4 Ways to Explore Alberta's Badlands
Fast forward 70 million years to Alberta’s Badlands, where there’s plenty of prehistory to discover. From bones to fossils, and everything in between, this landscape, that was once a subtropical habitat, will leave you both in awe and incredibly entertained.
1. Discover Dinosaurs
This is what you came for: Dinosaurs. The Badlands are home to all sorts of prehistoric sites to see. Whether you want to spend a day or several exploring the world that existed before our modern one, the Badlands deliver when it comes to dinos.
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
A world leader in the study of dinosaurs (aka palaeontology), this museum is full of exhibits, demonstrations, and, of course, dinosaur specimens. With over 157,000 specimens in total, you’ll be able to scope out about 50 that are on display. Plan your trip with their itineraries and then head out on the road — the museum is about 85 miles from Calgary.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Could a park have a cooler name? This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in southeastern Alberta and is full of fossils. In fact, you can go on a 6-hour fossil prospecting hike if you’re truly a prehistoric history buff. Opt for a self-guided tour if you’re looking for a shorter excursion or check out a sunset tour that’s perfect for photographers looking to capture the landscape.
Pipestone Creek Bonebed
Head north, near Grand Prairie, Alberta, and explore one of the top five richest bonebeds in the world. Also home to the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum and the Pachyrhinosaurus — a dino from 73 million years ago — there’s plenty of history to take in. Outside of the more commonly explored Drumheller, this locale provides a different type of badland to discover.
Situated in Warner, Alberta, the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur & Heritage Museum is a prime spot for exploring where all baby dinosaurs originate: Dino eggs. In fact, this site is host to a duck-billed dinosaur nesting ground that can be toured by visitors. A bonus of visiting this area is seeing majestic Hoodoos, which are cool geological formations that add interest to the already amazing Badlands landscape.
2. Peruse Parks
What’s a trip without paying a visit to a park? Our favorite thing about these parks is that they’re a bit different than some of Canada’s other parks. Namely, they’re shaped by interesting rock formations, flowing rivers, and sparse greenery.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
Famous for dinosaur fossils and bonebeds, this park was once a hunting ground for the Plains Cree. Now, it’s home to campgrounds for any rugged travelers, as well as a flowing river that’s perfect for canoeing. If you’re a bird lover, you’ll also enjoy spotting at least a few of the 150 species found there.
Stand on the edge of a u-shaped canyon and take in the Badlands from above. If you’re feeling brave, hike down almost 200 feet to the area below and examine the canyon walls that reveal the past through the orange, red, and brown layers as you pass. Just make sure you’re prepared with water and sunscreen as the Badlands can get quite hot during the summer months.
Midland Provincial Park
Home to the Royal Tyrelll Museum of Palaeontology, this park is a must-visit. Hike or cycle through the unique terrain (it’s a fairly low-grade trail), and stop by the Midland Coal Mine office, one of the original structures in the area that was also one of over 130 mines in the greater Drumheller area at one time. Then, check out McMullen Island for an afternoon picnic before heading to the cement lookout tower to get a view of the park from the top.
3. Try a Tour
You’ve been to the museums, seen the parks, and you’re still looking for more. Leave it to the experts and really get to know the area on a guided tour.
Red Deer River Adventures
Explore the Badlands from a different perspective (and stay cool while you’re at it). These tours allow you to kayak or canoe along the Red Deer River so you’re able to see the geologically stunning landscape from a new angle. If you’re already an expert paddler, this spot also rents kayaks and canoes so you can explore on your own.
Drumheller Guided Ghost Walk Tour
You’ve spent your day at the park and now that it’s dark, you’re looking for more adventure. Enter the Drumheller Guided Ghost Walk Tour. A guide will lead you through the streets of Drumheller and spook you along the way. Taking place on Friday and Saturday nights, this is a great way to experience the town of Drumheller. If you’re looking for something even spookier, stick around after the tour for a re-enactment of a Victorian-style seance.
All types of dinosaur and geology tours
We’ve already established that the landscape in the Badlands is amazing and that dinosaurs are the coolest, so why not explore them further? There are a ton of dinosaur and geology-focused tours in the area that will satisfy all your inner curiosities when it comes to rocks and prehistoric critters.
4. Feast on Food
Between your morning museum trip and your afternoon adventure, you’ve gotta eat! Here are some of the notable restaurants around the Badlands.
Aspen Crossing Dining Car Restaurant
Located in Mossleigh, Alberta, this unique dining experience is housed within an 1887 Pullman dining car. In fact, this exact rail car (yes! It was part of a train) was once Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s campaign car. History lesson aside, the Aspen Crossing Dining Car serves up some tasty food including a Sunday brunch and a prime rib dinner on Fridays.
Last Chance Saloon
This is a must-visit in the Badlands. Famous for its barbecued Alberta beef strip loin steak you grill yourself, Last Chance Saloon pairs its delicious food with retro kitsch in the form of a vintage jukebox and regular live music sets. Take a seat at a picnic table at this Wayne, Alberta restaurant and enjoy the ambiance of a place that’s been around for 100 years.
Camp Cookhouse Restaurant
In Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Camp Cookhouse Restaurant prides itself on cooking awesome food and serving it with a smile. With a focus on BBQ and homey comfort food, this is the perfect stop for campers to fuel up or for travelers looking for a rustic dining experience.
There are plenty of good things to do in Alberta’s Badlands. Let your inner nerd come out to play and explore everything from unforgettable rock formations, to ancient dinosaur fossils.