Recreation on public land – Know before you go

Public land provides opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, whether you are an OHV enthusiast, hunter, hiker or camper.

Plan your next adventure: Download Alberta’s Public Land Trail Guide.

Public Lands Camping Pass required

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


Alberta’s public land offers many unique opportunities for recreation including rustic camping and thousands of kilometers of trails that can be explored on foot, horseback, OHV and more. Download Alberta's Public Land Trail Guide for more information to help you plan your next trip!

Know before you go

Plan ahead to have a safe and enjoyable trip.

  • Plan your route on designated trails
  • Check the Public land closures and advisories pages for trail and area closures.
  • Check for fire advisories and bans.
  • Check weather and avoid wet, sensitive and alpine areas whenever possible.
  • Be respectful. Do not disturb artifact, fossils, livestock, property or wildlife.
  • Choose routes with the hardest, most durable surface.
  • Keep a respectful distance from wildlife. Never feed or approach wildlife.
  • Leave all gates and fences as you find them – open or closed.
  • Stay off private and leased land unless permitted. Contact leaseholder prior to travel on leased land.
  • Motorized activities

    Motorized users are outdoor enthusiasts who use Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) or, where permitted, road legal vehicles for off-road travel.

    Motorized vehicles tend to be faster and larger than other means of outdoor travel.

    • Use designated water crossings, and keep wheels off the bed and shore of streams, rivers, and lakes.
    • OHVs are not allowed on highways.
    • Prevent the start of a wildfire – keep your machine free of debris.
    • Operators under age of 14 must be supervised by an adult.
    • Be sure your OHV is compliant. The unit must:
      • be registered
      • be insured
      • have a licence plate
      • have a head-light and tail-light
    • Have a proper exhaust muffler with spark arrestor.
    • Stay on established and well-defined trails even if in snow.
    • Cutlines are not necessarily approved trails.
    • Steer clear of pipelines.
    • Do not spin or skid.
    • Respect reclamation and reforestation efforts – traffic in these areas kills vulnerable grass or tree seedlings.
    • Be courteous and share the trail with other users – travel slowly and yield the trail to non-motorized traffic.
    • Do not cut or mark live trees – use only well-placed nylon (rather than steel) winch straps to avoid damage to bark.
    • Wash your vehicle between uses to prevent transferring weed seeds between areas.
    • Do not wash your vehicle within a natural waterbody such as a stream, river, lake or wetland.

    For best practices in using motorized recreation vehicles see:

    The Alberta Traffic Safety Act defines an OHV as a (an):

    • amphibious craft
    • dune buggies
    • off-road motorcycles
    • quads and side-by-sides
    • snowmobiles

    Trucks, jeeps and modified 4x4 vehicles are not considered OHVs unless they have been registered as such.

    Off-Highway Vehicle Helmets is the law

    As of May 15, 2017, Canadian Standards Association compliant helmets must be worn by OHV users when riding on public land. Public land means Crown land, including areas that have been designated for public OHV use, public roadway and highway rights-of-way.

  • Non-Motorized activities

    Alberta’s public land provides a great opportunity for non-motorized recreationalists to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Following the information provided below will help enhance your outdoor experience and help maintain our public lands for future generations.

    Collectively, non-motorized users are recreationalists who:

    • boat and access water for recreation activities
    • climb and cave
    • hike
    • equestrian (horseback ride)
    • bike
    • ski or snowboard
    • view and photograph wildlife


    • Step over, rather than on, exposed roots to prevent damage to bark.
    • Spread out in alpine areas – avoid travelling single file to minimize trampling of fragile vegetation.
    • Yield the trail to horses.


    • Ride only on open trails.
    • Building of ramps and permanent structures is prohibited except where written permission has been granted.
    • Ride while in control.
    • Yield the trail to other non-motorized users.

    Equestrian users

    • Be alert for other trail users.
    • Use weed free supplemental feed to prevent overgrazing and non-native plant infestation.
    • High-line horses to prevent damage to roots.
    • Locate holding areas at least 100 m (328 ft) from water.
    • Avoid tethering horses to live vegetation to prevent damage.
    • Avoid soft or marshy banks when riding or watering horses.

    Boating and water access

    • Respect the shorelands. Avoid launching or landing in soft or marshy areas.
    • In a Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) launching a boat is only allowed at designated boat launches.
    • A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) is required to operate a boat with a motor.
    • A lifejacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is required on board for each person on a watercraft (this includes human-powered watercrafts).
    • Avoid disturbing wildlife. Nesting waterfowl are particularly vulnerable to disruption from boats and boat wakes.

    Climbing and caving

    • Use existing or removable protection whenever possible. Avoid Drilling.
    • Be sensitive to trail erosion on steep approaches and fragile alpine areas.
    • Avoid anchoring to and stepping on exposed roots and vegetation to minimize bark damage.
    • Avoid disturbing nesting birds, bats and other creatures. Cave formations are life are vulnerable to outside contamination.
    • Avoid touching anything you do not have to.

    Skiers and snowboarders

    • Ensure adequate snow cover.
    • Avoid travelling on top of trees and other vegetation that may be broken or damaged by direct contact with skis.

    Wildlife viewing and photography

    • Be aware of your surroundings, follow posted wildlife warnings or closures, and keep respectful of distance.
    • Any activities that you engage in should not disturb nests, dens, or result in wildlife altering their behaviour due to your presence.
    • Commercial photographers are required to obtain appropriate permits on public land and provincial parks.
  • Camping

    Camping on public land is an exciting and enjoyable way for people to connect with nature and explore Alberta’s vast and diverse camping opportunities.

    • Select your site
      • Check public land closures for area and trail closures.
      • Camp in areas away from trails, game trails, berry bushes, clover patches, streams, rivers, and lakeshores.
      • Camp or park on surfaces that are resistant to impact.
      • Choose areas that minimize damage to vegetation.
      • Camp 30 m (100 ft) from lakes, streams and ponds.
      • Camp at least 100 m (328 ft) away from oil and gas well sites or facilities.
    • Limit your stay to no more than 14 days in the same location. After 14 days, you must move a distance of at least 1 km away for 72 hours.
    • Share with other users.
    • Keep your campsite clean. All waste including garbage, recycling, compost and sewage should be taken home or to a dump station for proper disposal.
    •  Use portable fire receptacles for your campfire.
    • Prevent the start of a wildfire. Never leave campfire unattended and remember to soak, stir and soak it again.
    • In a PLUZ, no camping or open fires are allowed within 1km of a Public Land Recreation Area (PLRA) or Provincial Recreation Area (PRA)
    • Exploding targets or fireworks are not permitted.
    Campfires and garbage should be 100 metres away from your tent and/or campsite. Garbage should be hung in a receptacle that is 3.5 metres above ground and that hangs 1.5 metres down from branch or cross-bar.
  • Safety

    Be safe as well as environmentally responsible when recreating on public land. For more, visit:

Know the rules

  • Trail rules

    Follow the rules on designated public land trails.

    • Follow and obey department publications, signs, notices and any instructions provided by Government of Alberta staff.
    • Only participate in permitted activities. Motorized users (except snow vehicle users) must stay on the trail.
    • Pack out what you pack in. All waste including garbage, recycling, compost and human waste should be taken home or to a dump station for proper disposal.
    • Discharge of a firearm (that is, recreational target shooting) is not allowed within 400 m of a public land trail, unless hunting as defined under the Wildlife Act.
    • All vehicles, motorized or human powered (including bicycles, motor vehicles, camping units) must not be left unattended on a public land
    • Only park your motor vehicle, off-highway vehicle or camping unit overnight in designated areas.
  • Provincial legislation

    Familiarize yourself with provincial legislation and regulations related to public land use. Non-compliance with the regulations may result in a fine.

    • Forest and Prairie Protection Act – The Forest and Prairie Protection Act prescribes the provisions for "warming fires" on public lands.
    • Public Lands Administration Regulation – The Public Lands Administration Regulation governs the public’s use of all Public Land Use Zones, Provincial Recreation Areas, Public Land Recreation Areas, and Provincial Trails.
    • Off-Highway Vehicle Regulation – The Off-Highway Vehicle Regulation prescribes the operational requirements for Off-Highway Vehicles in Alberta.
    • Recreational Access Regulation – The Recreational Access Regulations clarify the rules for recreational and exploration access on agricultural dispositions issued under the Public Lands Act, including grazing leases and farm development leases.
    • Traffic Safety Act (Part 6) – The Traffic Safety Act establishes the legislative requirements for Off-Highway Vehicles in Alberta.
    • Trails Act – Provides guidance and structure for trail use in Alberta’s growing recreation and tourism sector. The Trails Act allows for better trail experiences for Albertans by ensuring high quality, well managed and safe designated trails. See Sustainable trail management for more details.
  • Additional legislation

    The legislation and regulations above are most relevant to recreation on public lands; however, you may also wish to become familiar with the following:

More information

Leave No Trace Canada provides information on minimizing your impact while enjoying the outdoors.

Report illegal activity – call 310-LAND – Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to report public safety incidents, illegal activity and enforcement concerns on public land and in provincial parks.