Follow the Dinosaur Trail

Mar 8, 2021

While dinosaurs may not roam the earth today, they are still the subject of many movies, shows, and books, and a whole lot of curiousity.

While most of us may dream of spotting a rare dinosaur fossil in the badlands of Alberta, that kind of stuff is really the purview of professionals—or is it? 

12-year old Nathan Hrushkin recently discovered a dinosaur skeleton at Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller. During a hike, he stumbled upon a unique bone and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology confirmed it was a bone belonging to a duck-billed dinosaur. Dozens of additional bones have been located in the area since, and while not all of us can be lucky enough to find one on the ground, the following places are great places to explore some of Alberta’s dinosaurs and their history.  

co op convenince store3This is a great time of year to get out and explore Alberta, and we’ve been sharing road trip ideas. Why not plan a route, make a stop at your local Calgary Co-op store and pick up some road trip snacks, then fuel up and grab any driving essentials (is your windshield washer fluid topped up?) before heading out on the open road? Our dino-based suggestions are a hit with kids.

Town of Drumheller
Located only about an hour and a half from Calgary, the town of Drumheller is a short trip with big payoffs: for starters there’s the “World’s Largest Dinosaur” attraction. Nicknamed “The Dinosaur Capital of the World,” Drumheller is an unforgettable place because of all of its dinosaur replicas and fossil-themed attractions. 

The DinoWalk is a free map with a pre-set route visitors can follow throughout the town to see dozens of dinosaur statues along with information about each species. The town is small, so it does not take long and is a lovely trek if the weather is nice. The town also has numerous fossil gift shops that sell anything you could think of related to fossils and dinosaurs.

The Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Centre is geared towards children and offers educational activities such as fossil digging and mineral mining, it was actually quite entertaining for the grown-ups too. (Yes, visitors can take home a real fossil and real minerals when they’re done!). (In warmer seasons, the local Rotary Spray Water Park is also great for kids and an excellent way to cool off in the heat. It is free and operates from mid-May to mid-September.)

Drumheller also has some of the most unique hoodoos, which are strange-looking but awe-inspiring sandstone formations, so visitors should check those out too. Pro Tip: Old Grouch Cozy Cafe is hands down the best place to eat in the area for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

royal tyrrell museumRoyal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
Also in the Drumheller area is the Royal Tyrrell Museum. While booking in advance is recommended it’s sometimes possible to get walkup tickets too. 

This legendary museum was in part founded by renowned paleontologist Philip Currie, who has dedicated his life to dinosaur research and has even been a contributor to several dinosaur-themed films and documentaries. If you’re expecting a small museum with a few neat trinkets and maybe two or three interactive exhibits, you’d be quite mistaken. The collection is huge and one of the best in the world. 

The exhibits for all of the dinosaurs have easy-to-comprehend descriptions and many of them had measurements on them so visitors could imagine the enormity of them in real life. There is quite a thrilling feeling to imagine that the slew of fossils in the museum were part of a large group of creatures owning the land millions of years ago.   

The outside trail and gardens are beautiful and are an enjoyable and welcoming experience on a nice day.  

Dinosaur Provincial Park
Alberta has many excellent parks and outdoor recreational centres, but one of the best is Dinosaur Provincial Park which ranks as one of the most renowned parks in the world due to its vast area as well as its abundance of fossils and unique wildlife and trees.  

Numerous guides recommended visiting in May to birdwatch too if that’s your thing.

The park offers five self-guided tours as well as guided tours and other tours that venture into more restricted areas of the park. While the park looks more dry, rocky, and arid now, the most intriguing aspect for a lot of visitors is that this area used to be extremely lush and green when the dinosaurs were in charge millions of years ago. The park is one of our favorites in Alberta. 

Philip J. Currie Dinosaur MuseumPhilip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum
As mentioned, Mr. Currie is one of the most well-known paleontologists in the world. The museum up north in Wembly near Grand Prairie is named after him and is one of the most extensive and information-packed in Alberta. The dinosaur exhibits alone can take quite a while to look through, but the museum also has a massive area dedicated to oil and gas exhibits, which delve into the history of natural resources in Alberta.  

Pipestone Creek Park 
Nearing the border of British Columbia, this dino-themed park in Wembley is quite a gem along the Wapiti River. You can’t miss the huge solar panels near the park, which conveniently generate power for several of the campsites. The park also has a small museum that features an actual dinosaur skull that was found in the surrounding area.  

Associated with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, the park has a dinosaur-themed playground that is undoubtedly a huge hit for the kids. Kids can climb up and down a dinosaur skeleton, fly down the brontosaurus slide, dig in the sand for fossils, and more. Definitely the best part of Pipestone Creek Park, though, is the so-called Bonebed, which is great for all ages. The tour of the Bonebed is about an hour long and allows visitors access to an enormous dinosaur graveyard. 

Alberta has quite a rich dinosaur history. From south to north, several areas of the province feature amazing exhibits and demonstrations of palaeontology that are intriguing to both people who are dino novices and those that are die-hard dino fans. Be sure to include one or more of these places on any road trip through Alberta.

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