Biking the Dinosaur Trail near Drumheller

Biking the Dinosaur Trail
Biking the Dinosaur Trail

If you’d like to go biking through an otherworldly landscape of canyons, hoodoos and coulees with the added attraction of seeing the world’s largest dinosaur, then you need to bike the Dinosaur Trail near Drumheller, Alberta.

The city of Drumheller is just 90 minutes from Calgary but with its badlands scenery it feels a world away.

On the drive there, make the short-detour to see Horseshoe Canyon. It will whet your appetite for what’s ahead. Be sure to take LOTS of water on the bike ride as this part of Alberta gets hot.

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Horseshoe Canyon in fall
Horseshoe Canyon in fall
Lots of trails to explore in Horseshoe Canyon
Lots of trails to explore in Horseshoe Canyon

Biking the Dinosaur Trail

In Drumheller look for a parking lot near the world’s largest dinosaur and the Drumheller Visitor Information Centre. It’s pretty easy to find. Look up and you can’t miss the dinosaur. It’s near the Drumheller Bridge going across the Red Deer River.

Start from here heading west on Highway 838 towards the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology. If you’ve got a few hours, slip into the museum before continuing.

The world's largest dinosaur in Drumheller
The world’s largest dinosaur in Drumheller
Fantastic exhibits at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
Fantastic exhibits at the Royal Tyrrell Museum

Head for Horsethief Canyon

The biking is easy for the first 45 minutes or so as it’s mostly flat. As you curve northwest towards the Horsethief Canyon Lookout you’ll hit a steep hill – offering a view of the Drumheller Valley, with the Red Deer River below.

The skies are huge in this part of the world and the cloud formations stunning. Make the short side trip to the viewpoint at the canyon before continuing on the Dinosaur Trail.

Drumheller's Little Church seats six people at a time
Drumheller’s Little Church seats six people at a time
Check out the Horse Thief Canyon Viewpoint near Drumheller
Check out the Horse Thief Canyon Viewpoint
The beautiful Horse Thief Canyon
The beautiful Horse Thief Canyon
Alberta's big skies are such a treat to see
Alberta’s big skies are such a treat to see

Cross the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry – as part of the Dinosaur Trail

At the 21 km mark you’re in for a treat. There’s a wonderful downhill with a 13% grade that will have you at the Bleriot Ferry in short order. The small, free cable ferry runs seasonally from May 9th to the September long weekend from 8 AM to 11 PM and then from 8 AM until 7 PM until October 30th.

Crossing the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry
Crossing the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry

On the far side of the Red Deer River – which just takes minutes to cross, start climbing again to reach the plateau. At the top turn left onto Highway 837, continue past the spur to Orkney Lookout and east towards Drumheller. Along the way you’ll also pass a handsome grain elevator.

Side trip to the Orkney Lookout

Note that if you don’t have skinny tires on your bike, it’s well worth cycling the kilometre on dirt road to reach the Orkney Lookout. The views up and down the Red Deer River are gorgeous.

Pass this grain elevator on the way back to Drumheller
Pass this grain elevator on the way back to Drumheller
Biking the Dinosaur Trail near Drumheller
Got lucky with a hawk sighting on the Orkney Viewpoint sign
View up the Red Deer River from the Orkney Viewpoint
View up the Red Deer River from the Orkney Viewpoint
Pretty cycling along the Red Deer River
Pretty cycling along the Red Deer River

How much time do you need to bike the Dinosaur Trail?

At the 46 km mark look for a T-junction that will take you back to your starting point via Drumheller’s industrial section.

All told the Dinosaur Trail is 50 km in length and should take 2.5 – 3 hours.

Combines hard at work  during the fall harvest in Alberta
Combines hard at work  during the fall harvest in Alberta

It was a 90 minute drive to get home – with the countryside continuing to delight until I reached the outskirts of Calgary. What a great day trip from the city and a fun bike ride to do.

A few things I’d recommend on the Dinosaur Trail bike ride

Reading Sharon Butala’s bookThe Perfection of the Morninga few years ago (one of my all time faves) opened my eyes to what the prairies could offer. Biking the Dinosaur Trail confirmed Butala’s observations. I highly recommend it though if you go in the summer be prepared for hot weather.

Consider taking aninsulated water bottleso you have something cold to drink.

Don’t forget yourpatch kitor you may end up like me – walking the last 7 km!!

Don’t forget to packa bike pumpin case you get a flat. 

Abike lockis a necessity if you want to make any stop along the way.

I also love a good pair ofpadded bike gloves-including full-fingered ones if I’m biking early or late in the season.

Abike phone mountis another great option for your bike.

A rough map of the bike route on the Dinosaur Trail

                                                           

Another biking option near Drumheller

There is the option to bike east along Highway 10 to Rosedale and then south along a scenic section of Highway 10X to reach the hamlet of Wayne and the Last Chance Saloon. It would add 30 km round-trip. In the fall it’s particularly lovely.

Beautiful country on the way to Wayne along Highway 10X
Beautiful country on the way to Wayne along Highway 10X
One of the 11 bridges on the way to Wayne
One of the 11 bridges on the way to Wayne

Where to stay in Drumheller

There are no shortage of chain motels and hotels in Drumheller. TheCanalta Jurassicis one of your best choices.

But if you want to put money into a local’s hands – and you love the B&B experience I would recommendThe Heartwood Inn and Spa

You'll find dinosaurs in the garden
You’ll find dinosaurs in the garden at the Heartwood Inn & Spa

Further reading about bike rides in Canada

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Biking the Dinosaur loop trail near Drumheller, Alberta

  1. Hi! Is this route entirely on paved roads or are there unpaved/gravel sections of trail? Thank you šŸ™‚

  2. Hi there,

    Iā€™m excited to give this loop a go! I am a bit confused on which highway. It shows South or there is a North Dinosaur trail.

    Do you take the south all the way to the ferry then the north back?

    Thanks!

    1. @Leanna The loop we did took us out towards Royal Tyrrell Museum on the North Dinosaur Trail; left when you reach Township Road 302 – down towards the Red Deer River, cross on the Bleriot Ferry. Continue on Hwy 838 to reach Hwy 837 – the south Dinosaur Trail, Highway 585. Go south towards Drumheller continuing on Railway Avenue to get back to your starting point. You could do it in either direction but if I remember correctly the ride up to North Dinosaur Trail from the Bleriot Ferry would be steeper.

  3. Recently rode this loop (mid July) and no issue with the ferry crossing. Had also paddled the Red Deer river in June and had to wait for it. Rather quiet mid week and was able to teach my 15 yo to draft me.

  4. Hi Leigh,
    Thanks for the article! Looking for places to cycle around Calgary and this sounds great.
    A couple of questions though:
    1. Some of the “trail” is on the highway, correct? Is it well marked, or do you need to pull out the GPS at times?
    2. Having trouble finding info on the BLERIOT FERRY operations, the link you gave doesn’t seem to have hours/dates if operation. Do you have any more info?
    Thanks and happy cycling!
    Greg

    1. @Gregory All of the trail is along the highway but its quiet. Once you’re on it its very obvious. The ferry doesn’t run til the summer and then it literally just keeps going back and forth across the river, depending on who is waiting. It’s not a long wait.

  5. Hi this looks amazing! Just curious if the trail was paved all the way? I am a wheelchair biker and can only really handle paved trails a two this point! Look forward to
    Your reply!

    1. @Loirinda It was – pretty quiet for traffic too. There’s one good hill before and after the Bleriot ferry just as a heads up. All in all a varied, very pretty bike ride. Enjoy.

  6. Hi Leigh and welcome to Calgary! Jason and I moved here from Victoria just ahead of you in April. I’m finding that I love, love, love the prairies and am looking forward to seeing what winter can bring. Drop us a line once you’re settled and maybe we can plan a hike together! Also thinking of a small travel blog meetup with @travelfootprint (from Lake Louise) in October. Cheers!

  7. Hi Leigh and welcome to Calgary! Jason and I moved here from Victoria just ahead of you in April. I’m finding that I love, love, love the prairies and am looking forward to seeing what winter can bring. Drop us a line once you’re settled and maybe we can plan a hike together! Also thinking of a small travel blog meetup with @travelfootprint (from Lake Louise) in October. Cheers!

  8. Thanks for sharing those beautiful big sky photos. I lived in Edmonton for 4 years and while that part of Alberta doesn’t possess the same dramatic scenery as coastal BC, it is absolutely stunning in its own way.

    1. @Sara I loved the skies and actually think I’ll end up doing lots of exploring to the east. Photography has become a real interest and with all the drama on the prairies and the bird life I think I’ll be back often.

  9. Thanks for sharing those beautiful big sky photos. I lived in Edmonton for 4 years and while that part of Alberta doesn’t possess the same dramatic scenery as coastal BC, it is absolutely stunning in its own way.

  10. I live in Edmonton, and I’ve visited Drumhellar, but I’ve never considered doing a biking tour there. I love the badland landscape down by Drumhellar. Great photos.

    1. I have a copy of the book Calgary: The 10 Premier Road Trips by Kathy & Craig Copeland. They can all be done in a day. I love exploring an area by bike and Drumheller’s roads and in particular the Donosaur Loop is a wonderful choice. There is almost no traffic & many people that passed me gave me a wave.

  11. I live in Edmonton, and I’ve visited Drumhellar, but I’ve never considered doing a biking tour there. I love the badland landscape down by Drumhellar. Great photos.

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