A world-famous dinosaur graveyard over 70 million years old. Steep canyons in brilliant shades of red. Mystically shaped hoodoos sculpted by centuries of winds and erosion. The Canadian Badlands in Alberta await the adventurous of heart and explorers who are curious in spirit.
When early French explorers encountered the intimidating mesas – or flat topped, steep sloped mountains – and meandering gullies that spread from east of Drumheller to the Saskatchewan border, they named the region “bad lands to cross.” Today, the landscape is the perfect setting for those seeking adventure, nature, and a historical journey into an ancient past.
Whether it’s an expedition into the astonishing time dinosaurs ruled the land, an amazing nature and wildlife research voyage, action-packed physical or leisure adventures, Alberta’s Badlands are bursting with outdoor fun for the whole family.
Dig into the History of Dinosaurs
Visitors to Alberta’s Badlands are treated to a 75-million year-old time travel trip back to an era when dinosaurs thrived in what was then a subtropical environment. Centuries of transformation preserved much of this history, leading up to what would eventually become the largest paleontological unearthing in the world. Guest can explore the hoodoos of dinosaur trail, visit the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, and even trek out on a fossil hunt.
Unforgettable outdoor exploration of plants and animals
Much of the Badlands’ wild prairie lands have been preserved as they were when buffalo roamed across the area. In fact, the entire region offers nature lovers an abundance of rich nature, plants, and animal life to take in. The extraordinary landscape throughout the area makes it a perfect home for some exotic and unique species such as rattlesnakes, horned lizards, even prickly pear cacti. From grasslands to forests, wetlands to extreme drylands, a wealth of unusual plants, animals, sedimentary layers, and ancient rocks can be studied while birdwatching, hiking, canoeing, or cycling.
Energize with adventurous action
Alberta’s Badlands offer endless miles of adventurous hiking, including year-round trails and boardwalks throughout Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Water lovers can explore the hoodoos while paddling or floating down the lazy Milk River. Visitors can also catch some sun on the Kinbrook Island Provincial Park beach or chill out in the lake. Dying to kick it up a few notches? The area hosts many businesses offering rental recreational equipment to enjoy the waters of multiple winding rivers and warm lakes, cross-country skis, mountain bikes, explorer backpacks and even stargazing kits.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a rundown on some popular hiking and stops.
Dinosaur Trail. Nearly 50 km of scenic driving or cycling along the Red Deer River, Dinosaur Trail is a fantastic place to venture into the Badlands. Drumheller’s visitor centre offers helpful maps, guides, and brochures to ensure visitors hit the spots they’re most excited about, including climbing 25 metres up the stairs to the top of the largest dinosaur in the world. Enjoy the hoodoos, canyons, and the river’s cable ferry and don’t forget to pack a picnic basket to enjoy at one of the trail’s many stops.
Horsethief Trail. Step back into the history of the Badlands with a steep hike down one of the trails down into and through the bottom of this mystical canyon. Exhibiting some historical coal residual, it’s rumoured the canyon was a cattle and horse smuggling passage into Montana.
Midland Provincial Park. Home of the Royal Tyrell Museum, the park also hosts trail and wildlife watching spots. Those with a passion for history will want to check out the former Midland Coal Mine, its remarkable fossil beds, and its interpretative display that also outlines a terrible explosion in the 1920 where many lost their lives.
Hoodoos Trail is the best way to explore the hoodoos that have formed over millions of years. The hoodoos of Dinosaur Valley range from quite small up to seven metres tall and are often described as “earth pyramids” shaped by centuries of strong wind and erosion.
Whether visiting the Badlands for a day’s getaway alone or a fun-filled long-weekend for the family, there really is something for everyone in Drumheller including food, adventure, camping, and more.
Natalie Noble is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.