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A Visit To Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park – A World Heritage Site

A Visit to Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park – A World Heritage Site

A visit to Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park kills (as the saying goes) 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.

"First view from the road into Dinosaur Provincial Park"

First view from the road into 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 us to Abbot Pass Hut back in August 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 this year was closing quickly. A guided hike to the quarry is off limits unless you’re on a tour – and those end at Thanksgiving and don’t restart until the spring. There are lots of other trails to hike – and those are open year round. But if I was going to make the effort to visit I wanted the full tour.

"View from the Badlands Trail"

View from the Badlands Trail

"A high school class playing on the rocks"

A high school class playing on the rocks

"Lone trees on the horizon"

Last week my daughter and I set off from Calgary and 2.5 hours later arrived at the park. We had time before our tour 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 impressive Badlands scenery I’ve ever encountered. It’s a photographer’s dream – with an assortment of wildly eroded buttes and hills. Throw in altered rock in a variety of colours – reds, blacks, grays, cream, light yellow and you you’ll find a lot to admire.

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.

Interesting coloured rock"

"Wild rock formations"

Wild rock formations

"Our guide explaining how dinosaurs died"

Our guide giving us clues and explaining how dinosaurs died en masse

"Tooth of a meat eating dinosaur"

Tooth of a meat eating dinosaur

"Dinosaur bones in situ"

Dinosaur bones in situ

We had signed up for the Centrosaurus Quarry hike. 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. Our guide, Brian, told me they cancel the hikes when the temperature gets above 34C. 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.

"Wonderful texture and erosion in the rocks"

Wonderful texture and erosion in the rocks

"Rocks that look like teeth"

Rocks that look like teeth

"Highly eroded rock - almost looks wave like"

"Rocks that look like fingers"

"Rocks that look like toadstools"

Toadstools?

"Quite a range in rock colour"

Quite a range in rock colour

"Wonderfully sculpted rock"

Wonderfully sculpted rock

"More great sculpted rock"

More great sculpted rock

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.
  • We paid $14 for our tour.
  • Bring lots of water and a picnic lunch. Brooks is the nearest town of any size.
  • Camping is available in the park, including comfort camping with real beds.
  • A photographic tour at sunset is offered once a year – or so I’m told. This would be an amazing thing to do.
  • 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.

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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 🙂

  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 😀

    – 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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