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15 July 2022

Top 5 Ways To Discover Alberta’s Badlands

The Badlands landscape. Photo by Jeremy Klager

The scenery is otherworldly and the adventure is epic: Alberta’s vast Canadian Badlands have to be seen to be believed.

From towering rock formations to lands teeming with so many dinosaur fossils that visitors have to be reminded not to pocket them, the Badlands is a place made for slow travel and quirky discover. Pack your sense of adventure and head out on the Badlands trail. Read on below for the top five things to see and do on a visit to Alberta’s Badlands.

Related: Read our post on exploring Alberta’s Cowboy Trail.

Tipi at Writing-on-Stone Visitor Centre. Photo by Parks Canada

Where are the Canadian Badlands?

Located in the beautiful province of Alberta, the Canadian Badlands cover an area of more than 90,000 square kilometres in the province’s southeast. The Badlands stretch out east of Calgary to the Saskatchewan border and from Red Deer in the north to the U.S border in the south. The main hub of the region is Drumheller. A visit to the Badlands makes a perfect roadtrip.

Top 5 ways to discover the badlands:

Photo c/o Royal Tyrell Museum

Follow the Dinosaur Trail in the Canadian Badlands

When it comes to the Badlands, the dinosaurs are the most famous residents. Take a step back in time to 75 million year ago when dinosaurs roamed the region (which at the time was a subtropical forested paradise). Their remains have been found in huge quantities and new discoveries continue to occur.

Visit the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller where you can see the fossils first hand and learn about the giant residents of years past. Or drive to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the extensive fossil beds where palaeontologists continue to unearth incredible dinosaur skeletal remains.

Related: Read our posts on Canada’s cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Guided tour at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park/Áísínai’pi. Photo by Travel Alberta/Davey Lieske

Learn Indigenous history and culture in Alberta’s Badlands

Take some time to learn about the interesting Indigenous traditions and stories of the Badlands. There are many sacred and important First Nations sites throughout the region and a guided tour of one or more of them is a must to fully understand what the Badlands is all about.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park/Áísínai’pi is a good place to start as it is in the heart of traditional Blackfoot Territory. Take a guided tour with an Indigenous guide to learn about the unique habitat, see Indigenous rock art and hear the stories contained in this incredible place. Archaeological evidence has been found here of life from 3,500-4,000 years ago. Visit Indigenous Tourism Alberta for more ideas and information on how to experience the Badlands through the eyes of the cultures that have lived here for thousands of years.

Hoodoos in the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Photo by Andy Best

Stop for the topography in the Badlands

It goes without saying that a visit to Alberta’s Badlands will contain unbelievable scenery but make it a rule to stop often and take it all in. The dramatic landforms all have amazing names — like hoodoos (eroded pillars of soft sandstone rock topped with a resilient cap) and coulees (dry canyons or ravines characterized by steep sides) — and are truly incredible to explore.

One of the best stops to see giant hoodoos is in the hoodoo protected area called the Hoodoos Trail, just southeast of Drumheller. Here you can hike through the unique landscape and take in the spectacular formations. Dinosaur Provincial Park is another great place to take in the interesting topography.

Sunset at Dinosaur Provincial Park. Photo by Travel Alberta/George Simhoni

Take in the Spectacular Sunsets

If you’re a fan of golden hour — that moment when the sun bathes the landscape in warm, golden light and the world feels absolutely magical — then you must experience the sun setting in the Badlands. The changing light gives these already amazing rock formations yet another dimension as they come alive under the sun’s changing rays. You’ll see valleys turning from yellow to a deep orange and hoodoos start to cast dramatic shadows.

Starry sky over the badlands. Photo by Parks Canada

Discover the Canadian Badlands at night

If time allows, spend at least one night in the Badlands region (although more would be even better). After the glorious sun has set, you’ll experience even more magic as millions of stars make their way across the sky. On a clear night you can make out the Milky Way set against the hoodoos or even see the Northern Lights if the conditions are right.

If you’d like some help planning an amazing trip to the Canadian Badlands, get in touch! We’d be happy to help.

Category: Alberta