You'll have no trouble imagining dinosaurs roaming the earth when you explore the otherworldly landscape of The Badlands. There's a lot to see in this part of the province, including real, honest-to-goodness dinosaur bones.
From Calgary, head east on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy. 1) to Hwy. 9 North.
Stops Along the Way
Fieldstone Fruit Wines
Alberta's first cottage winery is just 10 km south of Strathmore on Hwy. 817. Stop for a tasting or, if the season's right, pick your own berries.
Known as Canada's mini Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon is a surprising pocket of Badlands right in the midst of the prairies.
Here, the history goes waaaay back, far enough that it's pre-history, if you will. The town of Drumheller is smack in the middle of the Badlands, and it's well known for its rich fossil beds and mining industry. Want to see the town from a different vantage point? Climb into the mouth of the world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex. Never fear – he's made of fiberglass and (thankfully) doesn't bite.
Royal Tyrrell Museum
The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology is home to 80,000 specimens and 35 complete dinosaur skeletons - more than any other museum in the world. West of Drumheller on Hwy. 838, the museum hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Go on a short hike, join a dinosaur dig, or watch experts release skeletons from their tombs of stone.
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
Underground Tunnel Tours, Tipple Tours, and Train Tours transport you to the blackest years of Alberta’s past. The Atlas preserves the last of 139 Drumheller coal mines. Across from historic East Coulee, in the Drumheller Valley.
The Little Church
West of Drumheller, this church can seat thousands, "but only six at a time." Take the first access road on the left which doubles back to Horsethief Canyon lookout, where you'll find spectacular views of the Badlands and the multicoloured walls of the canyon. Visit Bleriot Ferry, one of the few remaining ferries in Alberta at the crossing of the Red Deer River.
Hoodoo Drive Trail
Coal mining was once a vital part of the economy in this region, and you can explore that history if you hop in the car and drive the trail. The road takes you through historic mining towns like East Coulee and Rosebud.
An hour east of Calgary's limits, and thirty minutes west of Drumheller, you'll find a tiny prairie town and several pleasant surprises. If you like the arts, this is the place to be – take in a show at the Rosebud Theatre, or browse the Akokiniskway Art Gallery in the historic United Church. There's even a nine-hole golf course. Want to stay over night? Check out one of the quaint bed-and-breakfasts.
South of Rosebud, near Cluny, you'll find the Blackfoot Crossing Historic Park. The park, the site of the signing of Treaty No. 7 in 1877, was created to preserve and share the culture, language, and traditions of the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation. Explore the park and exhibits on your own, or take a guided tour. Explore the Tipi village and see craft and survival skill demonstrations – you can also stay overnight in a tipi, if the mood strikes.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, Dinosaur Provincial Park, not far from the town of Brooks, protects some of the most extensive dinosaur bone fields in the world. Take in one of the Park's daily interpretive programs or explore the geological and natural history on a self-guided walk.
Follow Hwy. 1 east and visit the city of Medicine Hat. Visitors flock to the world's tallest tipi, bask under "The Hat's" endless skies or tour the Clay Products Interpretive Centre and the Medalta Historic Site.
Keep going southwest and stop at Red Rock Coulee, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Dinosaur and Heritage Museum in Warner, and Lethbridge. In Lethbridge, explore the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, Fort Whoop-Up and the Sir Alexander Galt Museum.