Recreation on Public Lands

Snowshoeing in the Allstones Creek Canyon

Crown Lands, Public Land Use Zones and Protected Areas

Adventures on crown land come with responsibilities and require some preparation. Use these as a starting point to recreate responsibly.

There are a number of different types of public lands in Alberta, each with its own sets of rules and regulations. Crown land usually refers to all lands owned by the province, including parks. Public land usually refers to crown land, excluding parks and protected areas, that is managed by Alberta Environment and Parks. Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) are sets of rules and regulations put in place to manage recreational activity in specific areas. Other types of public lands include public land recreation areas (PLRA), agricultural public land and vacant public land.

Abraham Lake Ice Walk

Enjoying an ice walk on Abraham Lake

Camping along the North Saskatchewan River

Camping along the North Saskatchewan River

Wildnerness areas, ecological reserves, provincial parks and provincial recreation areas (PRA) are types of protected areas managed by Alberta Parks, each with its own set of rules and regulations impacting recreation.

Our region also falls within the Forest Protection Area (FPA), a designation used by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry that impact recreational activities like campfires and the use of fireworks.

Sounds confusing? It can be. Use the information below as a starting point to plan your adventure. Remember that you are responsible for knowing the rules and regulations that apply to the area you visit.

In This Guide:

 

Know Where you Are

Different rules apply depending on where you are playing. Knowing the location of your adventure will help you find out the information you need to know.

Alberta Parks

These protected areas are managed by Alberta Parks. They have varied rules based on their conservation and preservation objectives. You can find out more information about sites within David Thompson Country on the Alberta Parks website.

The recreational use of drones is not allowed and dogs must be on-leash at all times. You can find out more information on the general rules that apply to Alberta Parks locations on their website.

Whitegoat Wilderness Area and Siffleur Wilderness Area

These are some of the most protected areas in the province. Travel is permitted by foot only, backcountry camping is permitted but fires and fishing are not allowed.

Make sure to check the latest information from Alberta Parks on the Siffleur Wilderness Area and the Whitegoat Wilderness Area before you go.

Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve

This area includes the popular Siffleur Falls trail while providing a higher level of environmental protection than most protected areas in the province. Travel is restricted to foot only, with the exception of the Glacier Trail where mountain biking and equestrian use are permitted. Fishing, camping and campfires are not allowed within the ecological reserve.

Make sure to check the latest information from Alberta Parks on the Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve before you go.

Ram Falls Provincial Park

This area includes the viewpoint of the popular Ram Falls, a picnic area and a campground. Details are available on the Alberta Parks website.

Provincial Recreation Areas

Commonly referred to as PRAs, these areas cover mostly campgrounds and day-use areas managed by Alberta Parks throughout the region. You’ll find the general regulations from Alberta Parks here.

PRAs in our region include Thompson Creek, Kootenay PlainsCrescent Falls, Dry Haven, Snow CreekBeaverdamGoldeye Lake, Fish Lake, Harlech, Saunders, Shunda Viewpoint.

Fall morning on the Kootenay Plains

Fall morning on the Kootenay Plains

Falls on Allstones Creek

Falls on Allstones Creek

Public Land Use Zones

Recreation on most of the crown land in the Nordegg and Abraham Lake region is managed through Public Land Use Zones. You can find general information that applies to all public lands on the provincial government website as well as information specific to the Bighorn Backcountry.

The rules vary between each of the PLUZ and are available on the government website. The brochures and maps with the site-specific regulations are available at visitor centres, trailhead kiosks and at the Nordegg Canteen.

Blackstone Wapiabi

Located along the Forestry Trunk Road north of Highway 11, this area provides a network of year-round trails for non-motorized use.

More information is available on alberta.ca.

Job/Cline

A large backcountry area located between the David Thompson Highway, the Whitegoat Wilderness Area, Jasper National Park and the Blackstone Wapiabi PLUZ. Most visitors access the area through the Kiska/Wilson PLUZ.

The area provides a network of year-round non-motorized trails while allowing off-highway vehicles on designated trails.

More information is available on alberta.ca.

Kiska/Wilson

This PLUZ is the one most people visit, covering the area along the David Thompson Highway, Abraham Lake and Nordegg. The area provides the most recreational options, allowing non-motorized and motorized recreation on a number of trails.

More information is available on alberta.ca.

The National Parks

The nearby mountain national parks offer many more recreational opportunities that can easily be accessed from your basecamp in the Nordegg and Abraham Lake region. Make sure to check with Parks Canada for the rules and regulations that apply to your visit to Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

Activity Specific Rules

You are responsible to know the rules that apply before you go.  Use the information here as a starting point, always follow posted signage and if you are unsure go with a guide.

Hiking, Paddling, Mountain Biking, Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing

Non-motorized activities are generally allowed throughout the region. Always follow Leave no Trace principles, minimize your impact and be considerate to others visiting the area.

More information about non-motorized recreation on public land is available on the provincial government website. 

Off-Highway Vehicles and Off-Roading

There is a large network of trails allowing off-highway vehicles throughout the region. Keep in mind however that off-highway vehicles and off-roading are only allowed on designated trails and designated areas.

More information about motorized recreation on public land is available on the provincial government website.

Equestrian Use

Equestrian use is generally allowed, with the exception of the wilderness areas and the ecological reserve. Seasonal restrictions apply to certain trails.

 

Commercial Photography

A commercial photoshoot along the Cline River

Paddling the North Saskatchewan River

Paddling the North Saskatchewan River

Random Camping

Random camping is generally permitted with the public land use zones. You can stay at the same location for a maximum of 14 days as long as you do not block access for other users, are located at least 100 metres from water (varies in some areas) and are at least 1 km away from a provincial recreation area. Always follow the Leave no Trace principles when random camping.

Campfires

Campfires are generally permitted with the public land use zones when you are at least 1 km away from a provincial recreation area. Always keep your fire small, use existing fire rings or portable fire pits, only use fallen dead trees and make sure your fire is fully extinguished before you go.

Check albertafirebans.ca for the latest fire restrictions in the area.

Fishing

Fishing is permitted outside of the wilderness areas and ecological reserves. The sportfishing regulations apply.

Guided Activities and Commercial Photography

Permits are required for guided activities and commercial photography at all Alberta Parks sites. In general, permits are required for guiding activities and commercial photography within the PLUZ.

Parking Along Highways

Parking along provincial highways is illegal in Alberta. Due to the lack of infrastructure in the region, it is usually tolerated as long as it is done safely.

When planning your adventure, look for nearby options for parking and whenever possible use a designated staging area. In the winter, keep in mind that many parking lots are not maintained and may not be accessible.

David Thompson Highway

The David Thompson Highway

Pets

Pets must be on-leash at all times at sites managed by Alberta Parks and within certain areas on public lands.

Pets are allowed to be off-leash within most public land use zones but the requirement that they remain under control at all times does not change.

Make sure to clean up after your pet, regardless of the area you are exploring.

Ludo

Dogs are allowed off-leash in certain areas, as long as they remain under control

Fireworks

It is prohibited under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act to use fireworks within the Forest Protection Area without the written authorization from a forest officer. This applies to the entire Nordegg and Abraham Lake region, including within the hamlet of Nordegg.

It is legal to sell fireworks within Clearwater County and you will find them for sale at many stores even though you cannot use them within the area. Make sure to check your local bylaws if you purchase fireworks to bring home.

Fireworks

New Year Fireworks in Nordegg

Park Passes and Permits

Parks passes and backcountry permits are not required at Alberta Parks locations or within the public land use zones. A national park pass is required to use the Icefields Parkway and a national park backcountry permit may be required on trails that straddles both provincial public lands and national parks.

Permits are required to harvest firewood or to cut a Christmas tree on public lands. You can find out more information about these permits on the provincial government website.

Backpacking along the Cline River

Backpacking along the Cline River

Outdoor Safety

  • For your safety and the protection of the area please follow trail signs, stay on the trail and respect all trail closures
  • Be respectful of wildlife and familiarize yourself with wildlife safety techniques including keeping your pet on a leash and keeping your group together.
  • Always use the bear-proof garbage bin, keep a clean site and store your food in a bear safe fashion.
  • Always be prepared when travelling outdoors.
  • This area has limited to no cell phone reception. We recommend carrying an InReach on your adventures.
  • Information provided here may be inaccurate or outdated. Always make sure to obtain current information before going on your adventure.

Disclaimer

There are inherent risks in outdoor activities. Conditions may change quickly due to weather conditions and other factors. Using the information provided is entirely at your own risk and Pursuit Adventures is in no way liable for any injuries or other damages that may be sustained by anyone using this information.