Plan your next adventure: Download Alberta’s Public Land Trail Guide.
Snowmobiling on public land
Opportunities for winter motorized recreation are seasonally available. Learn more about snowmobiling on public land.
There are plenty of opportunities for motorized recreation on public land (within and outside of Public Land Use Zones, and on provincial trails) and in some provincial park sites. Motorized recreationists use off-highway vehicles such as dirt bikes, quads and side by sides (OHVs) or road legal vehicles for off-road travel. Rules are different for OHVs and highway vehicles.
Designated trails and areas that permit motorized recreation may have activity timing restrictions and only allow motorized use at certain times of the year to ensure sustainable recreational use of the area, and to protect sensitive landscapes and species from damage.
Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act defines an OHV as a motorized vehicle including but not limited to:
- dirt bikes
- pickup trucks
- sport utility vehicles
Visiting from out of province?
When visiting Alberta, familiarize yourself with Alberta’s legislation for motorized recreation. Motorized recreationists from another province must:
- Carry proof of residency.
- Follow the rules regarding registration and the display of licence plates as required by their provincial jurisdiction. If you have been in Alberta for more than 30 consecutive days, Alberta requirements for registration and licensing apply.
- Produce valid proof of insurance upon request by an enforcement officer.
Plan your trip
Step 1 – Plan your route
Find motorized trails and areas open for motorized recreation.
- Be aware of Public land closures and advisories.
- Download directions to the trailhead and trail maps, before heading out.
Visit the Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) pages to review the rules and vehicle restrictions, to learn where the approved trails are and to download georeferenced maps to use offline during your trip.
Motorized recreation is allowed on public land outside of a PLUZ. Always follow the posted rules and signs.
Contact the disposition holder for permission to access public land held under lease and public land that is occupied. Construction or heavy equipment, fences and buildings are indicators that land is occupied.
Step 2 – Be safe. Be responsible.
Step 3 – Know the rules and laws
Familiarize yourself with provincial legislation and regulations:
Rules to remember
- For motorized recreation on designated trails on public land, an OHV does not include snow vehicles or on-highway vehicles. There are different rules that apply to the use of snow vehicles and on-highway vehicles used for off-road travel.
- In Alberta, every OHV or road legal vehicles used for off-road travel must have:
- valid insurance and registration
- valid licence plate, affixed in a visible location
- working head and taillights
- a proper muffler and spark arrestor, with no modifications to the muffler system that increase vehicle noise
- Riders must wear a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) compliant helmet. For details and exemptions, visit: Off-highway vehicle helmet law.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the minimum age of riders and number of passengers for your vehicle.
- Riders under the age of 14 must be under direct supervision of an adult.
- Operating any OHV or vehicle while impaired is against the law.
- Follow all signs and posted notices.
- Stay on the trail tread of designated and provincial trails. OHVs are not allowed on highways.
- Keep wheels out of the water, and off the bed and shore of waterbodies and wetlands unless using designated water crossing such as a bridge or a signed ford.
- Keep your machine free of debris to prevent the start of a wildfire and prevent the spread of invasive species. Stop and inspect hot spots regularly to avoid build up of mud or plant material. Avoiding riding or parking your OHV in vegetated areas.
- Stay off private and leased land unless permitted, and steer clear of pipelines. Contact leaseholder prior to travel on leased land. Learn more at Recreation on agricultural public land.
Step 4 – Plan ahead and be prepared
- Plan your route on designated trails. Check for activity timing restrictions for the trail or area you are visiting.
- Ride responsibly, and within the skill and ability of your group.
- Ride with caution; hills and other natural hazards can be dangerous.
- Two-way traffic exists on all trails; use caution and reduce speeds when encountering other trail users and nearing intersections
- Check your tire pressure and tread depth, as high pressure or aggressive treads can increase soil compaction and damage vegetation.
- Avoid travel on wet trails. Most trail damage occurs after rainfall and snowmelt when trails are wet and soft. Be prepared to change plans and/or turn around if conditions are bad.
- Keep wheels off exposed alpine terrain and wet, sensitive or steep areas. Repeated travel in these areas creates damage that is very difficult to repair.
- Always have your headlight on; it is just as important to be seen as to see. Use caution and stay on trails when operating in reduced visibility.
- Never travel alone. Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Minimize sharp, low-radius turns – such manoeuvres tend to remove vegetation and plough topsoil.
- Reduce erosion – use low pressure, non-aggressive tires. Travel in small groups to minimize soil compaction and vegetation damage.
- Travel on trails and park in areas with the hardest, most durable surface.
- Leave all gates and fences as you find them, open or closed.
- Don't cut or mark live trees – use only well-placed nylon (rather than steel) winch straps to avoid damage to bark.
- Share the trail. Yield to non-motorized recreationists like hikers, cyclists and equestrian users. Hold up fingers to indicate how many are in your group when passing other trail users.
Step 5 – Get outside and explore
Whether you are new to motorized recreation on public land, or have years of experience, check out the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association for information on:
- responsible and respectful riding
- safety and education
- environmental stewardship
- OHV and off-road advocacy
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