Exploring Alberta’s Crown Land: Ghost – Public Land Use Zone

Public Lands Camping Pass Required

As of June 1, 2021 – The Alberta government charges PLUZ users to random camp along many of the PLUZ in the Rocky Mountains. This is to help cover expenses associated with maintaining the land and providing services.

You can purchase a Public Lands Camping Pass here (~$20/3 days or ~$30/year)

Ghost is a Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) found in Southern Alberta. Like other PLUZ, Ghost is a popular place for backcountry campers and off-road enthusiasts. For people in north Calgary (or Cochrane/Airdrie) this is the most accessible PLUZ. Due to its large size, cool terrain, and wide range of activities – Ghost has long been a favorite for people looking to enjoy our gorgeous crown land (Ghost is my personal favourite PLUZ).

See Also: Ultimate List of All PLUZ (Crown Land) In Alberta

Official Crown Land Camping Alberta Facebook Group
TexasNorth has partnered with the Crown Land Camping Alberta Facebook group with the intention of sharing our crown land experiences and to become better stewards of all of the beautiful crown land that Alberta has to offer!

This group is the largest crown land group in Alberta and has been instrumental in my adventures in Alberta’s Public Land Use Zones.

Read about my experience with Crown Land Camping Alberta
The Ghost River Valley. The TransAlta Road runs along the northern parts of this valley an can be used to access the westernmost portions of Ghost PLUZ. Image: Cursedwaffles, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What is the Ecology of the Ghost PLUZ?

Ghost contains subalpine, and alpine regions. The subalpine regions are found higher in elevation than the upper foothills but below the alpine region. The subalpine zone has cooler/wetter summers and colder winters. Vegetation in this region is largely lodgepole pine forests at lower elevations, and spruce and fir trees found higher up. Lastly, the alpine region of Ghost PLUZ exists above the treeline on the mountains. Climate is similar to the subalpine regions. These cold temperatures ensure that snow remains on top of the mountains well into the summer. Only low lying plants and lichens are able to grow in the alpine regions[1].

What kind of wildlife exists in the Ghost PLUZ?

There are many different types of mammals that live within the Ghost PLUZ including black bears, grizzly bears, moose, elk, deer, wolves, and mountain lions. In higher regions, you will also find mountain goats and bighorn sheep. There is also a vast variety of birds that reside in the Ghost PLUZ including various sparrows and finches.

How big is Ghost PLUZ?

Ghost is a large Public Land Use Zone spanning approximately 1500 square kilometers (579.2 square miles) across the southern, eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies.

How to get to Ghost PLUZ

Getting to Ghost PLUZ is actually fairly simple. Starting from the town of Cochrane, Alberta:

  1. Drive west on Highway 1A out of Cochrane
  2. Just before you ghost lake there will be a ‘Waiporous’ turn off on Highway 40 northbound – you will want to turn here.
  3. Follow highway 40 through Benchlands and Waiporous.
  4. Shortly after the ‘Capture the Flag Paintball’ range, you the road will take a ‘Y’ shape and there will be a left turn right after through a cattle grate. There are 2 main areas of Waiporous: West and North. This is the best place to get west VIA the TransAlta road (Township Rd 270B).
    • Turn left down the TransAlta road and there is some beautiful camping down there and the Ghost River at the end.
  5. Continue straight up Highway 40 for the northern regions of the PLUZ
  6. After you pass Ghost Airstrip PRA, you will find a road called Waiparous Valley Road – there is some good camping down that road and it is right near a small river.
    • The right turn after Waiporous Valley Road is the Waiparous Viewpoint PRA The picture below was taken here:
The view of Ghost PLUZ from the Waiparous Valley Viewpoint PRA. Waiporous Valley Road runs up that valley in the photo and there is some great camping in this area.

What is Allowed at Ghost PLUZ?

ActivityGhost PLUZ Rules
CampingRandom backcountry camping is allowed at Ghost PLUZ provided that all campsites and fires are set back at least 1km from any Recreation Area, Provincial Park, or public roadway.
Motorized ActivitiesOff Highway Vehicles (OHV) are allowed to be used at Ghost PLUZ. OHV includes motorcycles, ATVs, Side by sides, and snowmobiles. Trucks and SUVs are allowed off road at Ghost PLUZ.
Non-Motorized ActivitiesHiking, Equestrian, and Cross Country skiing are allowed at Ghost PLUZ. Mountain biking at Ghost should be acceptable provided you aren’t constructing ramps and sticking to existing pathways.
HuntingHunting is permitted at Ghost PLUZ provided that you are following the Alberta Hunting Regulations.

FishingFishing is permitted at Ghost PLUZ provided that you are following Alberta’s Fishing Regulations.
Note that Alberta could alter these regulations at any time

Rules for Horses In Ghost PLUZ

Horses are permitted in Ghost, however they must be tied up at least 100 meters back from any lakeshore. Alberta Parks doesn’t want horses tied to trees however because this can damage the trees. Many people will tie their horses to their trailers instead, but if you do this – the horse must not be able to reach the drip line of any tree (basically not under the canopy of any particular tree). Additionally, equestrians cannot use electric fences at all on any Crown Land in the Bighorn Backcountry.

Horse drawn wagons are permitted at Ghost PLUZ because generally the trails are wide enough to support wagons.

What is near Ghost PLUZ?

Other PLUZ: Dormer/Sheep PLUZ (northwest), Small piece of Panther Corners PLUZ (northwest), Kiska/Willson (northwest), Kananaskis (south)

Nearby Parks: Waiparous Creek, Waiparous Valley Viewpoint, Ghost Airstrip, South Ghost, Ghost Reservoir, Fallen Timber South, Burnt Timber, Wild Horse, Deer Creek Provincial Recreation Areas. Banff National Park.

Closest Accommodations: The Crossing at Ghost River

Closest Restaurant: Tim Hortons (Cochrane)

Closest Gas Station: Ghost Station Camping and Storage

Closest Town(s): Morley, Cochrane, *Waiporous, *Benchlands (*no services)

Closest Hospital Emergency Room: Canmore General Hospital (Canmore)

Closest Hospital Urgent Care (Non-Life Threatening): Cochrane Community Health Centre (Cochrane)

Nearby Destinations: Banff National Park, Ghost Lake



[1] Willoughby, Michael. “RANGE PLANT COMMUNITY TYPES and CARRYING CAPACITY for the SUBALPINE and ALPINE SUBREGIONS.” Sustainable Resource Development Public Lands and Forests Division, no. 3, 2006. Open Alberta.

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