Table of contents

New trail designations – Provincial trails

Know before you go. Review the regulations for recreation on provincial trails before heading out.

Trail management

Trails are an important part of Alberta’s history and identity, allowing Albertans and visitors to experience the routes of the past, while contributing to conservation, tourism and wellbeing. Today, trails are more popular than ever with Albertans – so popular that we need updated tools to help manage them.

The Trails Act provides guidance and structure for trail use in our province’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. Over time, Trail users will see improved management and planning for trails that better supports the activities Albertans want, such as hiking, biking and off-highway vehicle (OHV) use.

As of May 1, 2022, a trail management plan is required for trail designation. A trail plan identifies trail routes and allowable activities for that trail to meet a desired recreation experience. It will incorporate the needs of the area’s other land uses, such as resource development activities or protection of ecologically sensitive areas, and the interests of Indigenous Peoples, stakeholders and nearby communities, and be compliant with all higher level land use plans, such as Caribou sub-regional plans.

The Trails Act also strengthens trail partnerships with volunteer organizations so that we can all continue to enjoy Alberta’s trails for years to come.

Indigenous people have an important historical and cultural connection to the land and its rich natural heritage. Alberta respects and supports the continued availability of Crown lands for the purpose of exercising First Nations’ Treaty rights, Métis harvesting, and First Nations and Métis traditional uses. The Trails Act will manage trails in a sustainable way that is sensitive and responsive to nearby communities.

Learn more about recreation on public land by exploring Alberta’s Guide to Outdoor Recreation on provincial Crown land, your source for recreation information.

Legislative framework

Over the past 40 years, trails have seen an increase in recreation use and the introduction of off-highway vehicles (OHVs), along with a growing awareness of the need for environmental sustainability.

The Trails Act marks a new approach to managing trails and is a key priority in achieving Alberta’s Crown Land Vision, which recognizes that conservation, recreation and economic use can and should support each other, while respecting the needs of communities and Indigenous Peoples.

The Trails Act and associated amendments to the Public Lands Act:

  • establish the legislative structure for a sustainable trail management system on public land
  • enable trails to be designated for specific uses such as hiking or riding an OHV
  • enable improved trail planning, which will consider other land-uses and values
  • strengthen protection of trails so that Albertans can enjoy them for years to come
  • strengthen enforcement tools to prevent environmental damage and promote environmental stewardship of public land
  • enable formal agreements with partners for efficient maintenance of trails

The Public Lands Administration Regulation implements trail management on public lands. Recent changes will:

  • enhance compliance tools that encourage users to be respectful of the environment and reduce impacts on the land
  • provide additional tools to more effectively manage how visitors use the land and to protect the environment while supporting public safety
  • support the protection of trails and infrastructure, manage the impacts of random camping more effectively, and be more responsive and timely in managing trail areas in emergency situations

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