From high elevation mountaintop lookouts to the rolling Rocky Mountain foothills, sprawling forests and grasslands and riverside rides to massive sand dunes, Alberta offers just about every type of ATV trail you could ask for. And while there is a lot of terrain to explore all across the province atop an ATV, OHV or dirtbike, a few areas stand out as particularly exciting destinations for motorized trail users. To get you acquainted with some of Alberta’s most celebrated motorized play areas, here is our Top 10 List of Alberta’s ATV trails.
Bighorn Backcountry – Central Alberta
Comprised of six different Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs), this huge riding area has plenty of restrictions, but remains one of the top ATVing destinations in all of Alberta. The most popular trails are found within the Kiska/Wilson PLUZ, particularly around the Bighorn Dam, where you will find around 100 km (62 mi) of short interconnected trails. The Whitegoat and Littlehorn Creek Trails lead you to a beautiful alpine pass, while those looking for a challenge can take on the more difficult Canary Creek Trail, which fords Onion Creek and climbs steeply into the Ram Range. Whether you are a beginner ATVer or an expert, expect to find some fantastic riding in the Bighorn Backcountry.
Backroad Mapbook – Central Alberta
Brazeau River Area – Central Alberta
Found about 70 km (44 mi) north of Nordegg along the Forestry Trunk Road, the Brazeau River Recreation Area offers a great base camp to explore the many informal trails, cutlines and old roads found here. Further up river, the Brazeau River trail leads you through the Job/Cline PLUZ, a 64 km (40 mi) ride to the patrol cabin at Whisker Creek. This trail passes through some incredibly scenic country as it leads you along the river, with Tarpeian Rock to the east and the mountains of Jasper to the west. Be sure to check the rules and regulations before heading out, as this trail is only open seasonally, but following a few guidelines will be absolutely worth it for this one-of-a-kind ATVing experience.
Photo via riderswestmag.com/ Miranda Holomey
Coal Branch PLUZ – Central Alberta
Found to the south of Hinton along the Forestry Trunk Road, this are is home to a number of coal mining operations both past and present and spans over 570 km2 (220 mi2), offering numerous ATVing options. The majority of trails are found on the northeast side of Grave Flats Road, with a popular route leading you from Highway 40 to the Grave Flats area. Featuring rock, mud, skeg and just about every other type of terrain imaginable, this area is a blast to cruise on an ATV. Other scenic destinations include the Grave Flats Lookout and Ruby Falls, and there are random camping opportunities found throughout.
Backroad Mapbook – Central Alberta
Crowsnest Pass – Southern Alberta
Located in Alberta’s southern reaches, the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) grants you access to unlimited ATV riding among some of the province’s most scenic mountain terrain. Popular options include Adanac Road, a 19 km (12 mi) route between Hillcrest and Lynx Creek with numerous spur roads leading you high into the mountains, and the Grassy Mountain Trails, which lead you past old mine sites and to stunning views of Waterton Lakes National Park and Kananaskis Country, to name just a couple. All of the riding options in the Crowsnest Pass are too numerous to list – you’ll just have to visit for yourself to see this incredible ATVing area in person.
Photo via riderswestmag.com / Steve Colibaba
Ghost PLUZ – Southern Alberta
Covering 1,500 km2 (580 mi2) of land and featuring over 650 km (405 mi) of designated motorized trails, this is one of the province’s most expansive ATV areas. The Forestry Trunk Road provides the main access to this sweeping area, and there are a number of ATV-friendly campsite to base your off-road adventure from. Trail systems include the large and remote Burnt Timber Recreation Area Trails, the Fallen Timber Trails just to the south and the scenic Waiparous Creek Trail, which leads you to the boundary of the Don Getty Wildland, just to name a few. With so many trails to explore, you’re going to want to set up camp and take your time cruising through the Ghost PLUZ.
Backroad Mapbook – Southern Alberta
Iron Horse Trail – Central Alberta
Following along the abandoned Canadian National Trail Line, this rails-to-trails project spans nearly 300 km (186 mi) and leads you through a mix of forest and farmland and past numerous historic towns and villages. One unique remnant of the railway is the 18 trestle bridges that are found along the trail. Your ride will usually begin at Abilene Junction, which is referred to as “Mile Zero” of the trail, and from here you can head west to Smoky Lake and Waskatenau, northeast to Cold Lake or southeast to Heinsburg. Whichever direction you choose, incredible scenery, well-maintained riding surfaces and fascinating history await.
Photo via ironhorsetrail.ca
Lakeland Provincial Park and Rec Area – Northern Alberta
There are over 140 km (87 mi) of multi-use trails within this beautiful park and rec area, many of which are designated for ATV-OHV riding. The trails lead you through some pristine Northern Alberta wilderness and in the winter, once the many lakes freeze over, even more routes are available. Backcountry campsites are scattered throughout, so you can take your time and stretch your ATVing adventure over a few days. Highlights include the Dabbs Lake Trail, the Wishbone Trails and the Puller Lake Trails, all of which showcase the best of this must-visit ATVing destination.
Backroad Mapbook – Northern Alberta
McLean Creek – Southern Alberta
Popular with 4x4ers, dirtbikers and ATVers, this 220 km2 (77 mi2) area was the first in the province to be set aside for motorized recreation and boasts an impressive network of both formal and informal trails ranging from easy cruising to hardcore mud bogging. Found in gorgeous Kananaskis Country and easily accessed via Highway 66, there are two main staging areas to base your ATV adventure from: McLean Creek and Fisher Creek. From here, you can ride for hundreds of kilometres on trails like the Mount Barwell Trails, Quirk Creek Trails, Valley Trails and many others, each offering their own unique charm.
Photo via youtube.com
Oldman Headwaters Trails – Southern Alberta
The Oldman River Road branches north off the Forestry Trunk Road, following along the river for around 26 km (16 mi), offering numerous trails to explore along the way. A good place to stage from is the Oldman River Recreation Area, allowing you to access to trails that include the difficult but scenic Cabin Ridge Trail, the easier Hidden Creek Trail, the Oldman Headwaters trail, the Slacker Creek Trail and others. Be sure to bring along your fishing rod, as you never know when you might stumble upon a nice spot to drop a line while riding this trail system.
Backroad Mapbook – Southern Alberta
Richardson River Sand Dunes – Northern Alberta
Found to the north of Fort McMurray, just getting to the Richardson River Sand Dunes is half the adventure. A nearly 100 km (62 mi) ride along the Fort Chypewyan Winter Road leads you to the dunes, which are a wide open play area full of steep hill climbs and rolling sandy hills. Here you can explore for hours as you take in the unique scenery of the dunes, which shift up to 1.5 metres a year, burying forests and filling in lakes. For a one-of-a-kind ATV adventure, a trip to the Richardson River Sand Dunes is more than worth it.
Photo via teryxhq.com
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