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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Reading Sharon Butala’s book The 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.
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.
Where to stay in Drumheller
There are no shortage of chain motels and hotels in Drumheller. The Canalta 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 recommend The Heartwood Inn and Spa.