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A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

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.

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of AlbertaStart 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.

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Starting off on the Badlands Interpretive Trail

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Lots of benches if you just want to sit and take in the beauty of the badlands

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Aim to hike on a blue sky day

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.

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

You can walk for kilometres if you follow the Drumheller Badlands River Park System

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

I can’t believe we are the only people on the trails considering the warmth and beauty of the day

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Badland erosional remnants have a story to tell

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

It’s a one km loop on the Interpretive Trail

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of AlbertaThis place would be equally beautiful in spring when everything has greened up

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

You’ll find a few hoodoos along the trail

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Looks like toes to me

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

The interpretive trail is easy to follow

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Dinosaurs line the entrance to the museum

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.

A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

You can’t miss the world’s biggest dinosaur in Drumheller

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A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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