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Snowmobiling on public land
Opportunities for winter motorized recreation are seasonally available. Learn more about snowmobiling on public land.
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.
Motorized recreationists are outdoor enthusiasts who use off-highway vehicles (OHVs) or, where permitted, road legal vehicles for off-road or overland travel. Trucks, jeeps and modified 4x4 vehicles for overland travel are not considered OHVs.
Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act defines an OHV as a(an):
- amphibious craft
- dune buggy
- off-road motorcycle
- quad and trike
Plan your trip
Step 1 – Plan your route
Find motorized trails and areas open for OHV and off-road use. Some trails and areas only allow the use of specific vehicles or may have maximum vehicle width restrictions in place.
- Explore winter trails in Alberta on the Provincial Recreation Map.
- Be aware of closures. Check the Public land closures and advisories pages for current area closures.
- 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
- OHV operators must be 14 years or older to ride on their own. Anyone under the age of 14 must be accompanied or closely supervised by an adult, 18+.
- All vehicles, regardless of size or engine displacement, require valid insurance and registration to operate on public land.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the minimum age of riders and number of passengers your vehicle can support.
- Wear a CSA-compliant helmet. Some exemptions apply.
- Your vehicle must have a licence plate affixed to the vehicle, working head-lamp and tail lights, a proper exhaust muffler and spark arrestor.
- Follow posted signs and notices.
- Stay on designated trails and water crossings. Ride on approved trails that are designated for motorized use, and use legal watercourse crossings (bridges, fords) that appear on provincial maps.
- Keep wheel and/or tracks out of the water. Wheeled and tracked vehicles are not allowed on the bed or shore of waterbodies or wetlands, unless the travel is on frozen ground without making a depression, or on ice capable of holding the weight of the vehicle without breaking. Avoid washing your vehicle in natural water sources.
- Prevent the start of a wildfire – keep your machine free of debris.
- 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 Crown land.
- Operating any vehicle, OHV or snowmobile while impaired is against the law.
Step 4 – Plan ahead and be prepared
- Know and ride to the ability and skill of yourself and others in 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.
- Drive slowly around staging areas and avoid excessive speeds on the trails.
- Motorized users should yield to all other trail users. If you encounter equestrian users, pull over to the side of the trail and turn your vehicle off until horses pass.
- 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.
- Help prevent the spread of invasive species by removing any vegetation or clumps of mud or debris from the vehicle and thoroughly clean the underside of vehicles, tires and parts before moving to another area.
- 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.
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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