Crowsnest Pass: A revered ATVing destination

One of Southern Alberta’s most beautiful areas to go ATVing faces an uncertain future


Riders come from near and far to experience the amazing beauty of Southern Alberta's backcountry. Shown is an ATVer parked with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

Riders come from near and far to experience the amazing beauty of Southern Alberta's backcountry. — Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad photo

If you’ve ridden Crowsnest Pass before, you are well aware of its established trail system, complete with bridges to protect waterways, and scenery that consists of tall granite peaks and pristine wilderness. If not, maybe now’s the time to visit because the future of this revered ATVing destination remains uncertain.

“We are in the fight of our lives to keep trails open, and it’s a daily battle,” said Peter Reed, a director for the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad and the secretary of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association (AOHVA).

He of course is referring to the provincial government’s plan to phase out off-highway vehicle use in the newly created Castle Provincial Park and recently expanded Castle Wildland Park. Restrictions have already come into effect, and according to Reed, members of the Quad Squad have lost numerous trails and more than 40 of their bridges—the equivalent of 80,000 volunteer hours and millions of dollars.

This battle for Southern Alberta’s backcountry has been raging since January 2017. When the draft plan for the Castle area first came out, members of the AOHVA believed it was only the beginning—and they were right.

The Bighorn backcountry west of Nordegg is now facing proposed land use changes, and in March 2018, Alberta Environment and Parks released a draft management plan for the Livingston-Porcupine Hills north of the Pass that according to Reed will take 70.14 per cent of existing trails away from motorized users.

A 90-foot bridge in the South Kootenay pass was installed by members of the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad.

A 90-foot bridge in the South Kootenay pass was installed by members of the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad. — photo courtesy Peter Reed

Rallies and other events have been organized by the AOHVA to help educate riders and persuade the government to revise its plan.

“I’ve attended the Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge outdoor shows and I can’t even tell you how many people we’ve talked to and educated on this,” said Reed. “We had between 250 and 300 letters signed in Lethbridge. Out of Edmonton, we had between 1,200 and 1,500 signed and Calgary was comparable.”

You can learn more and take action by visiting the AOHVA’s website. Another good way to get involved is to be an advocate for responsible riding while you are visiting Crowsnest Pass.

“And if you see someone doing something wrong, stop and talk to them,” said Reed. “Encourage them to do the right thing and inform them why—otherwise, we aren’t going to have a place to ride.”

If you are planning a trip to the Pass this summer, where should you go? Popular rides, such as the Plane Crash Site, Grassy Mountain and Daisy Creek, remain open. It is wise to stop by the Quad Squad’s office in Coleman for information and maps. If you want to camp in the Castle area, you will also want to stop by the forestry office in Blairmore to obtain a camping permit.

That ATVing in Crowsnest Pass hangs in the balance is as good a reason as any to stop on your next ride and ponder the reasons you are there: to escape the stresses of everyday life while enjoying the beauty of our natural landscapes with family and friends. 

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