Recreational activities on Crown land
What you need to know about camping and other recreational activities on Ontario’s Crown land (also known as public land). This excludes provincial parks and conservation reserves.
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Canadian citizens and people who have lived in Canada for at least seven months of the preceding 12-month period can camp for free up to 21 days on any one site in a calendar year. This ensures sites are available to others and helps reduce environmental impacts.
- follow rules or restrictions posted on signs
- check if camping is allowed on the Crown land where you are planning to camp
- not camp if camping is prohibited. You could be fined
Non-residents, 18 years and up
Most non-residents need a non-resident camping permit to camp on Crown land north of the French and Mattawa rivers.
Non-residents can camp up to 21 days on any one site in a calendar year.
Check if camping is allowed on the Crown land where you are planning to camp. Camping isn't allowed in designated green zones.
Non-residents do not need a permit if you:
- rent a camping unit (such as a tent or trailer) from a person who conducts business in Ontario
- own property in Ontario, or your spouse owns property in Ontario
- carry out duties as part of employment in Canada
- stay on watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation, anchored over provincial Crown land covered by water. Stays are limited to 21 days
- are part of a charitable or non-profit group that is authorized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to camp. To confirm eligibility, call
1-855-613-4256well in advance of your trip.
Buy a camping permit
The cost is $9.35 + tax ($10.57) per person, per night
Step 1: Sign in with your ONe-key ID.
Step 2: If you do not have a ONe-key ID, create a Natural Resources Registry profile:
Step 3: Provide camper information:
- select My Services from the main menu
- click on Create New Submission
- select Non-Resident Crown land Camping Permit from the options
- complete the required information
- submit the application
Step 4: Pay for the permit. You will receive in three separate emails:
- a confirmation of application
- a confirmation of payment
- your permit
Step 5: Print your permit and carry it with you while camping
You must be able to show your permit to an officer if requested.
Fishing while camping on Crown land
You must follow certain rules while fishing in Ontario.
In general, if you are between 18 and 64 years old, you need a valid fishing licence before you can fish. You must also follow limits for how many fish you can catch and keep.
Before starting a campfire, check local fire warnings and restrictions in the area. In some cases, campfires may be prohibited altogether due to seasonal conditions.
Other recreational activities on Crown land
Many recreational activities are allowed on Crown land for free (this excludes provincial parks and conservation reserves). Some restrictions may apply (e.g. seasonal access restrictions). Some activities, like fishing and hunting, require valid licences.
You can usually use Crown land to:
- cross-country ski
- water ski
- bird watch
- horse-back ride
- hunt and fish
- Recreational boat cache, except within the Boat Cache Program Area (PDF)
You can snowmobile on Crown land if:
- the activity is not restricted (e.g. through planning or placement of a sign)
- you follow any applicable legislation (e.g. Motorized Snow Vehicles Act)
- you have a valid permit from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (if one is required to use their trails)
Get a permit to ride on Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs trails
Using all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and off-road vehicles
You can use your ATV or off-road vehicle on Crown land (excluding provincial parks and conservation reserves) if:
- the land is not restricted (e.g. through planning or placement of a sign)
- you follow any applicable municipal bylaws and legislation (e.g. Off Road Vehicles Act, Motorized Snow Vehicles Act)
As a best practice, to preserve the integrity of trails, some off-road vehicle organizations recommend not using trails until after May 1st to avoid damage to trails and the environment. During the spring, when trail surfaces are water logged, they can be more susceptible to erosion.
Restrictions on recreational use
Access to Crown land may be controlled, restricted or limited for various reasons (e.g., to protect public safety or resources).
In some areas, you cannot use motorized vehicles to access Crown land but you can use non-motorized means to hike, canoe, fish or hunt in these areas.
Contact a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district office to find out if local restrictions apply to your activity.
Activities that require approval
You will need to contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for approval under the Public Lands Act if you want to:
- create a new trail
- build a water crossing
- hold an organized event
Contact your MNRF district office
The Crown land Use Policy Atlas contains information on permitted activities for land use areas in the province, excluding southern Ontario. Use the Atlas to find out where you can camp on Ontario’s Crown land.
When using the Atlas, you can:
- view Crown land use areas
- find out what you can do on Crown land
- create maps for a variety of purposes, including recreational
Plants and wildlife
Do not harm, kill, take or collect plants, trees, habitat or other wildlife that is protected under provincial law.
If you plan to harvest wild rice, you may need a licence. Contact a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district office for more information.
Protecting the natural environment
Crown land is generally unmaintained, remote and should be used at your own risk.
When using Crown land, you are asked to act responsibly to help protect the natural environment and understand the risks associated with your activity:
- pick up and pack out litter, respect Ontario’s Crown land
- never leave a campfire unattended and make sure campfires are completely extinguished
- avoid sensitive features such as wetlands, streams and wildlife habitat
- respect other users of Crown land
- stay on existing trails
- do not harm, kill, take or collect plants, trees, habitat or other wildlife protected under provincial law
- wash all ATVs and off-road vehicles after each use to help prevent the spread of invasive species