Road Trails Act for Off-highway Vehicles: overview

The Government of Nova Scotia has passed legislation to allow off-highway vehicles on designated road shoulders and roadways.

In October 2018, Nova Scotia launched a pilot project in 7 communities across the province to safely enhance trail connectivity for four-wheeled off-highway vehicles (OHV). On 29 September 2023, the Government of Nova Scotia proclaimed the Road Trails Act, making the pilot sites permanent designated areas and setting out the rules of the road.

The Road Trails Act allows four-wheeled and two-wheeled off-highway vehicles to access the shoulders of roadways, and the roadway itself where necessary, to safely travel from one trail to another or to access facilities (like gas stations) in designated areas.

Only registered, licensed and insured off-highway vehicles can operate on the shoulders or the roadway, in the designated areas. The operator must have a valid driver's licence, riders must wear a helmet and all passengers on an off-highway vehicle must be 9 or older.

Designated sites

The designated sites for off-highway vehicles include:

  • Ship Harbour (HRM) – Portions of West Ship Harbour Road and Trunk 7
  • Porters Lake (HRM) – Myra Road
  • New Germany (Lunenburg County) – Trunk 10
  • Weymouth (Digby County) – Trunk 1
  • Walton (East Hants) – Bancroft Road
  • Sherbrooke (Guysborough County) – Trunk 7
  • Gabarus (CBRM) – Oceanview Drive and Route 327

Summary of the rules of the road for off-highway vehicles designated areas only

Vehicles permitted

  • all-terrain vehicles
  • multi-purpose off-highway utility vehicle (like utility side by sides)
  • recreational off-highway vehicle (like recreational side by sides)

Licensing and registration

  • registration fees and application processes apply as outlined in the Off-highway Vehicles Act
  • to operate an off-highway vehicle on the right of way, the operator must hold a valid driver’s licence under the Motor Vehicle Act
  • drivers holding a learner’s licence are not permitted to drive on roads
  • for non-residents of Nova Scotia, the equivalent of a Class 5 in their jurisdiction of residence will be required
  • any off-highway vehicle accessing designated areas must have a number plate affixed to the vehicle
  • off-highway vehicles need to be insured in accordance with Section 15B of the Off-Highway Vehicles Act


  • when operating in designated areas off-highway vehicles will be limited to speeds of no more than 25km/h
  • off-highway vehicles are only permitted to travel in designated areas from the hours of a half an hour before sunrise to a half an hour after dusk
  • off-highway vehicles are permitted to be driven on the shoulder of the designated highway only in the same direction as traffic using the same side of the highway
  • off-highway vehicles are permitted to be driven on roadways in the same direction as traffic using the same side of the highway if:
    • there is no shoulder
    • the shoulder is obstructed
    • they are preparing to make a left turn across the roadway
    • the shoulder is not wide enough to be driven with all tires completely off the roadway, or when being driven across a level railway crossing
  • when entering the shoulder or roadway of a designated highway off-highway vehicles will be required to yield the right of way to any traffic already using the shoulder or roadway (OHVs will be permitted to enter shoulder only when safe to do so)
  • before commencing a left turn the off-highway vehicle will be required to (without interfering with traffic) move away from the shoulder or right edge of the roadway and be positioned on the roadway in the position to make a left turn; upon completing a left turn, the OHV will be required to (without interfering with traffic) move back to the right edge of the roadway or shoulder 
  • off-highway vehicles will be required to travel in single file and are not permitted to pass when riding in designated areas
  • the operation of an off-highway vehicle with a passenger younger than 9 years old is prohibited in designated areas


  • off-highway vehicles may only carry passengers in designated areas if the OHV is designed by the original equipment manufacturer to carry both a driver and a passenger
  • in addition to any other provision in the regulations, no person will be permitted to operate an off-highway vehicle in a designated area unless it meets all equipment requirements in accordance with the Nova Scotia’s Off-highway Vehicles Act and general regulations