The Canadian province of Alberta is filled with amazing landscapes. The province has the spectacular Rockies – Banff National Park, the blue turquoise waters, bison and wildlife, the cleanest city of the world, and a white Christmas almost every year. But did you know that Alberta is also home to the world’s largest dinosaur museum, hoodoos, and a lunar landscape – badlands full of fossil beds? Take a day trip from Calgary to Drumheller and explore all the Drumheller attractions, starting with the Midland Provincial Park, Drumheller Dinosaur Park, Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum, and hoodoos and so much more.
The Canadian Badlands is a MUST visit. It is an unbelievable experience.
The day trip from Calgary to Drumheller will take you to the dinosaur period and will also fast forward you to the mining era, which is now abandoned. Drive through the arid landscape, look at mining sites and ghost towns, ready to welcome you. Tourism and paleontology work keeps the provincial parks and the towns alive.
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Calgary to Drumheller Attractions: Things to do in Drumheller
Start your day bright and early from Calgary. It takes about 2.25 hours to reach the Midland Provincial Park/Dinosaur Provincial Park. All the attractions are located in the Drumheller valley. It is a town within the Red Deer River valley, which is situated 110 kilometers northeast of Calgary.
Starting from Calgary
The best way to reach Drumheller from Calgary is by car. You will find a variety of car rental agencies in Calgary.
Once upon a time, buses were available from Calgary to Drumheller. Greyhound used to operate buses between Calgary and Drumheller for C$66.90 round-trip. The trip took about two hours. Greyhound no longer services western Canada, and the Red Arrow bus operators don’t have bus services to Drumheller (yet).
Calgary Transit buses are available to the outer limits of the city, and from there, taxi services can be utilized to reach Drumheller. It is a hassle in our opinion. Instead, opt for car rental or take a guided tour.
If you are particularly interested in a guided tour of the Drumheller Badlands, then book this tour. This tour will take care of the sightseeing, drive, and entrance fees for all the Drumheller attractions.
Starting from Calgary, you will arrive in Beisekar first. Beiseker is a village, located in the outermost part of the Calgary Region. It is approximately 70 kilometres northeast of Calgary and has a population of about 800 people. Be mindful of the speed limit at this little village as you enter the community.
(Note: Beisekar is also spelled as Beiseikar – but it is the same place)
Reaching Drumheller and Midlands Provincial Park
From Beisekar, it will take you around 50 minutes to arrive at the Midlands Provincial Park. You will be welcomed by dinosaurs everywhere as soon as you reach the park.
Drumheller Attractions – Things to do in Drumheller (Drumheller Dinosaur Park)
Drumheller is the town most associated with the Dinosaur provincial park, and there is SO much to see in this part of Alberta. Let us list all the historic sites and places for you first.
- Midlands Provincial Park
- Horseshoe Canyon
- Drumheller Dinosaur Park
- McCullen Island
- Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum
- The Little Church
- The Dinosaur Trail – Bleriot Ferry
- Drumheller Hoodoos
- Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
- Rosedale Star Mine Suspension Bridge
- Canadian Passion Badlands Play
Midlands Provincial Park
Midland Provincial Park is the first site where you will arrive in Drumheller. As soon as you enter the park, you will notice that the landscape is changing and it beautifully turns to badlands everywhere.
The Midland provincial park was once the site of the Midland Coal Mine and today it is the home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, which is located 6 km west of Drumheller on Highway 838.
The park has full-service amenities – hotels, gas stations, restaurants, etc.
Activities: Activities in the park include hiking through the badlands, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, wildlife viewing, a mine site, and of course the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.
Horseshoe Canyon is located about 17 km west of Drumheller, along Highway 9.
You can stand on the edge of this huge u-shaped canyon and absorb the beauty and mystery of the Canadian badlands. The Horseshoe canyon got its name from the horseshoe shape, which is defined by two coulees that flow into the Kneehill Creek (a tributary of the Red Deer River).
The canyon’s two arms are 5 kilometres long each, and it extends from Highway 9 to Kneehill Creek, at the site of two mining communities – Dunphy and Gatine.
Free parking is available onsite.
Activities: Enjoy a scenic day-hike in the canyon. Photography enthusiasts can use the viewing areas/platforms to capture the beauty of the canyons.
Drumheller Dinosaur Park
The Drumheller Dinosaur Park is dedicated to the paleontology research and of course dinosaurs. The World’s Largest Dinosaur is located here, at #60, 1st Avenue West in Drumheller.
Arriving into Drumheller, the sight of the 25 metres tall dinosaur is hard to miss.
For an entry fee of $4 CAD (or $10.50 CAD for Family Rate of 1-2 adults, children 6-17), you can head to the HEAD of the dinosaur to view the town of Drumheller and the Canadian badlands. (Located at Aquaplex Drumheller).
Activities: You can picnic or take a stroll at the lawns in front of the dinosaur. Enjoy small town joy of ice creams and friendships.
Within close proximity, you will find a Homestead Museum and a Fossil Discovery Centre to visit and explore.
(Note: Dinosaur Provincial Park is a different site from the Drumheller Dinosaur Park. The Dinosaur Provincial Park is where more than 150 full dinosaur skeletons have been unearthed. Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also has a similar topography like the Badlands and hoodoos of Drumheller)
McCullen Island is a beautiful lookout and a picnic site, located very close to the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum.
It is a day-use only facility with picnic tables, a freshwater pump, and toilet facilities. The McCullen Island is located directly across North Dinosaur Trail from the Midland Coal Mine site, thus offering amazing views of the entire provincial park.
McCullen Island is named after Mr. Seneca McMullen who established the Midland Coal Mine Company in 1912 and served as a company principal for many years. He also contributed to the prosperity of the community and the province.
Activities: Short and easy hike, picnic, photography, and amazing views.
Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is the MAJOR tourist attraction in Drumheller and a center of palaeontological research, It is known for its collection of more than 130,000 fossils.
The museum is named in honor of Joseph Burr Tyrrell, a geologist who accidentally discovered the first dinosaur fossil in the Red Deer River valley in 1884. The carnivorous dinosaur was later named Albertosaurus sarcophagus.
We spent about 2- 3 hours on the museum grounds. Parking is available on site. There are souvenir shops and cafes inside the museum.
Right outside the museum, there is a lookout area, which we recommend that you visit and take a look at the stunning Alberta badlands. If you have more time in your hands then definitely hike and get into the heart of the fossil-bearing strata. Allot at least an hour for that.
Inside the museum, there are lots of things to see and learn. Entrance fees to the museum are $19 CAD per adult and $10 CAD for youth (7-17 years and kids under 6 years go in for free). Tickets can be purchased at the visitor center.
You will be amazed at what all was discovered in Alberta while digging for coal. A lot of the displays inside the museum are original and some are cast.
This museum is situated in the middle of the fossil-bearing strata of the Late Cretaceous Horseshoe Canyon Formation and it is the home to the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Egg Site.
The Little Church
Located just a few minutes from the Royal Tyrrell is the Little Church – a place of meditation and worship. It is a pretty little sight to see the church amidst the badlands landscape.
Bleriot Ferry – North Dinosaur Trail
Located by the North Dinosaur Trail and Alberta Highway 838, the Bleriot ferry is worth checking out. The ferry was commissioned by a Frenchman Andre Bleriot in 1913. The unique thing is about this ferry is that it is a small, move-able bridge, which you can use to drive across the river (in less than eight minutes).
The ride is free, but the ferry can only hold a small number of cars at one time. There are audio guides, stories, and anecdotes of the informative ferryman. This is a cool attraction to see and experience when traveling in the Drumheller area.
Horsethief Canyon is a picturesque valley, with walking and trails. It is located on the Dinosaur Trail, about 16 km northwest of Drumheller. To capture spectacular views of the valley, you hike down the steep trail and explore the canyon. Or stand on the edge to soak in dramatic landscape views.
Orkney Viewpoint natural lookout point situated above the Red Deer River. It provides scenic views of the Red Deer Valley. (South Dinosaur trail).
The Little Church, Horsethief Canyon, Bleriot Ferry, and Orkney Viewpoint are located along the North and South Dinosaur Trail.
This is MY absolute favorite – the Drumheller hoodoos. The hoodoos are geological formations created through the deposit of materials during the Cretaceous Period between 70 and 75 million years ago. They consist of sand and clay from the nearby Horseshoe Canyon.
The Hoodoo trail is located midway between Rosedale and East Coulee.
The solid and strong capstones protect the softer underlying base; creating their unique mushroom-like shape. Entry to the hoodoos area is completely free. There is a free parking area, right in front of the Hoodoos.
There are designated pathways to walk and reach different platforms on site.
Tip: On your way to the Hoodoos, you will come across Hoodoo RV Resort & Campground – this place is a very serene spot, and perfect if you are looking for RV or camping options at the Midland Provincial Park.
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
The Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site is popular for its coal mine tours and history. The coal mine is surrounded by the Canadian Badlands and pulls tourists to view the original mine buildings, exhibits, and mining machinery.
The site is considered to be one of the OLDEST coal mines in Canada (now inactive). It was operational from 1936 to 1979. Coal was used to power the steam locomotives of the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways on the prairies.
Coal mining was very lucrative in those years. And with growing business and need for mine workers (and jobs) led to the establishment of many small towns and villages. The site preserves the stories and artifacts of men who once worked in the mines. The Atlas is the last of 139 mines that once dominated the Badlands valley. Today you will only see abandoned villages and ghost towns.
It is believed that around 13 people have died during the mine’s operation, including the devastating explosion on June 24, 1941, which claimed the lives of 4 miners.
The entrance fee is $12 CAD per person or $35 CAD for family. Guided tour and site access are seasonal. They have quite a variety of tours on-site. It includes photography tours, access to the coal mine on a 90-year-old locomotive train, tunnel tours, wooden tipple climb tour, etc. The wooden tipple is a coal loading and sorting machine – it is the only ONE of its kind left in Canada.
Rosedale Star Mine Suspension Bridge
You will cross the small town of Rosedale while on your way to the Drumheller hoodoos. On your drive back, take a right turn to view the Rosedale Suspension Bridge. Known as the Star Mine Suspension Bridge – it is a 117 metre long pedestrian suspension bridge built across the Red Deer River. It was built in 1931 for the coal workers of Star Mine.
There are no entry fees at the site. Parking is available.
Activities: You can cross the suspension bridge. Only a maximum of 20 people is allowed at a time. Once you cross the bridge, at the north end you will see the badlands again. You can hike to the top or take a stroll down to the Red Deer River banks.
While you are in Rosedale, head to Last Chance Saloon for a bite to eat. This rustic pub and bar grill was established in 1913 and offers burgers & other comfort food with live music.
Canadian Passion Badlands Play
A unique amphitheater located in the heart of the Canadian Badlands, showcasing musicals and stories from the Gospel. The play depicted the dramatic portrayal of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With a great cast, music, and voices – the play will bring laughter and tears.
The play starts in the evening, at 06:00 pm. The location, of course, is outdoors, so remember to bring thick cushions or blanket to sit on. Parking is available on site. There is a gift shop and a cafe as well.
East Coulee – Ghost Town
East Coulee is another ‘ghost’ town in Alberta. It used to be a settlement of about 3000 inhabitants (1928 – 1955) and is home to only 200 residents today. A must visit in this town is the East Coulee school museum, which houses a restored 1930’s classroom along with miners’ artifacts, and hundreds of photos of the miners, their families.
This town is located about some 21 km southeast of the city of Drumheller on Highway 10.
Travel Tips for Drumheller Alberta Canada
Here are very useful tips for your trip to Drumheller Alberta.
Nearest Airport to Drumheller Canada
Both Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airports are excellent options to reach Drumheller. It roughly takes 2-2.50 hours to reach Drumheller from either city.
Tip: If you are heading to Banff National Park and arriving in Calgary, then add an extra day trip to Drumheller.
Best Time to Visit Drumheller
The best time to visit Drumheller is during early summer. Most of the Drumheller attractions are seasonal and are best explored when the weather is warm.
Prime summer months are from late June to early September. During those months the weather will be hot, could be rainy on some days too.
Visiting in late April – May may be an ideal time as the weather will be warm enough for a hike and outdoors activity, but not scorching hot that it’s unbearable.
The Royal Tyrell Museum is open all year round. Summer hours to the museum are long but also expect long wait times. The museum is very popular with kids and you wouldn’t believe we had a hard time finding a parking spot in early April. Avoid visiting during Easter or Spring breaks, if possible; unless if you have kids wanting to go on an Easter Egg Hunt.
Where to stay in Drumheller? Drumheller Hotels
In our humble opinion, staying in Calgary will be the best option, unless if you are planning to camp and spend about 4-5 days at the Midland Provincial Park.
There are no luxury hotels in Drumheller, mostly bed and breakfast types of hotels and they are quite pricey for the service and value it provides. Also during summer months, getting a hotel in Drumheller could be a pain.
Here is our guide to hotels in Calgary
If you must stay in Drumheller, here are some options for you
- Ramada Hotel by Wyndham – Located about 8 km from the Royal Tyrell Museum, Ramada hotel is a clean 2-star hotel offering free breakfast. The hotel is pet friendly. Book your stay here.
- Canalta Jurassic Hotel – A 2-star hotel, located by the roadside – Canalta has an indoor pool and provides free breakfast. Book your stay here
- Super 8 by Wyndham Drumheller – Another 2-star hotel in Drumheller, Super 8 is a budget option accommodation offering an indoor pool and free breakfast as well. Book your stay here
We recommend using Booking.com to find accommodation. It is our favorite hotel website for quickly comparing the prices of multiple hotel booking sites at once.
We hope you found this article helpful in planning your trip to Drumheller and explore the dinosaur park and the badlands of Alberta.
Additional Alberta Resources and posts
- Calgary City Guide – Guide to the city of Calgary here
- Banff Travel Tips – Preparing for a trip to Banff here
- Banff Winter Activities – Winter travel to Banff Guide
- Edmonton to Jasper – Edmonton and Jasper Road Trip
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.