EXPERIENCE THE BADLANDS, DRUMHELLER ALBERTA, CANADA
Just an hour away from Calgary, this very unique place in Canada is something worth travelling for!
Our intention was to pass through on our way to Calgary but after looking into what Drumheller had to offer, we knew we needed to spend at least a full day. Honestly, if I went back again, we would stay a minimum of two days.
However, we were on a budget and we were able to complete a lot of fun activities in just one day.
Here is our one-day itinerary. Note that we travelled with two little kids so some of the hikes were very short as they would not have made it too far. We were also on a budget so we kept most of our adventures to free or close to options. This may not be for everyone but we loved it!
There are a lot of places to stay even though this is a small city. Lots of hotel options, campsites and places to book. We, however, are cheap and have a camper so we do what we love most of the quick travel days and then find somewhere FREE! Most Walmart parking lots allow you to park overnight with a trailer or camper as long as you are out of the way and respectable to those around you! Drumheller has a small Walmart but the only downside was that it was not a 24 hour and our Scamp does not have a bathroom. So we ran into a 24-hour fast food place before parking for the night. This allowed us to be in the city and ready to go first thing in the morning.
Here is the loop we did along with all the stops we made along the way:
This is great as just a lookout point or to go for an adventure! Located about 15 minutes outside Drumheller, this is totally worth the drive. They offer helicopter tours just seconds away from the lookout. Though that may be on our list next time, we opted for the lookout point. Pictures do not really do this place justice. Make sure you follow the walkway around to the right of the lookout to find the staircase. This gives you easy access down into the canyon. There is also a small lookout point partway down. There about 140 steps to the bottom (we have a 6-year-old, yes we counted as we walked). Walking around and exploring the base was a lot of fun. We were able to climb some of the mounds and get some great pictures. NOTE: lots of loose rock when climbing the mounds. Also, watch out for cactus. They are little and usually gathered in one area but they are sharp! I stepped on one and it went right through my shoe.
When travelling back into town from Horseshoe Canyon, stop for a quick picture of the Drumheller sign. Great spot for a photo and looks fun with the gold dinosaur! This is located right on Highway 9 headed into town.
Just inside town on Highway 9 is a fun little place called Trekcetera Museum. We did not get to stop here this time but if you love StarTrek, Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Men in Black, Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes this might be the place for you!
World's Largest Dinosaur
Our kids really enjoyed this place. A super quick stop but something they talk about all the time. Experience the 86ft tall dinosaur and climb up inside the lookout (which happens to be the mouth!). Our whole family (2 adults/2 kids) only cost us $10.50 total. The receipt allows you to climb as many times throughout the day as you would like. The bottom has a cute little gift shop but also shares space with the Drumheller Visitor Information Centre. Grab a town map for free so you can plan out your stops for the remainder of the day. The staff are super helpful with driving directions and activities based on the age of travellers.
The Dinosaur Trail
Conveniently the city is laid out in a large loop. So you can travel around in either direction both ending up back at the visitor centre. We travelled South to North around the loop. This loop is well defined on the map the visitor centre provided. So in order here are some of the attractions we visited along the loop.
Almost halfway around the loop, you will find this beautiful lookout worth stopping for. The view of the river canyon is beautiful. We tried to keep some of our stops to simple viewpoints whereas other we stretched our legs and walked around. The kids liked walking around along with the view from this lookout.
Apparently, not a lot of people drive out this far but I would 100% recommend it. This was so much fun. This little ferry carries no more than 12 cars at a time. It crosses every 5 minutes. The best part is that the water is probably only 5 ft deep but its the fun in this little stop that makes it worth it. This ferry travels on cables and weights and travels no more than 50m across. You are allowed to get out of your car and watch as you cross. The best part was the Captain who picked our kids to push all the buttons and move the ferry. They loved it so much. I would honestly ask the captain if the kids can help because chances are they will say yes. At the end both the kids got a signed and dated Honorary Ferry Captain certificate. Not bad for a 50m, 5-minute ferry ride. The kids loved it.
This place is a scenic gorge and a popular spot for hiking. We used this location as a lookout spot. There were lots of hikers down below but we knew we needed to save a little energy for the upcoming stops. Beautiful view and a great spot for pictures.
The Little Church:
This little church was built in 1968 as a place of worship and meditation. It later became a place for tourist to stop and take pictures but it is still used today as a sacred place. This little church seats.... ready for it... 6 people. It is a place worth stopping in at.
Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Centre:
This was another quick stop as we explored the gift shop and had a quick break for a late lunch. They are located right beside a park and the kids just wanted to play at the park and eat lunch instead of actually going through the discovery centre. They have some great dinosaurs outside that you can take pictures with. The playground was a great stop for the kids. This will have to be on our list for next time.
Star Mine Suspension Bridge:
Located in a small town called Rosedale just outside Drumheller is a 117-metre long pedestrian suspension bridge across the Red Deer River. There is free parking located at the bridge and picnic tables and bathrooms there also. This suspension bridge holds a max of 20 people at a time (most people don't read the sign, there was for sure more than 20 people when we crossed). On the other side are more hiking paths and mountains to climb. Our kids really wanted to adventure to the top and it was also a great spot for photos with the suspension bridge in the background.
This was one of the highlights of our day. The hoodoo trail allows you to view hoodoos (sand pillar formations with rocks tops) in all shapes and sizes. The kids wanted to walk on them but they are protected at the base. This was one of the busier stops we went to but there were lots of open areas that once we walked through the staircase loop we were free to walk around as we wanted in the upper levels. This is also a great spot for photos.
All in all, this was a jam-packed day but we got to see a lot of things! We were able to space out stops so that there was a mix of lookouts to just rest at and hikes that the kids could complete. We for sure will be returning here as there was a list of several places we didn't make it to. I also think some of the museums the kids would appreciate a little more when they are slightly older. Our kids still would rather just play at a park then go to museums.
What are some of your favourite places to explore at Drumheller? Drop a comment in the comments section and be sure to let me know! We will add it to our list for next time we visit!