[UPDATE: 10 JUNE, 2021 – ‘The system will be back,’ said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. ‘It’s not an if but a when.’ – Full article via North Shore News.
[ORIGINAL POST] On July 27, 2020, A new BC Parks day pass was introduced as a way to manage visitor numbers to some of the provinces’ most popular parks. Areas such as the Stawamus Chief and Garibaldi Provincial Park now require permits to access and enjoy.
This affects local trails such as Panorama Ridge, Cheakamus Lake, and Elfin Lakes. While the new BC Parks day pass is free, numbers are limited. We thought we’d share our experience reserving a permit and provide some tips to make your adventure as smooth as possible.
The New BC Parks Day Pass Is Launched
A statement on the BC Parks website explains:
‘The trail systems within [these] parks can become crowded at narrow pass points and view points which can lead to congestion and difficulties maintaining physical distancing.
To ensure the health and safety of our visitors and staff, to meet health and safety guidelines, and as part of a pilot project, free day-use passes are required to access [certain] trails/parks.’
How To Reserve A BC Parks Day Pass
The first thing to note is that day pass can only be booked on the day of arrival and are available for each day beginning at 6:00am. If you’re set on visiting one of the parks highlighted in the program, you’ll want to be at your screen by 5:45am with your refresh button poised. The website to visit is: http://bcparks.ca/reserve/day-use/
The website doesn’t give an indication on the number of passes available, however we hiked the Elfin Lakes trail (Garibaldi Provincial Park), and encountered around 75 fellow hikers during the 22km round trip. Based on 2 or 3 people per permit, this would translate to around 25-35 permits. The parking lot was pretty full, but we wouldn’t be able to indicate whether this was “sold out”.
Once you have your day pass, be sure to save it to your phone and take a screenshot, too. This means that if there’s no cell service at the trailhead, you can still load it.
Permits may be obtained per vehicle (maximum of 8 persons per vehicle) or per person – depending on which park you visit.
Let The Adventure Begin
We arrived at the trailhead early and the parking lot was already 75% occupancy. We figured that people were making the most of their BC Parks day pass (and Elfin Lakes is roughly a 6-hour hike, so there’s that too)
There was signage as we approached the trailhead warning of the new permit requirement, and a ranger was stationed at the entrance to the parking lot. Our ID was checked and our pass number was taken and cross-referenced on a master list.
All-in-all a very quick and painless process.
The Hiking Experience In A COVID World
Elfin Lakes is mostly a nice, wide trail and there is ample room to pass others and maintain a good distance. Other hikers were considerate of spacing/physical distancing, and the overall experience was no different to previous years (aside from the 5:45 am wake-up call, I guess!)
One thing to note is the washroom facilities. These are basic, backcountry type outhouses, which typically don’t have any toilet paper or hand sanitizer. It has always been the case to bring your own supplies but I guess that’s more important than ever now.
Our Favourite Hikes In Whistler
There are lots of great hikes in Whistler. We have alpine trails and valley routes, glacier-fed lakes and old-growth forest, backcountry adventures, and lift-accessed trailheads. From family-friendly strolls to mountain-top thigh burners – there’s something for every adventurer.
Check out this post for our favourite hikes in Whistler – some of which require the new BC Parks day pass and some that do not.