Welcome to the Canadian Badlands in Southern Alberta, where dinosaurs once roamed in colossal numbers. Their presence can still be felt today – with fossil sites, museums, and desert-esque landscapes around every corner.
Located not far north-east of Calgary (where you can fly direct to from the UK), the Canadian Badlands are easy to work into a self-drive of western Canada. Here are 10 things that we think should be on your list when you venture into this area of prehistoric importance.
1. Unearth fossils at Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to the richest concentration of Cretaceous fossils on the planet. The landscape is also striking with rugged edges shaped by water and wind, and topped off with hues of terra cotta, bronze and amber. So precious, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
2. Visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum
The world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology. Current exhibits include the Cretaceous Garden, Terrestrial Palaeozoic, the Mammal Hall, and the Ice age.
3. Find all the hoodoos
Hoodoos are 5 foot sandstone pillars that rest on a thick base of shale and are capped by a large stone – and they take millions of years to form. They are, however, very delicate and can be easily eroded (so no climbing). The protected Hoodoos site is a guaranteed spot to see Hoodoos but smaller versions of these sandstone giants can be found all over the Badlands.
4. Hike the Horsethief Canyon
Named after the outlaws who hid their stolen livestock here more than 100 years ago, Horsethief Canyon is as beautiful as it is historically important. Stand on the edge for spectacular views of the valley below, but if you’re feeling adventurous, hike down the steep trail, and explore the canyon.
5. Climb inside the world’s largest dinosaur
Towering high over Drumheller stands the World’s Largest Dinosaur. Climb 106 stairs inside the 86foot tall T-rex – which is lined with beautiful murals – and admire the breath-taking Badlands from her gaping jaw. Adults and children will love this one.
6. Visit the Gopher Hole Museum
This is one of Alberta’s more unique attractions. Gophers are burrowing rodents native to North and Central America, and this museum takes taxidermy gophers and sets them in human-like scenes – from a hairdresser to a preacher to an RCMP officer.
7. The smallest church you might ever see
Just north of the town of Kneehill you’ll find a quaint white chapel that sits only six people at a time. It was built in 1968 as a place of worship but now has become a popular photo opportunity.
8. Hop on-board the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursion
Experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a turn-of-the-century train. Aboard the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursion, passengers will interact with historical characters, enjoy unobstructed views of Alberta’s landscape, relax in vintage coaches, dine on home-cooked country dinners, explore rural communities, and thrill at the arrival of the notorious Reynold Raiders gang.
9. Play golf at the Dinosaur Trail Golf Club
You’ll struggle to find another golf course in the world that provides you with a more unique and striking terrain than Dinosaur Trail Golf Club. Tee off amongst ancient boulders, cacti, and dinosaur bone beds that date back 75 million years. There are two golf courses to choose from: the front one is the easier of the two, but the back course is considered one of the most challenging courses in Alberta.
10. Find your way out of a corn maze
The Lethbridge Corn Maze can take anywhere between 20 minutes and two hours to find your way out of – and a new pattern is designed every year! Once you’ve emerged from the field there are lots of other things to keep you entertained: such as a petting zoo filled with a menagerie of animals, a hayride, giant slide, hedge maze and a pumpkin patch!