Last summer BC Parks introduced a pilot-project to reduce the risk of COVID to park visitors and staff.  We wrote a blog post last summer that discussed the issues around the passes.  BC Parks is currently doing a survey until May 8th to determine if the public supports the pilot project being extended to 2021.


Gates at a provincial park with the new day passes (submitted by Jay MacArthur)

The feedback from most members has been that they hated the day passes for several reasons:

  • Very difficult to plan trips when you couldn’t book a pass until 6 am
  • Hard to arrange to go with others when you were not sure about getting a pass
  • Impossible to do proper trip plans to tell a responsible person where you are going and who you are going with. Reference: AdventureSmart
  • Hikers went to other trails that are not built for crowds
  • Added stress of not being able to plan trips and get to our favourite places.

Some members liked the fewer number of hikers on the trails. Others think that part of the enjoyment of going to popular places is seeing other people enjoying themselves.

The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC has shared with BC Parks that we think we need funding for trail builders and not gate keepers.

There may be a few places that day use passes, or maybe parking reservations make more sense. Joffre Lakes is one place that comes to mind. However, we don’t think that the pilot project should be extended for 2021 in most of the places they tried it last summer.

Please fill out the BC Parks survey before May 8th.

Here is the formal response from the FMCBC to BC Parks

This questionnaire for organizations was just a bit different than the public one:

1. Does the BC Parks day use pass system affect your organization or group?

Yes, the day passes affected our hiking and climbing clubs since the pass system made it very hard for our members to organize trips to popular trails.

2. Does your group think that the day passes changed the trail or park experience?

Yes, popular trails were much emptier than usual. Too empty in our opinion. Too many people were excluded from enjoying our parks.

In order to allow the FMCBC to provide further meaningful feedback about the Day Use Pass pilot program in 2020, we requested the following information or data:

a. How many people were allowed into each area or each trail per day, where the Day Use Pass applied? Information supplied by Leah Wilcock on 2021/04/22.

b. How was the daily capacity number for each area or trail determined?

c. How many people actually showed up with reservations at each area or trail per day?

d. How many people were turned away at each area or trail per day?

e. Do you have trail counter comparative data from 2019 and 2020?

3. If you answered Yes to Question 2, in what way did the day use pass change the park visitor experience:

For the few people that received day passes, the experience was somewhat better since there were fewer people. However, in many of the parks where the system was implemented there are not huge parking lots, so that limits the number of people too.

We think that limiting the number of people put too much negative stress on the people that didn’t get passes. If we can’t go to our favourite trail, where should we go hiking?

Hikers just went to other trails that are not maintained to the level needed to handle crowds. Our members saw many more people on trails “maintained” by Recreation Sites and Trails BC and volunteers.

One of our members expressed it this way: “The BC Parks day pass system was a disaster for many areas that fall outside of the BC Parks system. Unofficial trails on crown land that could not handle overflow traffic were overwhelmed and natural areas were damaged. SAR teams had to deal with people in areas that are not as well-marked as BC Parks. Parking, human waste, and crowding issues occurred in small communities and other trailheads because BC Parks parking lots were largely unused. Please do not proceed with this program for a second year. Trying to lock the public out of the park system is not a valid management strategy.

4. Do visitation levels impact the quality of user experience in parks?

Yes, to some extent, however, hikers in Vancouver don’t expect to get a wilderness experience when they go to Cypress or Mount Seymour parks. They just want to get away from the city and experience nature. Part of the enjoyment is seeing other people having fun.

At more remote locations such as Garibaldi Lake and Joffre Lakes, we think the parking lot size should limit the number of people. We think that it would be better to have park rangers on the trails educating people and improving trails rather than have gatekeepers who don’t add positive value to the park.

5. Does your organization think the day use pass is an effective tool to manage crowding and overcrowding of our most popular parks?

Not effective.

We need trail-builders not gatekeepers. The trails in our parks are in poor condition and we need the limited funds for our trails used to improve the trails not to keep people out. We need park rangers on the ground to educate and ensure park users are not damaging the park.

The gatekeeper contractors were just sitting or standing at trailheads were not adding any value to the system. We understand that with COVID there was a concern about having too many people close together but people were good about distancing and there is lots or room to spread out in our parks.

6. What other management strategies should BC Parks consider as we propose an extension of the day use program.

Please don’t extend the day use pass pilot. As stated above we need trail builders to fix and maintain our trails. Further, with some planning and limited effort, some current well-used trails can be developed into directional loop trails to help disperse visitors and improvements to trail signage and website information can help direct visitors to alternate trails within the park system. We need park rangers hiking on trails to educate and ensure people are not damaging vegetation.

Also as mentioned above, we think that parking lots are a more effective tool to limit visitor numbers. Here is a response from one of our members: What is the purpose of a day pass if the parking lot already limits crowds to the same size? It seems to me that BC Parks treats parking as a resource and not as a tool. Since a parking lot has a limited size, it is already the perfect crowd management tool. You can block off spots if the trail gets too crowded and have a sign or booth at the entrance to indicate when the lot is full. The costs of having one or two people directing traffic and monitoring the parking lot are much lower than having people to check day passes, an online system to book day passes, and people directing traffic in the parking lot.

7. Would your organization support the implementation of the day use pass at other parks.

No. As stated above we need trail-builders, not gatekeepers. Does BC Parks have any environmental studies that show how too many people are damaging the vegetation or wildlife in popular day-use parks? We realize that some trail braiding occurs, but we think that is occurring since BC Parks doesn’t spend enough on trail maintenance.

For wilderness areas, we do agree with limiting numbers of people who can camp in remote locations

8. If you stated Yes in Question 7, which BC Parks would your group or organization suggest the day use pass expand to?


9. Day use passes were available at 6 am each day for same day park visits. Did the same day reservation system have any impact on your group or organization?


Our members hated the same day reservation system. It made it very difficult to plan trips with friends or organize club trips (Although we didn’t have club trips last summer because of COVID). A 6 am reservation doesn’t allow people to create a proper trip plan (Refer to the AdventureSmart website for recommendation on doing a trip plan). Search and Rescue teams don’t appreciate when people don’t file a trip plan with a responsible person.

10. If possible, what would your group or organization recommend as the ideal time that day passes could be made available?

Probably the day before at 7 pm makes the most sense if we are stuck with day-use passes. That allows park users time to plan for a trip the next day and file a trip plan. The time closer to the planned hike helps to ensure that people will actually use the passes. Another idea is having some passes available a week before the date, so people can plan ahead better.

11. Please share any other ideas or suggestions for improving the day use pass system.

If continued, we recommend only running the pilot program on the weekends. It seems like a total waste of money to have someone sitting at a “gate” on a rainy weekday when no one is going hiking.

Here is a link to another blog post from the Friends of Garibaldi Park (a FMCBC member club).