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What To Do On A Visit To Dinosaur Provincial Park

What to do on a Visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park in eastern Alberta is one of the must visit sites in the province – an a UNESCO site to boot. It’s got two major things going for it – badlands scenery on steroids and more complete dinosaur skeletons than anywhere else in the world.

Here’s how to get the most out of a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park, even if you only have a day.

Beautiful lighting in the backcountry on the sunset tour
Beautiful lighting in the backcountry on the sunset tour

First – don’t do the following 

The phone rings and the frantic person on the end of the line says “Can you hold the tour?” Jarrid Jenkins, Head of Visitor Services in Dinosaur Provincial Park tells me he gets a lot of these calls every year.

It seems people confuse the town of Drumheller with Dinosaur Provincial Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact these two places are a TWO HOUR DRIVE APART but the message often doesn’t get through. Just so you know – they won’t hold the tour.

Sign up for the Sunset Tour ahead of time

How to get the Most out of Your Time in Dinosaur Provincial Park
An air conditioned bus takes you into the backcountry

Offered between May and September, the sunset tour is ideal for photographers and those who appreciate the evening light. In June and July the two hour tour starts at 7 PM, so you don’t quite get the full sunset experience.

You might do better late in the season to actually see it setting. Nonetheless, you do get access to parts of the park that are otherwise off-limits. The pace is relaxed as you make approximately three stops.

Crazy shapes in the eroded rocks of Dinosaur Provincial Park
Crazy shapes in the eroded rocks of Dinosaur Provincial Park
Great texture with all the rock ripples
Great texture with all the rock ripples
The Valley of the Moon area, Dinosaur Provincial Park
The Valley of the Moon area, Dinosaur Provincial Park
The golden hour in Dinosaur Provincial Park
The golden hour in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Take a backcountry hiking tour in Dinosaur Provincial Park

There are a number of tours aside from the sunset tour to do in the park. Some of the choices include a four hour Great Badlands hike, the Centosaurus Quarry Tour, fossil safaris and guided excavations that vary from one day to three days in length.

None of them fit with our schedule but Jarrid Jenkins came to the rescue and kindly took us scrambling and hiking in the backcountry.

We ended up climbing to the top of the highest butte in the area – and then looked for a safer way down – as it’s always easier going up than down. Along the way we passed areas that were littered with turtle, fish and crocodile skeletons. We also found our fair share of dinosaur bones in place. Once you knew what to look for it wasn’t hard to find fossils.

The backcountry is a treat to hike – especially when the sun isn’t blazing. Temperatures were a comfortable 27°C so it was easy to spend several hours out exploring. Just don’t forget a hat and several litres of water on whatever tour you do.

Lots of iron staining on these rocks - Dinosaur Provincial Park
Lots of iron staining on these rocks
Finding bones in situ - Dinosaur Provincial Park
Finding bones in situ – Dinosaur Provincial Park
We found lots of petrified wood in the park
We found lots of petrified wood in the park
Fantastic view from the top of the butte
Fantastic view from the top of the butte
John and Jarrid looking for fossils
John and Jarrid looking for fossils

Dinosaur Provincial Park camping and glamping

NOTE: The comfort camping option is now closed. I hope it comes back as it was a first-rate experience.

In Dinosaur Provincial Park you have a choice of traditional camping with your RV or tent but you can also avail yourself of their comfort camping option. While similar to glamping, you will have to share bathrooms and make your own meals – and there isn’t a butler to be seen. But really, it’s a great alternative to traditional tents. 

Our room had a fan – that made sleeping in 35°C heat doable, a heater for cooler nights, a dining table, small couch, BBQ, a coffee maker and all the linens and kitchen utensils you’d need. Furniture is locally made – a nice touch.

Outside, not only is there a stellar view of the Red Deer River but you can plunk yourself down in an Adirondack chair to admire said view. A couple of picnic tables and a fire pit will keep the smores lovers happy.

Comfort camping tents come with locally made furniture, a mini fridge, linens, kitchenware
Comfort camping tents come with locally made furniture, a mini fridge, linens, kitchenware
A view of the Red Deer River from our tent
A view of the Red Deer River from our tent
Looking down to the Red Deer River from our tent
Looking down to the Red Deer River from our tent
Our tenting neighbours enjoying a fire and the sunset
Our tenting neighbours enjoying a fire and the sunset

Check out the birds in Dinosaur Provincial Park

The other highlight of our visit to the park was the birding. John couldn’t sit still as he was so busy looking at birds. Two of the more interesting birds we saw were the lark sparrow and the common nighthawk. And nothing beats waking up in the morning to the sweet song of a bird you don’t usually hear.

The Lark Sparrow in Dinosaur Provincial Park
The Lark Sparrow in Dinosaur Provincial Park

In total we had just under 24 hours in the park. In hindsight, I wish we’d had another night, especially as the camping experience far exceeded my expectations.

For more information on the park’s interpretive programs, visit the Alberta Park’s website.

More reading on things to do in Alberta

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

How to get the Most out of Your Time in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Thank you to Travel Alberta and to Alberta Parks for help in making this trip a reality. And a big thank you to Jarrid for giving up your morning to show us around!

 

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 17 Comments
  1. A fascinating place on so many levels. The geology, the paleontology, the archeology, the ornithology and every other kind of ‘ology you can think of. And when your brain needs a rest; enjoy a truly magnificent land and riverscape under the shade of a hundred year old cottonwood tree. One night is not enough! Go for two, three four nights.

  2. Okay, I’m ready for the ‘comfort camping’ section. And I can’t believe how many times I’ve been to Drumheller without realizing that Dinosaur Provincial Park was so far away.

  3. I’m addicted to the Provincial Parks in Canada and really into camping in them where possible so this is yet another one for my list, it looks epic!

  4. Dinosaur Provincial Park has been on my Alberta bucket list for a while. It looks so unreal, and finding random fossils on a hike, how cool is that?

  5. The views are AMAZING Leigh. If it was the old days of film, I’ll bet you would’ve used them all up in the first couple of hours. I’m excited to visit this park one day. Comfort camping looks like the way to go.

    1. @Miranda I was more than pleasantly surprised at how great the comfort camping was – and highly recommend the experience. And Dinosaur is always a treat to see – especially when you can get into the backcountry.

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