour and Cypress provincial parks on Vancouver’s North Shore.

For the parks included in the summer pilot, the number of passes available each day will be adjusted to accommodate as many visitors as possible. Passes are not required for individuals aged 18 or younger when accompanied by a parent or guardian who do have one.

“The South Coast is one of the busiest regions in the province and for search and rescue. We strongly support B.C. Parks initiatives that protect nature, keep the wilderness wild and educate park visitors about responsible recreation,” said Sandra Riches, executive director of B.C. AdventureSmart.

The recent appearance of a trailer on the base of a trail at Stawamus Chief Park is a sign that officials will be checking visitors to make sure they have mandatory day passes on them when visiting this summer. (Facebook/groups/BackcountryBC)

The earliest people can book passes online is 7 a.m. the day before they visit. The reservation system opens for the season on June 22 for June 23 bookings.

Joffre Lakes Park is temporarily closed but is set to reopen on June 22, in partnership with Lil’wat and N’Quatqua First Nations, in time for the summer hiking season.

That particular park, said Heyman, has been “very, very crowded for a very long time” and he hopes the day pass program and new management partnership will let people better experience the sights, rather than “tripping over each other in the trails.”

The B.C. government recommends people print their day passes rather than relying on their cellphones to work in parks as it could be challenging to get a network connection.

To learn more, and to reserve a day pass when the time comes, visit the B.C. Parks website.

Day-use passes will not be required for evening visits, which is after 4 p.m. at Garibaldi, Golden Ears, Mount Robson or Stawamus Chief, or after 7 p.m. at Joffre Lakes.

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