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Alberta Forestry Trunk Road - Oldman River Bridge
Alberta Forestry Trunk Road - Oldman River Bridge

Random Camping in Alberta

Alberta has some amazing campgrounds, located in some of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere in the world but the residents of Alberta are also fortunate enough to enjoy areas in our forests where random camping free of charge is permitted.

Lately I’ve have been fielding a lot of questions about where specifically one can random camp.

Now, I’ve random camped for years and have had some great experiences in Alberta’s wide open spaces, but not wanting steer our readers wrong I thought I’d do some research into the matter. After surfing the web for a couple of hours, I now appreciate how difficult it is to find information on the subject.

The Alberta government’s website contains some information on camping randomly, its just not that easy to find. To simplify your search you may find these resources useful. I found this site difficult to navigate, but with some patience it will give you a good idea where you might like to camp along the forestry trunk road. Use the map to locate where you might like to random camp and click on one of the green flags. Or if you know the name of the area you would like to random camp in you can also use the sidebar to the left to navigate to that page.

Racehorse Creek

Respect the Land – Camping on Public Land
It’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with backcountry etiquette since many of the campsites are far off the beaten track and help is often a long way off.

Basically, the areas where we have random camped are located along highways #940/#40 north of the Trans Canada Highway (#1) and highway #940 north of highway #3 in the Crowsnest Pass. These roads, known collectively as the forestry trunk road are not paved and can be quite dusty or muddy given the right circumstances. If you’re going to tour the the trunk road I would suggest you get a good map or better yet buy a Backroads Mapbook. One can easily get lost in the maze of backroads and a good map will help you enjoy the area to its fullest.

Travelling north of Coleman, Alberta along highway #940 you will come across several small creeks and rivers as they make their way east across Alberta. Travelling west or upstream along these waterways and away from the main road you will find some of our favourite places to random camp. A few of the choice side roads to explore follow Racehorse Creek, Dutch Creek and the Oldman River. The Livingstone river parallels the highway for much of the way and there are numerous campsites closeby allowing you to fully enjoy this waterway. Don’t forget your fishing rod!

As you travel up highway #940 you will also come across some Provincial Recreation Sites (Campgrounds) that are less expensive than most campgrounds in the province and offer a nice alternative to camping randomly should you wish to go this route, if only for a night or two.

Forestry Trunk Road near Cataract Creek

Forestry Trunk Road near Cataract Creek

After travelling north on highway #940 for some time you will come out at the “Highwood Junction” on Highway #40. Turn left and highway #40 will take you over the Highwood pass, which is the highest drivable mountain pass in Canada, and through some of Alberta’s most gorgeous mountain scenery anywhere. This particular part of highway #40 travels through Kananaskis Country where random camping is not allowed, unless you travel by foot or horseback into the Wildland Provincial Parks. Turning right onto highway #40 or secondary highway #541 will take you through some of the most spectacular foothill terrain anywhere, but away from areas where you can random camp. Either way can be used to hook up with the next section of the forestry trunk road.

Highway #940/#40 North of the Transcanada highway starts just west of Cochrane, Alberta and parallels the Rocky Mountains for more than 1,000 km before reaching its end near Grande Prairie.

This stretch of highway #40 is popular with outfitters who lead their horses on trips deep into the forest and set up camp for weeks at a time. Closer to the road there are numerous opportunities to random camp or make use of the many Provincial Recreation Sites that are virtually deserted during the week, but often inundated with campers during the weekend.

Some of the areas we have explored on this stretch of the highway are, the Ghost River Road, Waiparous Valley Road, Hunter Valley Road and Ya Ha Tinda Ranch Road. The possibiities are endless. My wife and I have only made it as far up the road as Nordegg, but hope to explore further this summer.

If you’re open to a bit of adventure this summer I can’t recommend exploring these roads and random camping enough.