Camping on public land

Find information, rules and best practices to help plan your next camping trip.

A Public Lands Camping Pass is required to random camp on public land along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.


Where you have been camping for years, or heading out on your first overnight trip, Alberta’s public land is a great place to spend a night in the great outdoors.

Public land offers different types of camping:

  1. Serviced campground
    There are some established campgrounds in Provincial Recreation Areas (PRAs) within Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs). Established campgrounds may have reservable or first-come first served sites and offer amenities and facilities for campers. Visitors are encouraged to use campsites to reduce the risk of environmental impact to public land caused by increased recreational pressure. In campgrounds where campers pay a nightly fee, they do not require a Public Lands Camping Pass.
  2. Camping nodes and Public Land Recreation Areas
    Some PLUZs have camping nodes, which have first come, first serve camping sites that offer basic amenities such as outhouses, fire rings and/or waste receptables. Camping nodes may be established Public Land Recreation Areas. Campers do not have to pay campgrounds fees to stay in a camping node, but do require a Public Lands Camping Pass.
  3. Random camping (car camping and backpacking)
    There are many opportunities to random camp outside of designated campgrounds within Public Land Use Zones and on vacant public land. Random camping areas are often found in remote areas with access along rural, gravel roads or down multi-use recreational trails, and offer no hook up services or facilities for campers. All random camping spots are first-come, first-served and require a Public Lands Camping Pass within the pass boundary.

Use the resources below to start planning your next public land camping trip.

Plan your trip

  • Step 1 – Find a camping spot

    Black and white icon with 3 white triangular shaped tents Black and white icon with a triangular shaped tent and trailer
  • Step 2 – Be safe and responsible

    • Alberta’s backcountry may not have cell coverage. Download and/or print any maps or directions ahead of your trip, and take a satellite communication device with you if you have one.
    • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return. Check-in when you return, or let them know to contact the RCMP if you miss a check-in.
    • It is recommended that campers have their own potable water source for drinking and cooking. Never drink directly from a stream, river, or waterbody.
    • Check the weather forecast for your trip.
    • Check for fire advisories and bans.
    • Check the Public land closures and advisories pages for current area closures.
  • Step 3 – Know the rules

    In a provincial park, provincial recreation area or public land recreation area, camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds or campsites. Learn more about the rules for camping in Alberta Parks.

    If you are camping in a PLUZ:

    • Find out if you need a Public Lands Camping Pass for the area you are visiting. All campers within the pass boundary require a pass, unless you are staying on private land or in a campground and paying nightly campsite fees.
    • Random camping is permitted, unless otherwise indicated by signs, notices or department publications.
      • Random camping is not permitted within 1 km of a Public Land Recreation Area, Provincial Park or Provincial Recreation Area.
      • Camping is not permitted within 1 km of a road within Kananaskis PLUZ, McLean Creek Off-Highway Vehicle PLUZ, Sibbald Snow Vehicle PLUZ, and Cataract Creek Snow Vehicle PLUZ or where posted in all other PLUZs.
    • The maximum stay length is 14 days for random camping on public land. After 14 days, you must move your camping unit by at least 1 km for 72 hours.
    • Follow all fire advisories and bans. Learn more about enjoying a campfire on public land.
    • If your pet is camping with you, keep them under control and pick up after them. Follow signs that indicate areas where pets are prohibited or need to be on a leash.
    • Keep your campsite clean. Take home all garbage and waste to properly dispose of at home or at a dump station.
  • Step 4 – Camp responsibly

    • Store all food, pet food and garbage in a bear proof container, such as a vehicle, bearproof locker or bear hang.
    • Respect other users. Store your gear and valuables securely and report any vandalism to an enforcement officer by calling 310-LAND (5263).
    • Camp or park on surfaces that are resistant to impact.
    • Use existing fire pits or portable fire receptacles for your campfire.
    • Camp at least 30 m (100 feet) from lakes and streams.
    • Camp at least 100 m (330 feet) from any oil and gas facilities.
    • Respect wildlife from a distance. Never feed, approach or chase wildlife.
    • Washroom facilities may not be available in the area you are visiting.
      • For short-term washroom needs, dig a hole at least 15 cm (6 inches) deep and bury your waste with dirt or other organic matter.
      • Select a site that is at least 70 m (230 feet) from a water source and away from trails.
      • Pack out any toilet paper and hygiene products.
      • For longer or repeated needs, bring a portable toilet. Pack out and properly dispose of human waste and sewage.
  • Step 5 – Enjoy Alberta’s great outdoors

    Find opportunities for outdoor recreation activities near your campsite.

    For more information on minimizing your impact while enjoying the outdoors visit Leave No Trace Canada.


For information or to report any public safety incidents, illegal activity or enforcement concerns during your trip, call 310-LAND (5263).

Hours: Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Toll free: 310-LAND
Toll free (outside of Alberta): 1-833-310-5869