Looking for the perfect day trip from Calgary, tourists most often think of the Canadian Rockies with panoramic mountain views, gorgeous waterfalls, tons of hiking trails, and beautiful glacier lakes.
But one of the best day trips from Calgary is actually in the other direction. Only 130 km (80 miles) from Calgary, the Drumheller Badlands offer plenty of things to do on a day trip from Calgary.
Let’s have a look at the best Drumheller attractions.
One of best things about the Canadian Badlands is the great number of FREE things to do around Drumheller.
The Canadian Badlands are located in Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Let’s take a look at all the fun stuff to do on a road trip from Calgary to the Drumheller area.
Why visit Drumheller Badlands?
Drumheller is the dinosaur capital of the world and dinosaurs are fascinating. With over 130,000 fossils at the Tyrrell Museum AND the World’s Largest Dinosaur plus dinosaur statues all around town you get the feeling you are in dinosaur country right away.
What’s so cool about Drumheller Badlands is the abundance of fun activities combined with educational experiences. It makes a great solo trip or family outing with the kids.
For instance you can tour around Drumheller on the Dino-Walk with over 20 statues that represent the dinosaurs that used to roam the area.
Or learn about dinosaurs and fossils with a visit to the Fossil Shop or Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Centre.
First stop on the way to Drumheller Badlands from Calgary I chose Horseshoe Canyon for stunning panoramic views and a morning hike.
Note there are a lot of stairs getting down to the hiking area. Part of the way you can walk on a fairly steep gravel path instead of taking the stairs.
There is no shade in this area so be prepared with water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hat when you hike Horseshoe Canyon.
Horseshoe Canyon address
Township Rd 284, Kneehill County, AB – about 15 minute drive southwest of Drumheller
Easy day trip from Calgary
- Take Deerfoot Trail (AB Hwy 2) North and continue for 20 km (12 miles)
- Take exit 275 for AB-566 (signs for Kathryn E/Keoma E) and continue for 22 km (14 miles)
- Turn left onto AB-9 E and follow Hwy 9 (signs for Drumheller) for 70 km to Horseshoe Canyon parking area.
Drumheller attractions – Hoodoos Trail most popular
One of the most popular attractions around Drumheller is the Hoodoos Trail just 16 km (10 miles) southeast of town (take Hwy 56 S and continue straight onto Hwy 10 S)
What are Hoodoos?
Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock formed over thousands of years due to erosion. Other names for Hoodoos include Tent Rocks and Fairy Chimneys.
The hoodoos trail is a place to explore and wander, there isn’t an actual hiking trail at the hoodoos.
In the parking lot there are a couple of ice cream trucks to help you keep cool after hiking around the Hoodoos. I stopped at Hoodoo Hydration Station and fell into conversation with the proprietor.
Turns out he attended Alberta College of Art (now Alberta College of Art & Design) back in the 80’s. We knew some of the same instructors, although I’m surprised I remembered their names, and it got me reminiscing about my year at ACA. It’s interesting how some memories remain so fresh in our mind while others fade away.
Hoodoo Hydration Station serves ice cream and several shave ice flavors to quench your summer thirst.
Royal Tyrrell Museum at Midland Provincial Park
Another top attraction in Drumheller Badlands area is the incredible Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology located in Midland Provincial Park. This is not only a must visit for dinosaur fans but anyone visiting Drumheller.
Allow 2 -3 hours to visit the museum. It’s a great place to visit on a rainy day or when it’s super hot out and you need to chill for awhile.
With a collection of over 130,000 fossils and lots of activities for kids the museum is a perfect stop on a day trip from Calgary.
Named in honor of Canadian geologist Joseph Burr Tyrrell, the man who discovered dinosaur bones around in the Canadian Badlands back in 1884.
Royal Tyrrell Museum address
1500 N Dinosaur Trail, Drumheller, AB
9 am to 9 pm 7 days a week including holidays from May 15 to August 31
10 am to 5 pm 7 days a week including holidays from September 1 to September 30
10 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays, except holidays) from October 1 to May 14
All prices in Canadian dollars as of August 2018. All prices include tax.
- Adult 1 day $19
- Adult 2 day $27
- Youth (age 7 – 17) 1 day $10
- Youth (age 7 – 17) 2 day $15
- Senior (age 65+) 1 day $14
- Senior (age 65+) 2 day $21
- Children 6 and under FREE
- Family (2 adults and their children age 7 – 17 with max of 8 people) $48 for 1 day and $69 for 2 day
Star Trek fans will love visiting Trekcetera Museum in Drumheller. See authentic Star Trek memorabilia and collectibles from variety of other movies including Harry Potter, Superman, and Titanic.
Trekcetera Museum address
802 AB-9, Drumheller, AB
Trekcetera Museum hours
10 am to 7 pm daily
Trekcetera admission price
- Adult $14
- Senior (65+) $12
- Youth (7 – 17) $10
- Children – up to age 6 FREE with adult entry
- Family (2 adults & up to 6 youths) $38
- Military (with ID) $12
Plan a visit to Canada’s largest outdoor theatre. This natural amphitheatre is an ideal venue to experience an opera, concert, or play. Visit Badlands Amphitheatre website for upcoming events and tickets.
Badlands Amphitheatre address
605 17th Street SW, Box 457, Drumheller, AB
World’s Largest Dinosaur
Making her official debut October 2000, World’s Largest Dinosaur weighs in at 65 tonnes (145,000 lbs) and is 26 m (86 ft) tall.
The model T-Rex is 4 – 5 times larger than an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex body.
Did you know you can climb up 106 stairs to the mouth of World’s Largest Dinosaur and hang out in the mouth of T-Rex? Up to 12 people fit in the dinosaur mouth balcony.
World’s Largest Dinosaur address
60 1 Avenue West, Drumheller, AB
World’s Largest Dinosaur admission fee
- $4 per person (full day)
- FREE for children under 5 years old
- $10.50 family rate
9 am to 9 pm daily
Horsethief Canyon is an easy day trip from Calgary
From Drumheller drive 16 km (10 miles) on the Dinosaur Trail (Hwy 838) to Horsethief Canyon for more panoramic views of the Canadian Badlands.
Horsethief Canyon gets its name due to the illegal horse smuggling that occurred in this canyon back in the 1800’s. Stolen cattle and horses were hidden in the canyon and rebranded.
Many fossils and dinosaur specimens uncovered in Horsethief Canyon are now in the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
An alligator that once roamed the area is named Stangerochampsa mccabei after the two men (Ron Stanger and Jim McCabe) who discovered the fossilized gator while on a hike at Horsethief Canyon.
Drive the Dinosaur Trail on Hwy 838 and take the small Bleriot Cable Ferry across the Red Deer River. It only takes a few minutes to make the crossing.
In operation for over 100 years, Andre Bleriot built the ferry in 1913, with a replacement constructed in 1997.
Bleriot Ferry hours
- May 5 to May long weekend 8 am to 7 pm daily
- May long weekend to September long weekend 8 am to 11 pm daily
- Day after September long weekend to October 30th: 8 am to 7 pm
There is no fee to use the Bleriot Ferry.
Rosedale Suspension Bridge
Just south of Drumheller visit cross the Red Deer River on the pedestrian suspension bridge in Rosedale. The bridge is 117 m (384 ft) long and sometimes there is a line of people waiting to cross the bridge.
11 suspension bridges in Rosedale Alberta
In the short 6 km (3.5 miles) drive from Rosedale to Wayne Alberta cross 11 single-lane suspension bridges over the Rosebud River.
Last Chance Saloon in Wayne Alberta
Make sure to pay a visit to the Last Chance Saloon for a meal or liquid refreshments. Inside the place is like a small museum. Out on the covered patio is where I enjoyed my lunch of bison burger and a beer.
Once a thriving mining town near Drumheller, the community of Wayne boasts a population of just 31 people as of August 2018.
As I finished my meal Eileen and Charles walked out to the patio with beer in hand. Earlier in the day we crossed path at the Horseshoe Canyon hike. Waiting out a small rainstorm we quenched our thirst with beers and shared travel stories.
Last Chance Saloon address
555 Jewell St, Rosedale Station, AB T0J 2V0
Last Chance Saloon hours
- Monday 11 am – 7 pm
- Tuesday to Thursday 11 am – 9 pm
- Friday and Saturday 11 am – 11 pm
- Sunday 12 noon to 7 pm
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
Step back in time and tour the Atlas Coal Mine. Several guided tours available (extra fee applies) or explore on your own.
Atlas Coal mine admission fee
- $10 per person or $30 per family
- Note some tours require closed toe shoes be worn
Atlas Coal Mine address
110 Century Dr W, East Coulee, AB
Scenic drive from Drumheller to Calgary
Finish the day with a scenic drive back to Calgary from Drumheller along Alberta Hwy 564. Enjoy the view of rolling hills and the brilliant yellow canola fields while on a leisurely drive back to Calgary.
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