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.
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 impacts 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.
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.
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.
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.
Located along the Forestry Trunk Road north of Highway 11, this area provides a network of year-round trails for non-motorized use.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Equestrian use is generally allowed, with the exception of the wilderness areas and the ecological reserve. Seasonal restrictions apply to certain trails.
Random camping is generally permitted within 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.
A Public Lands Camping Pass is required for random camping. Find out more and buy your pass on the Government of Alberta website.
Campfires are generally permitted within 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, with the appropriate license, is permitted outside of the wilderness areas and ecological reserves. The sportfishing regulations apply.
Guided Activities and Commercial Photography
Permits are required for all guided activities and some commercial photography at Alberta Parks sites. In general, permits are also 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.
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.
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.
Park Passes and Permits
Parks passes and backcountry permits are not required at Alberta Parks locations or for day use within the public land use zones. A Public Lands Camping Pass is required if you are planning to random camp.
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.
A national park pass is required to use the Icefields Parkway and a national park backcountry permit may be required on trails that straddle both provincial public lands and national parks.