Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, is one of the most beautiful places you could ever visit in your life. Located in the badlands of Alberta, the Dinosaur Provincial Park resides within the Red Deer River Valley. Make the two-hour drive from Calgary or a half-hour trip if you are driving in from Brooks, the nearest city to the park, and you will be welcomed into one of your most fulfilling encounters with nature.
As the name suggests, if you have a soft spot for paleontology or let’s be done with the technical terms, if you are interested in dinosaurs, you are going to have a ball of a time as the park is noted for its renowned fossil assemblage across all of its badlands terrain. Not a big fan of dinosaurs, no need to worry; Dinosaur Provincial Park has enough scenic beauty and picturesque landscape to leave you filled with a sense of wonder and provide you with serenity to forget about the worries of life for a while.
This provincial park is a great place to visit with your family and kids or for a solo trip to immerse yourself in history and get in touch with nature. You should know, though, that you won’t find the Royal Tyrrell Museum here; it is located in the nearby town of Drumheller in Alberta, and as you will find explicitly stated in the Alberta Parks website, Dinosaur Provincial Park is not located in Drumheller.
Just the natural beauty and majestic badlands terrain of Dinosaur Provincial Park might be worth the trip if you count yourself amongst those who feel at one with nature, and reconnecting with nature helps you attain your mental peace recharge your batteries.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dinosaur Provincial Park is rich in dinosaur fossils and fossils of other species like cretaceous fish, reptiles, and amphibians that existed in the Late Cretaceous period. This provincial park, the locale of discovering fossils of about 35 dinosaur species, has been pivotal to discovering some of the most important fossils from the ‘Age of Dinosaurs.’
The Dinosaur Provincial Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 owing to its paleontological importance, badlands landscape, and rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Dinosaur Provincial Park is not the only place in Canada that can boast about being home to beautiful scenery; check out 5 Amazing Reasons To Visit Banff National Park to add another possible destination in your quest for reveling in the beauties of nature.
Top 13 attractions at Dinosaur Provincial Park
One thing you can be sure of when you visit Dinosaur Provincial Park is that you won’t run out of things to do; you can choose to go on any of the five hiking trails within the park, take an interpretive guided tour to know about the history and gain a deep understanding of the significance of this magnificent nature reserve, go camping or appreciate and lose yourself in the beautiful badlands scenery, the options are endless.
Now let us take a look at the top 13 attractions at Dinosaur Provincial Park; the order will probably vary depending upon your preference:
Dinosaur Provincial Park has five hiking trails: the Badlands Trail, Cottonwood Flats Trail, Prairie Trail, Coulee Viewpoint Trail, and the Trail of the Fossil Hunters. If you are one of those people who fancy a hike, take a hike on foot across any or all of the five trails and experience the different experiences each one has to offer.
Badlands Trail (1.3 km)
The first trail that you will encounter on the public scenic loop road is distinctive. It is the only trail next to the Natural Preserve, a part of the provincial park that is off-limits for tourists, if not opting for one of the interpretive guided tours.
Featuring magnificent hoodoos and badlands terrain, the trail has informational signage relating to the formation of the badlands environment and dinosaur fossils found within the park.
Cottonwood Flats Trail (1.4 km)
This trail runs along the banks of the Red Deer River and is surrounded by cottonwood trees. If you are a bird-watching enthusiast, you might want to watch as most birds residing within the Dinosaur Provincial Park call those woods their home.
Coulee Viewpoint Trail (0.9 km)
Starting from the park’s visitor’s center, this trail has quite a bit of hilly terrain and provides beautiful views of the badlands landscape. It is recommended to go on this trail only during favorable weather conditions owing to its high ridges.
Prairie Trail (0.3 km)
Located at the entrance of the Dinosaur Provincial Park, it is a short trail amid a prairie.
Trail of the Fossil Hunters (0.9 km)
This trail traces the path taken by former fossil hunters in their search for glory and quest for discovery.
2. Guided Tours
You can take different interpretive guided tours to enjoy different experiences. The guided tours ranging from 2 to 4 hours involve guided hikes in the Natural Preserve, family-oriented programs to provide the right mix of education and fun. If you want, there are also programs to educate yourself on the different aspects of the provincial park.
You can dig for dinosaur bones, take an up-close and personal look at real dinosaur bones and fossils and who knows, if you are lucky enough, you might come across a previously undiscovered fossil and add your name against the famous paleontologists who have come before. Okay, that last part seems unlikely, but still, it is a worthwhile experience.
It should be noted that taking any fossil or dinosaur bones out of the park is a punishable offense. It is recommended that you book your desired guided tour beforehand, as they generally tend to be in high demand, and on the spot, the booking may not be possible.
3. Fossil Display Houses
There are two fossil display houses located along the public scenic loop road. The first display house contains the almost complete skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur, fossilized and partially encompassed in the sediment in which they were buried over 75 million years ago. It is famously known as the “headless hadrosaur.”
The second display house contains a paleontological recreation of a quarry located in the park, called the Centrosaurus Bone-Bed.
4. John Ware Cabin
The cabin dedicated to the legendary African-American rancher John Ware, a transformative figure with ranching in the province, showcases artifacts and items relating to him and provides information about his life and legacy.
The John Ware Cabin is open only on weekends during July and August or by special appointment.
5. Visitor’s Centre
The park has a visitor’s center called the Dinosaur Provincial Park Interpretive Centre & Museum, which has a small gift shop and a museum. The museum has some stunning displays of fossils that were unearthed from the provincial park while also being informative about the geological and ecological environmental issue of the badlands.
There are also some interactive exhibits and family theatre shows. Entry to the museum, interactive exhibits, and the theatre requires a small fee.
6. Eating in the Cretaceous Cafe
An aptly named eatery, the Cretaceous Cafe has some common fast food options like burgers and poutines to satiate your hunger and is a handy component of the park as there are no nearby restaurants.
If you want to camp at Dinosaur Provincial Park, it is also the check-in point and has camping supplies for sale. It also has laundry machines and houses the camp’s shower facilities.
7. Paddling in the Red Deer River
You can paddle through the Red Deer River by canoes and kayaks and thus, experience the wonders of Dinosaur Provincial Park from the perspective of the river flowing through it. The nearest upstream access to the Red Deer River is from the Stevensville campground, and depending on the time of the year and water levels, it takes roughly 2.5 to 4 hours to reach the park campgrounds on the boat journey.
If you go on paddling downstream from the park’s campgrounds, then you will have to journey close to 7 hours and cover almost 35 km before coming across the first river access point, and if you had traveled that far then, you would have ventured out of the park’s boundaries.
You need to plan accordingly to avail of this experience, and it should be kept in mind that there are no canoe rentals at the park.
8. Comfort Camping
Do you want to have a feel of the camping experience but are unwilling to put up with some of the inconveniences associated with it? Do not worry, as Dinosaur Provincial Park has you covered. Apart from the regular camping arrangements, there is also the option of comfort camping.
You will be provided with a mini-fridge, electric heaters, easily accessible washrooms, beds, and futon, among other amenities, so that you can feel at home and comfortable while still being able to bask in the tranquility of the natural beauty around you.
If you feel that fishing amounts to a good time, you are in luck; it is permissible to fish in the Red Deer River, and the river is accessible from within Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Picnic spots complete with fire pits, tables, and play area are available near the river, meaning that you could have the perfect excuse for an impromptu family picnic; there is also a picnic area on the lawn outside the Cretaceous Cafe.
Are you a photography buff? Then, your imagination is sure to be sparked after laying your eyes on the beautiful badlands scenery of Dinosaur Provincial Park and its surrounding natural beauty. Not a photo enthusiast? You could still find yourself inspired to click a few pictures of the beautiful landscape, just the same.
12. Walk/Bike/Drive through the Public Scenic Loop Road
Walk, bike, or just drive through the Public Scenic Loop road; the journey through the picturesque, scenic stretch of nearly 4 km is bound to leave you with a refreshed feeling.
13. Children’s Playground
Do you have young kids who need a bit of time on the playground every day, or else it affects their mood and, by extension, your whole family? Dinosaur Provincial Park has a children’s playground; so, your kids can have their playtime even on the day out.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, open year-round and still as majestic as ever with its unparalleled beauty, is one of the best destinations for a family trip or a solo trip to reconnect with your soul and gaze at the wonders of nature. Since it is a very popular tourism spot, it is recommended that you plan your trip well in advance before starting your journey towards this natural reserve, especially if you want to avail of the guided tours.
Do you find that reconnecting with nature after a long period re-energizes your body and soul? Then take a look at Nature Exploration and Self-Discovery the Canadian Way.
If you are visiting Dinosaur provincial park, that means you are in Alberta, and when in Alberta, you must visit other provincial parks. Currently, there are over 400 provincial parks in Alberta, and among them, Jasper National Park and Banff National Park are a must-visit.
When in Alberta, you have to enjoy the most of Albert’s nature and wilderness, and there’s no better way to do this than by visiting the parks.
Do share your experiences with us once you visit Dinosaur Provincial Park. We would love to hear from you.