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What’s Up With “No Trespassing” Signs When You Travel In Canada?

No Trespassing – Why Landowners want to keep you out!

When I first moved to Canada I didn’t get it either. Especially out in the country with a meagre population you come across No Trespassing signs frequently.

Private Property – Keep Out – Trespassers will be prosecuted.

What are the reasons for all this? What does it mean? Why are Canadians so possessive about their property and worried about trespassers?

Trespassing is entering someone’s private property without permission or lawful excuse.

Coming from Europe I’m used to public hiking trails leading through private property, often close to the property owner’s house, invading their privacy. But, that’s how it always has been there and it is fully accepted.

In Canada it is different. When living out in the country we value our privacy. Private property is not open to the public and you have no right to trespass.

With large properties in Canada, you often don’t know whether it’s private or public.  If you see a No Trespassing sign nailed to a tree I suggest KEEP OUT! Most Canadians respect the signs and don’t trespass unless they have permission to do so.

The further out we live and the more land we own the bigger the chance that strangers access our properties. This might be because they don’t realize it is private, or they don’t care at all, or they just want to snoop around.

Scenarios if you ignore the No Trespassing signs

  • Somebody chases you off.
  • You have to listen to verbal abuse.
  • You find a shotgun being pointed at you and realize that you are in the wild west.
  • Dobermans are running towards you ready to attack.
  • You get stuck with your vehicle while trespassing on private property and you have to leave your car while getting help. The car might be towed away by the time you get back to it.
  • The landowner comes and tells you in a polite way, that you are trespassing on his property.
Keep Out of private property

What’s really behind No Trespassing signs on private property?

  • Most Canadians will tell you that it is all about liability; to keep people out so no one can get hurt in a place they don’t belong and the property owner is not at risk of being sued if something happens.
  • It is about responsibility; there are all kinds of risks of having strangers on the land. Landowners want to prevent any problems and risks.
  • Ranchers and farmers are worried that gates are left open and animals could escape.
  • Equipment gets vandalized, property gets damaged, and things get stolen. Even an old iron cook stove in a cabin can disappear.
  • Landowners don’t like to clean up the garbage left behind by trespassers.
  • In rare cases, there might be an un-legal grow-op on the land.

As a property owner, I’ve seen it all

There was an incident years when young people drove up our forest trails when we weren’t home and their vehicle got stuck. Trying to hike down the mountain at night without a flashlight one of the girls fell and sprained her ankle. We didn’t hear the knock on the door at 3 am and didn’t know search and rescue were on our property until we got up in the morning.

I always thought that it was a bit extreme how we try to enforce the No Trespassing laws in Canada. All the years as a landowner in the North Okanagan, I tried to keep people off my property in a nice way and didn’t enforce it with signs.

But, this changed recently.

I finally took out all the old No Trespassing signs I had stored away for years. I charged the battery for my drill, took a few long screws along, packed it all onto my Quad and drove up the hill. After all those years I screwed the No Trespassing signs along my property line.

No Trespassing Sign on tree

Why did I do it – what changed my mind?

I had some trees felled the year before. Left over from the logging there was at least half a logging truck of birch logs. The wood was laying on my property little ways up the hill but was noticeable from the road. I left the wood there, waiting for the perfect moment to cut it into firewood. Some of it I even planned to sell to help with the finances.

I was quite shocked when I drove past the wood spot one day and ALL the wood was gone, it had just disappeared. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somebody stole all the wood from my property and I didn’t even hear them doing it.

In Conclusion

There are many reasons why we don’t like Trespassers on our properties.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – exists in Canada as well.

My advice to travellers: Please respect our signs and do not trespass unless you are absolutely sure it’s public land or you have permission from the property owner to do so.


Consult legal documents for details about the No Trespassing laws in Canada.

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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.


  1. Mike

    I own a 295 acre land in Shawville, Quebec. Over the last 5 years, I found dead deer carcasses, empty and full ammunition that were not mine, 100+ year old red pines that were cut and moved outside my property, building material that was stolen, along with trail cameras.

    This is in addition to road hunters, driving their pick-up trucks with loaded firearms, ready to harvest whatever’s available if you are not there.

    Lack of respect from hillbillies and thefts is why you those signs everywhere. I speak regularly with 20-25 landowners near my property and they all have experienced at least one bad event related to trespassing. The signs are there because of bad experiences. I caught a trespasser who was on my property a few weeks ago because ‘he was following a wounded deer’ (how convenient). When asked about his permission to hunt in the area, he told me to mind my business… Nice.

    • Yrene Dee

      Thanks, Mike for sharing this. It’s sad to hear that this is happening in your part of the country as well. No, not nice at all!

  2. Jacqueline Brown

    Lawful purpose – by law, all water sources are crown land and to be accessible by all. So, if I decide to traverse your land to get to the lake or creek, you better be sure that I have a :lawful purpose”. Perhaps a phone number would be most helpful to those looking to cross your land with lawful purpose.

  3. Gordon J Perry

    This is a fundamental problem. Most trespassers think they’re lawyers. Crown land is not water. Only navigable water ways are open to the public. There is a published list of all navigable waterways in Canada and they are mostly very large bodies of water. Many small streams and rivers are NOT public domain and in the most extreme cases only can be used to “travel” as in waterway instead of highway. Personal uses such as fishing or swimming are not legal on private property.

  4. juan

    Guess what ? Your no trespass signs are almost unenforceable.Canada is an I.S.O member..No trespass is a red circle..Takes a rocket scientist to think EVERYONE can read English.Notice all the I.S.O green fire exit signs? no more written “EXIT”:)

  5. juan

    put up your unlawfull written non I.S.O “no tresspass” signs and let the dogs attack someone..WHOOPING liability:) And MAYBE criminal negligence)

  6. Kevin McGregor

    Yes, the red dot ( No Tresspass ) sign has been standard for years. These signs should be placed at access points and regular distances along property lines. Travelling on navicable waters with private property on either side is permitted but a tiny creek or land locked pond on one’s property do not qualify as navigable waters. Great article.

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