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.
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.
COVID-19 update: In late April 2020 a reader said she drove to Drumheller to bike the trail like she does every spring. It was apparent to her that the town didn’t want visitors so she left. All the public parking was unavailable. I was in town in July and the locals were happy to have visitors again. Be sure to take LOTS of water on the bike ride as this part of Alberta gets hot.
Biking the Dinosaur Trail
In Drumheller look for a parking lot near the world’s largest dinosaur. It’s pretty easy to find. Look up and you can’t miss the dinosaur. It’s near the 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 in here before continuing.
Head for Horse Thief Canyon
The biking is easy for the first 45 minutes or so as it’s mostly flat. As you curve northwest towards the Horse Thief 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.
You might want to read: A Weekend Canoe Trip on the Red Deer River
The Bleriot Ferry on the Dinosaur Trail
At the 21 kilometre 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. Find more information here.
NOTE: As of spring 2020 to the best of my knowledge the Alberta government is planning to stop running the Bleriot Ferry. Double check to be sure. From the cyclists perspective that would be a shame as it’s such a lovely loop ride. I’ve checked websites and it appears to be still running in July and a local I spoke with hadn’t heard about any closure.
On the far side of the 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 pass a handsome grain elevator.
How much time do you need to bike the loop?
At the 46 kilometre 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 kilometres in length and should take 2.5 – 3 hours. Don’t forget a patch kit or you may end up like me – walking the last 7 kilometres!!
It was a 90 minute drive to get home – with the countryside continuing to delight until I reached the outskirts of Calgary.
Combines hard at work
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Reading Sharon Butala’s book The Perfection of the Morning a few years ago (one of my all time faves) opened by eyes to what the prairies could offer. Biking the Dinosaur Trail confirmed her observations. I highly recommend it though if you go in the summer be prepared for hot weather. Consider taking an insulated water bottle so you have something cold to drink. And don’t forget your patch kit!
Another biking option to the Dinosaur Trail 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 kilometres round-trip. In the fall it’s particularly lovely.
Where to stay in Drumheller
There is no shortage of chain motels and hotels in Drumheller. The Canalta Jurassic is one of your best choices. But if you want to put money into a local’s hands – and you love the B&B experience along I would recommend The Heartwood Inn and Spa.
Further reading about bike rides in Canada
- Biking Le P’tit Train du Nord in the Laurentians
- 5 of the Best Bike Rides Around Calgary
- The Best bike Rides in Canada You can do in a Day
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