A visit to Drumheller, a town in the Red Deer River Valley in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta, offered a few surprises on a recent January weekend. With the goal of a winter hike, I was disappointed to find that Horseshoe Canyon, 17 kilometres outside of Drumheller was closed. Horsethief Canyon, a popular hiking spot north of Drumheller off of the Dinosaur Trail was open but icy. I was ready to give up on a winter hike until we drove up to the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum. If you wander past the entrance you land on the Badlands Interpretive Trail. Both the museum and the trail are located in Midland Provincial Park.
Start the hike by the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller
Although the website for the museum suggests that the trail is only open in spring, summer and fall, I discovered otherwise. The trail had a light covering of snow and in places it was icy but completely navigable even in winter boots. If we’d thought to put our icers on the walking would have been a breeze.
While the actual Badlands Interpretive Trail is only a one kilometre loop there is the option to continue on trails that make up the Drumheller Badlands River Parks System (see the map below). John and I were in explore mode so we took off on what looked like a bike trail (as it was paved) and followed it until it met the highway (called the Dinosaur Trail in this part of the world). It was an easy, scenic walk through badlands scenery. We spotted curious deer checking us out from above on a couple of occasions. Once you reach the highway you have the option of retracing your steps or crossing the highway and following the trail for many kilometres – in both an easterly and westerly direction, often along the scenic Red Deer River. In theory you could spend a solid day hiking from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, though by no means would it be a wilderness walk.
This place would be equally beautiful in spring when everything has greened up
The easy, family-friendly hike definitely exceeded my expectations. It packs a lot in a kilometre and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in spring when the landscape turns green. It would appear that 99% of visitors head straight to the museum as we only saw a few other people. Next time you’re in Drumheller, take at least a half hour to hike the Badlands Interpretative Trail. You’ll be happy you did.
Note: While Drumheller is the home of the world’s largest dinosaur, it’s actually located 165 kilometres northwest of Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. People get this confused all the time because the area around Drumheller is home to plenty of badlands scenery and a museum known for its collection of dinosaur bones and fossils.