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Hiking In Dinosaur Provincial Park – A UNESCO Site

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park – A UNESCO Site

A visit to Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park kills two birds with one stone – as its actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. I confess that I am not a great fan of dinosaurs. I don’t know my Leptoceratops from my Stegoceras, though I think I could pick out a Triceratops if pushed. But that’s about it.

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park is a walk back in time. It’s just plain beautiful with so much incredible badlands scenery – along with the reasonably high probability of actually finding a dinosaur bone. And the hiking is easy and family-friendly.

First view from the road into Dinosaur Provincial Park
First view from the road into Dinosaur Provincial Park

Why is Dinosaur Provincial Park a UNESCO site?

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because more complete dinosaur skeletons have been discovered here than anywhere else in the world. Over thirty five types of dinosaurs have been found as well as fossils of turtles, fish, lizards and flying reptiles. Once you know what you’re looking for it isn’t hard to find dinosaur bones. Just don’t move them.

Wild mix of textures you see in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Wild mix of textures you see in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park on the Badlands Trail

My first trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park

Despite my disinterest in all things dinosaur related, I had been hearing great things about Dinosaur Provincial Park. The camera crew that accompanied a group of us to Abbot Pass Hut one summer raved about the place.

My friend’s parents said it was one of the highlights of their road trip across Canada. I figured I had to go – and my window of opportunity to visit in fall was closing quickly. A guided hike to the Centrosaurus Quarry – where you can see a dinosaur in situ, is off limits unless you’re on a tour – and those end at Thanksgiving and don’t restart until the spring.

Calgary to Dinosaur Provincial Park

My daughter and I set off from Calgary one fall day and 2.5 hours later arrived at the park. Take the Trans-Canada Highway east to Brooks (NOT Drumheller) and then pick up Highway 544 to reach the park.

We had time before our Centrosaurus Quarry hike to drive the Public Loop Road, check out the Fossil houses and hike the Badlands Trail. And were we ever impressed. Dinosaur Provincial Park boasts some of the most incredible badlands scenery I’ve ever encountered. It’s a photographer’s dream with great textures and colours. 

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park 

There are a couple of guided hikes you must sign up for (the Great Badlands hike and the Centrosaurus Quarry hike) along with lots of short trails to hike that are open year round. They include five named trails – the 1.3 km Badlands Trail, the 1.4 km Cottonwood Flats Trail, the 0.9 km Coulee Viewpoint, the 0.3 km Prairie Trail and 0.9 km Trail of the Fossil Hunters. 

The Badlands Trail

Th Badlands Trail is the first one on the public scenic loop road so it’s easy to find. The trail climbs gently past cool looking hoodoos and pinnacles, around sandstone ridges and through areas of bentonite clay. The clay gets wildly slippery when wet.

You can knock this trail off in as little as 30 minutes but linger and enjoy the marvelous scenery.

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park and a view from the Badlands Trail
View from the Badlands Trail
Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park - off trail
A high school class playing on the rocks
Stunning scenery when you're hiking the Badlands Trail
Stunning scenery when you’re hiking the Badlands Trail
Hiking in Dinosaur provincial Park is not difficult
Hiking in Dinosaur provincial Park is not difficult
Easy hiking on the Badlands Trail
Easy hiking on the Badlands Trail
Interpretive signage along the Badlands Trail
Interpretive signage along the Badlands Trail
The return to the Badlands Trailhead
The return to the Badlands Trailhead

The Centrosaurus Quarry hike

We reserved a spot on the Centrosaurus Quarry hike several days ahead of pour planned visit. It took us into the off-limits area and deeper into the park. The actual hike itself was easy though I can’t imagine it would be too much fun on a hot day.

To begin you are shuttled to the trail which is included in the price of your ticket. It’s an out and back hike through a fabulous country of wildly eroded buttes and hills in a variety of colours from soft yellow to buff, cream, red, grey and black. There is little elevation gain or loss.

Our guide, Brian, told me they cancel the hikes when the temperature gets above 34Β°C. And if it rains a lot, the bentonite clay becomes as slick as dinosaur snot – his words – not mine.

It was cool when we were there but mostly sunny. As we hiked towards the quarry, Brian would stop and give us clues as to why there were hundreds of dinosaur skeletons in a relatively small area. It wasn’t until we came to the end that we found out the answer – but I’m not going to spoil it for you here.

Heading out on the Centrosaurus Quarry hike
Heading out on the Centrosaurus Quarry hike
Our guide giving us clues and explaining how dinosaurs died en masse
Our guide giving us clues and explaining how dinosaurs died en masse
Me checking out the dinosaur in place
Me checking out the dinosaur in place
The tooth of a meat- eating dinosaur
The tooth of a meat- eating dinosaur
Dinosaur bones in situ
Dinosaur bones in situ
Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park is a good way to experience the badlands scenery
Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park is a good way to experience the badlands scenery
Rocks that look like teeth
Rocks that look like teeth
Incredible erosion
Incredible erosion in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Be sure to charge your camera batteries beforehand as the photographic opportunities are everywhere
A toadstool appearance
A toadstool appearance
The Quarry hike is a good way to get close to the badlands scenery
The Quarry hike is a good way to get close to the badlands scenery
More great sculpted rock seen at the end of the hike
More great sculpted rock seen at the end of the hike

Planning your trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park

Reserve online if you’re interested in a tour. There are bus and hiking tours – and some have strict age limits.

For the Centrosaurus Quarry hike the adult price is $26, and it’s $16 for youth.

Bring lots of water and a picnic lunch. Brooks is the nearest town of any size.

Camping is available in the park. Comfort camping is no longer being offered.

A photographic tour at sunset is offered. I highly recommend doing it.

The Visitor Center is wonderful and worth at least an hour of your time.

In the summer keep an eye out for prairie rattlesnakes. Avoid rock piles and ledges.

Keep your hands away from holes and crevices – home to scorpions and black widow spiders though you probably won’t see them.

Pets are allowed in the park on a leash. I’m not so sure they’d be welcome on a tour though.

Further reading on things to do in Alberta in summer

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 32 Comments
  1. I love the scenery and all the unique rock formations. I have heard of this place when my husband’s cousins did a road trip and stopped here. They recommended this as a trip for our dinosaur loving son. He would surely be in heaven here! You captured its otherworldly beauty so well with these gorgeous pictures, Leigh!

  2. I’ve been to Dinosaur Provincial Park few years back and I absolutely loved it. I also took some photos but I really love yours πŸ™‚

  3. WHAAA!? A DINOSAUR Park in CANADA?! Didn’t have a clue! That’s so so awesome, I want to go so bad now. Lovely photos of the incredible landscape, too πŸ˜€

    – Maria Alexandra

  4. Oh my goodness, I’d never heard of this before! I’ll have to share your post with my sister. My nephew’s into dinosaurs — can tell you the difference between Leptoceratops and Stegoceras and draw them correctly too! Hopefully, by the time they come back this way, he won’t have outgrown it.
    Another thing I have to put on my list. Thanks for sharing, Leigh.

  5. Wow, I had no idea this place existed. We visited an area in Colorado that they had just discovered some mammoth bones and it was pretty awesome. From the scenery, it seems like anyone would love this area. Great photos, as always!

  6. I’ve never been a big dinosaur fan either, but I’d definitely like to visit this park. What a surreal place. Reminds me of the Badlands in South Dakota and it would be fun to see dinosaur bones. When I was a kid we went to Dinosaur National Park in Utah. That was pretty cool, too.

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