Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2022

Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital of the world. It is located in the Canadian Badlands just northeast of Calgary and has been home to a significant amount of dinosaur-related discoveries, including fossils and skeletons. The landscape also contains an impressive display of rock formations, canyons and hoodoos.

We started our day at the Horseshoe Canyon, which is located just west of Drumheller. From the parking lot there’s a trail that leads to several viewing platforms along the rim of the u-shaped canyon. It also winds down to the canyon floor for a closer perspective of the barren landscape and interesting rock formations. The layers in the rocks represent passages of time down to the Cretaceous period when dinosaurs once roamed the region millions of years ago.

It was a bit of a gloomy day, but the overcast was probably a good thing since we were out in the open. The clouds (or the bug spray) provided minimal protection from the mosquitoes, which were out in full force. We didn’t complete the entire trail through the canyon as the bugs were brutal. Plus we had other places to be (that were bug free).

Along the way, we passed the welcome sign for Drumheller and naturally had to pull over to take a picture since it had a dinosaur on it.

We had booked tickets to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in advance, which was probably a good thing as the parking lot was packed. The museum features one of the largest displays of dinosaurs in the world and focuses on many specimens found within Alberta. There are thirteen exhibits that highlight the history and evolution of dinosaurs through the different eras and showcase some of the most significant fossils in the museum’s collection. Alberta takes their dinosaur fossils very seriously and it is actually illegal to remove or sell any fossils from the province without the permission from the Alberta government.

Afterwards we hiked along the Badlands Interpretive Trail (1.4km loop) located in Midland Provincial Park, across from the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The trail weaves through the badlands and contains twelve interpretive signs that provide more information about the unique geology of the area. After the first signpost, the trail splits off to form a loop through the valley. There aren’t too many plants found in the valley of the badlands, but we did come across some prickly-pear cacti.

While Drumheller is best known for its badlands and dinosaurs, it also has a history of coal mining and was once the largest coal producers in Canada. The town was actually named after Samuel Drumheller who started coal mining operations in the area in the early 1900s. To learn more about the history of mining in Drumheller, we visited the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, which is considered to be the most complete historic coal mine in Canada and has the last standing wooden coal tipple in the country.

The national historic site includes a collection of old mining equipment and buildings, along with storyboards that provide more information about the history of the Atlas Coal Mine, which operated from 1936 to 1979 until natural gas became more popular for heating homes.

We signed up for the Mine Portal Tour (75 minutes, rated difficult) to learn more about the history of the mine and to get a sneak peak into the reconstructed entrance of the mine. The tour started at the Washhouse where we were provided with hard hats and headlamps. Our guide then led us up the valley wall and through the wooden tipple, which was used to load the coal into rail cars. The first half of the tour was predominantly uphill and involved a lot of stair climbing, but we made several stops along the way to take a break and learn more about the mining machinery and the conditions and dangers of working in the mine.

Once we wrapped up our tour, we hit the road again. We made a quick detour to see the Drumheller Hoodoos, a small group of sandstone rock pillars that have been shaped by erosion. The pillars are topped with a harder rock that protects the softer rock underneath from eroding as quickly as the surrounding rock. There’s a short trail that loops around the hoodoos. Typically there’s a small fee to park, but since we were visiting later in the afternoon, there was no one around to collect our toonie.

We then made another quick stop at the Horsethief Canyon to get another spectacular view of the Badlands. Legend has it that back in the day, the canyon was used by horse thieves to smuggle and hide livestock. Horses would often disappear in the canyon only to reappear a few days later with a different brand on the other side of the valley.

From Drumheller we planned to drive to Elk Island National Park to spend the last couple of days of our vacation and road trip.


92 thoughts on “Drumheller

  1. Olympus Mountaineering says:

    Very interesting location.

    At first place, my son would love to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and personally I find amazing the sandstone formation, Drumheller Hoodoos!

    I am so happy to read posts from you -and other blogs- because I get to learn and see through your posts about amazing locations!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment, you are too kind. The landscape in Drumheller looks like it’s from another planet. All the interesting rock formations were incredible. And the Royal Tyrell Museum was a lot of fun, even for us adults.

  2. Darlene says:

    I have spent many wonderful hours in Drumheller. The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology is the best museum ever. The last time I visited, I took my ten-year-old grandson and he loved it. I know a couple of people who have their discoveries showcased at the museum. Those hoodoos are something else too. So glad you included Drumheller on your trip.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I completely agree. The Royal Tyrell Museum is very well done and was a lot of fun, even for us adults. That’s neat how you even know a few people who have had their fossil discoveries showcased in the museum. And yes, the hoodoos were also fascinating. We were initially only supposed to spend half a day in Drumheller, but ended up staying much longer because there was just so much left to explore.

      • Darlene says:

        I love this place so much that I included it in my book Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone. In fact, it plays a big part in the story. Alberta is my home province and there is much about it I love but Drumheller and area have to be my favourite.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I’m glad to hear that Alberta made the list of locations in your Amanda series. Drumheller seems like a great setting with the badlands and dinosaurs, there’s so much intrigue and mystery.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Glad you made it to the Badlands Linda. It is an interesting part of our province and a place we spent a lot of time visiting with our kids and with overseas visitors. Happy Friday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I wanted to visit Drumheller the last time we went out west, but we didn’t have enough time (there’s never enough time). I’m glad we were able to return and spend some time in Drumheller. With badlands and dinosaur fossils, what’s not to love?! Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

  4. wetanddustyroads says:

    This is a very interesting place – the formations (and those hoodoos) are quite unique. Oh, those annoying bugs … as much as I hate them, I would rather have an encounter with them before one of those scary dinosaurs 😉.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, with the colourful landscape and interesting rock formations, it looked like we were in a totally different world. And agreed, I’d rather encounter the mosquitoes than dinosaurs … although it might be more painful to die a slow death from a million mosquito bites!

  5. Oh, the Places We See says:

    So glad you posted this trip because the landscape is amazing. This post reminds us of travels in the Badlands as well as much of the Utah national parks. But never have we seen so much about dinosaurs. thanks for posting!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know, the landscape in Drumheller looks like we’re on a totally different planet. Once you add dinosaurs to the mix, it makes for a fun adventure. We’re actually thinking about visiting Utah next year. I’ve heard such wonderful things about the red rock landscape, hoodoos and arches. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I had the same reaction when we first went out west. We just didn’t have enough time to squeeze in a visit to Drumheller. I’m glad we were able to return. We had a wonderful time exploring the badlands, dinosaur fossils and old mining equipment. It was a fun way to travel back in time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It makes me want to visit the badlands in the United States now. The landscape is just so unique and out of this world. After visiting the Royal Tyrell Museum made us want to rewatch Jurassic Park again.

  6. Ab says:

    What an amazing outing you and K enjoyed! I’ve never heard of Drumheller or the Badlands (what a great name) but it looks amazing. I love all the dinosaur history and fossil artifact. And the mine portal also looks really cool. So much history and history frozen in time. I’ll have to check this out with T one day. He loves dinosaurs!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You should definitely add Drumheller to your list for when you go out west. With badlands and dinosaurs, what’s not to love?! The Atlas Coal Mine was pretty neat with all the old mining buildings and equipment. The tour was a great way to learn more about the history of mining in the area and see sights that otherwise would have been off limits. It definitely felt like we went back in time. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. We’re currently at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick.

  7. NortheastAllie says:

    Drumheller sounds so cool!!! I am impressed at how many fossils were at the museum to that is amazing how well they are taking care of them. The mountains in that area look really magnificent thank you for sharing these gorgeous photos!!!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It is pretty incredible to think that dinosaurs once roamed this area a long time ago. Many of the exhibits in the Royal Tyrell Museums feature fossils found in Alberta. It was fun to go back in time and learn more about their history and how and when the various fossils were discovered.

  8. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    The Royal Tyrrel is an amazing museum. I haven’t been in a few years but I would love to go back. Your photos of the area and museum are fantastic. Too bad about all the bugs. Years ago I knew someone who did field work there. He had to coat himself in bug spray in order to get any work done.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I agree, the exhibits at the Royal Tyrell Museum were very well done, educational and entertaining. It’s hard to believe that many of the fossils were found right here in Alberta. We didn’t notice any bugs when we were in the mountains, but that’s probably because they were all here. We made sure to lather up on bug spray for our next hike. Field work with mosquitoes does not sound fun, especially if you forgot your insect repellent!

  9. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Another interesting post. The Drumheller park sign with the dinosaur is great and I’d have stopped to photo it too. Also enjoyed your trip down the mine as we’ve just been down one ourselves (iron ore) which was fascinating too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The welcome to Drumheller sign with the dinosaur has got to be one of the best town signs I’ve ever seen. The tour of the mine was very educational and a lot of fun. Mining sounds like such hard work though. It’s definitely not for me!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. The exhibits in the Royal Tyrell Museum were very well done. It was a lot of fun, even for us adults. The landscape in the badlands was also super fascinating. Its great that there are lots of overlooks and trails to see them more up close. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

  10. leightontravels says:

    The dinosaur capital of he world eh? Somehow I imagine that there are some very silly people who would go there and end up highly disappointed 😉 Seriously though, the landscape is incredibly impressive. Love the history, the otherworldly rock formations and the rails.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are a lot of dinosaur related attractions scattered all over town, including the worlds largest dinosaur. You can also go fossil hunting and learn more about dinosaurs found in the region at the Royal Tyrell Museum. It may not be as impressive as Jurassic World, but it’s still pretty cool. The badlands are even an added bonus.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The Royal Tyrrell is one of the most impressive museums that I’ve visited. It was fun (and educational) to learn more about the dinosaurs from Alberta. The mine tour with was also very well done and was a great way to get a glimpse into the past.

  11. grandmisadventures says:

    Dinosaurs, coal mines, and hoodoos- sounds like the best place ever! It reminds me a lot of Utah actually with all of those things so it made me a little homesick seeing your pictures. Loved exploring this area with you today 🙂

  12. rkrontheroad says:

    An interesting, seemingly unrelated, collection of tours. You were fortunate to see the cactus in bloom! The hoodoos and the dinosaurs still connected to the rock were highlights.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Drumheller is such a neat place to explore with its badlands, interesting rock formations and abundance of dinosaur fossils. It was fun to travel back in time and learn more about the history of this region from when the dinosaurs once roamed here and more recently about coal mining. All the museums and exhibits were very well done.

      • rkrontheroad says:

        There’s a Dinosaur National Monument at the northwestern end of Colorado where skeletons can be seen in the rock in a similar way. It’s a smaller exhibit, or was when I was there last many years ago, but quite exciting to see, like Drumheller.

  13. Vignesh M says:

    Hoodoos looks like the one we saw at Goblin valley state park. Great pictures of badlands. Incredible to visualize Dinosaurs roaming there freely. The skeletons looks like frozen in time. Great place except for the bugs. Thank you for the share 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s crazy how long it takes for hoodoos to form. We’re actually thinking of visiting Utah next year so I’ll have to add Goblin Valley State Park to our itinerary. Thanks for putting it on my radar. Take care. Linda

  14. Dawn Minott says:

    Horsethief Canyon! Drumheller! Toonie! This post is the epitome of Canada—uniquely unique. Loved this journey. The images are striking—felt like i was in the Jurassic Park movies.

    Linda I was thinking you hadn’t travelled for a while since I didn’t see any posts then realize it’s because I “followed” but didn’t turn on notifications. that’s fixed now 😉 so I can get my vicarious travel fix. See you on the next trip 😃👋🏾😃

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Drumheller is such a neat place to explore with all the badlands and dinosaur fossils. We actually rewatched the Jurassic Park movies when we returned from our trip out west. We’ve been making the most of this year and being able to travel internationally again. I have one last post about our road trip through the Canadian Rockies before writing about our travels to Europe.

      • Dawn Minott says:

        You are truly blessed to have these experiences. Thanks for sharing. Glad we’re all getting back to some amount of normalcy including air travel. Have a great week ahead Linda!!!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thanks so much. And agreed, I do feel very fortunate to be able to travel and explore the world. It’s always good to get out of our comfort zones, make memories and learn something new. Enjoy the rest of your weekend as well.

  15. BrittnyLee says:

    There used to be one of those shoot things on the back road near my parents’ house . It had to be taken down though due to it falling apart. It was so wild. History is incredible . I am shocked about coal being such a large presence in that part of Canada. That’s so interesting 🤔! It’s a shame that the museum area had to be more on more alert due to people taking bones. People can be ridiculous. Let the people who know what they’re doing dig up the bones and properly care for them. That’s awesome that so many dinosaur bones have been discovered there ! I would be in my glory checking this place out. Glad you enjoyed yourselves, minus the mosquitos. They’re awful

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Drumheller is such a neat place to explore and learn more about dinosaurs, geology and mining. It’s wild how serious the government takes their fossils, but that probably explains why the Royal Tyrrell Museum has one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world. We were initially supposed to spend just half a day in the area, but were having such a fun time that we decided to make a full day trip out of it. It was so worth it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape in Drumheller is so fascinating with all the hoodoos and interesting rock formations. It makes me want to visit some of the other badlands in the United States to see how they compare. I’ll have to keep the Bisti Badlands and the Petrified Forest National Park in mind. We’re actually thinking of visiting Utah next year. Thanks for reading. Linda

  16. Josy A says:

    Woooooow! I love this kind of place! The hoodoos aaaand learning about dinos! I will have to try to visit Drumheller at some point!! 😀

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We initially planned to just spend the morning in Drumheller, but we were having so much fun, that we decided to stay for the full day. The landscape looks like we’re on a totally different planet. Plus who doesn’t love learning more about dinosaurs and seeing their fossils!?

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