Story By: Jeff McGirr
Photos by: Virgil Knapp
I recently had the opportunity to ride an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) at Horseshoe Resort Riding Adventures just north of Barrie Ontario. This wasn’t my first time at Horseshoe Resort for off road recreation, I had been once before to participate in a York University ATV Health Benefit Study which produced some very interesting, although not surprising (for experienced OHV riders) results. This private Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) facility is nestled alongside a world class five star resort, just a two hour drive from Canada’s largest city, which brings me to the topic of this article, ‘where can and can’t you ride your ATV in Canada.’
Just like my article ‘Snowmobiling in Canada, Snow Many Options’ our vast country provides almost limitless opportunities to ride your ATV legally. Unlike snowmobiling however, ATV riding opportunities exist 365 days a year and span all four seasons, making Canada one of the most unique and inspiring off-road destinations. Like all off-road activities ATV’ing also has its issues with trespassing, private land use and an existing perception that all OHV users are irresponsible towards the lands they ride on. Lucky for us though, we have dedicated volunteers and professionals working to keep us riding into the future. After all we all enjoy the outdoors and its beauty and want to see it sustained for generations to come.
The All Terrain Quad Council of Canada (AQCC) is a united group of individual Provincial / Territorial Associations and Federations that collectively represents the best of interests of all ATV users. The AQCC works closely with each individual Association / Federation as well as the Canadian off Highway Vehicle Distributors Council in an effort to build a positive future for the sport of ATV’ing in Canada. These are the ladies and gentlemen who are advocating for our sport and as far as I am concerned it is the most important part of our sport that we support them through our local and provincial organizations.
Now that you know who represents the individual association/federations at a national level let’s take a look at each province and what they have to offer for you and your ATV, after all your going to need somewhere to ride that new ATV, used ATV or the ATV for sale that will soon be in your garage.
Newfoundland & Labrador - Avalon Trailway Corporation - Newfoundland T’Railway 883km of decommissioned rail line that is now multi-use trail forms the Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park. This corridor trail links to urban, rural and wilderness, all with limitless Newfoundland riding opportunities. (View the Newfoundland ATV ACT for detailed information on legislation requirements)
Nova Scotia - Association of Nova Scotia has over 40 clubs and a growing membership and a surprisingly vast ATV related tourism industry for such a small province. In recent years Nova Scotia clubs have had great success with rally’s and events. To see for yourself just head on over to the Safety Minded ATV Association (View the Nova Scotia off Highway Vehicle Act for detailed information on legislation requirements)
Prince Edward Island - PEI ATV has 8 member clubs; the clubs and provincial organization have a mandate to work towards developing established riding areas, boost local economies through tourism, improve enforcement capabilities and of course provide a safe and sustainable ATV recreation product for all to enjoy. (View the PEI off Highway Vehicle Act for detailed information on legislation requirements)
New Brunswick - New Brunswick All Terrain Vehicle Federation has 56 member clubs across the province that maintains over 3000km of trail. These clubs are divided into seven provincial regions and together hold a membership of over 9000. Trail availability varies depending on the season. (NBATVF offers maintained winter ATV’ing). (View the New Brunswick off Highway Vehicle Act for detailed information on legislation requirements)
Quebec - Federation Quebecoise des Clubs Quads (FQCQ) has more than 115 member clubs across the province that maintain over 20,000km of trail. The 115 member clubs represent over 50,000 ATV’ers that have access to four season trails. The FQCQ has over 200 pieces of equipment that maintain trails and is known for world class winter ATV’ing. (View the Quebec off Highway Vehicle Act for detailed information on legislation requirements)
Ontario - Ontario Federation of ATV Clubs (OFATV) has 13 member clubs located in southern and eastern areas that together maintain over 1000km of trail. The OFATV represents a membership of over 1700 ATV’ers. The OFATV also has an agreement with the Eastern Ontario Trail Alliance that allows access to another 1900 of multi-use trails. ATV Ontario supports five (Cochrane, Elliot Lake, Haliburton, Mattawa & Parry Sound) world class riding destinations that collectively represent thousands of kilometres of ATV trails in the province. These five destinations offer amazing riding opportunities in some of Ontario’s most rugged, remote and beautiful terrain. (Please reference the Ontario Off-Road Vehicle Act and contact your local municipality for ATV by-law regulations.)
Manitoba - All Terrain Vehicle Association of Manitoba (ATVMB) supports four member clubs who individually represent issues and opportunities in their respective regions. I could not locate a total number of kilometres of Manitoba ATV trails, however through research it is apparent that the four clubs have been/are involved in the classification of thousands of kilometres of trail for ATV riding. (View the Manitoba off Highway Vehicle Act for detailed information on legislation requirements)
Saskatchewan - Saskatchewan All Terrain Vehicle Association (SATVA) represents eight member clubs and over 200 individual members. The province offers thousands of kilometres of trail on crown land for ATV enjoyment. The SATVA membership is continually growing and interested ATV’ers or those who just wish to be a part of a club. (View the Saskatchewan off High Vehicle Act for detailed information on legislation requirements)
Alberta - Alberta Off Highway Vehicle Association (AOHVA) represents both ATV’s and off-road motorcycle riders and is dedicated to providing safe individual and family motorized recreation opportunities in an environmentally responsible manner . This organization is formed by 20 member clubs that span across the entire province from the flat lands in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. (View the Alberta off Highway Vehicle Act for detailed legislation requirements)
British Columbia - Quad Riders ATV Association of British Columbia (ATV/BC) – ATV/BC supports 38 member clubs whom reside both on the mainland and on Vancouver Island. Together the 38 clubs offer over 1800km of marked and maintained trail. ATV/BC offers a great online tool for scoping out riding areas to view it click here. (View the British Columbia All Terrain Vehicle Act for detailed legislations requirements)
Yukon Territory - Yukon off Road Riders Association (YORRA) is the territorial advocate group who represents the off-road rider’s interests. YORRA has a mandate to promote responsible safe recreational & commercial ATV/Off-Road motorcycling, to provide resources for off-road riders, to insure education programs are in place, to advocate and represent the off-road community in legislature debate and to respect the rights and consult with other recreationalists. The legislation or lack thereof in the Yukon has been a hot topic in recent years; a simple Google search will net multiple articles about the topic. (Visit the Yukon Territory Government Page for more detailed information)
North West Territories and Nunavut - No territorial organization or clubs are in place at the current time, but ATV’s are an integral part of life for many NWT residents and businesses. NWT does have restrictions on the operation of youth under 14 years of age on public highways. (View the North West Territories ATV Act for detailed legislation requirements) (View the Nunavut ATV Vehicle Act for detailed legislation requirements)
Nunavut – No territorial organization or clubs are in place at the current time, but ATV’s are an integral part of life for many Nunavut residents and businesses. Nunavut does have restrictions on the operation of youth under 14 years of age on public highways. It is important to note that many ‘provincial’ ATV groups are currently still in the capacity building stage, and as such recreational ATV trail networks and the associated legislation that governs ATV use in each jurisdiction is both unique and evolving. It is crucial that you verify with both provincial/territorial and local governments prior to operating your ATV off of your own property as issues and regulations are different from each area to the next. For specialized youth ATV operation requirements please reference this chart.
With thousands of kilometres of sanctioned trail to ride in Canada and legislation that allows users to access large parcels of ‘Crown Land’ freely, there are only a few places that ATV users should steer clear of;
Whether you are ATV’ing close to an urban centre or in the deep wilderness as a rider you should be aware of your environmental responsibility and participate in programs like Tread Lightly that help ensure our natural areas are sustained for others in the future. Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of where you can operate your ATV and the legislated requirements in Canada all that is left is to buy the right ATV, but that’s a topic for another article. Happy Trail Riding!