HIKING IN THE BADLANDS
A glacier-carved “U” surrounded by golden prairie, the aptly named Horseshoe Canyon is a dramatic introduction to the badlands. The view from the parking lot lookout, 10 minutes west of downtown Drumheller on Highway 9, is as jaw-dropping as they get. Well-worn footpaths lead down into the canyon bottom. Wear hiking shoes, and prepare for up to 40°C temperatures in the summer. The dry, rocky valley walls can be rough on clothing and skin, but after a rare prairie rain the mud on the canyon floor is thick and slick as yogurt. Arrive early to get an incomparable sunrise photo.
Horsethief Canyon works as well today as a hiding place from humanity as it did for outlaws more than a century ago. After driving about 10 kilometres west of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, turn left on a side road just off Highway 838 (a.k.a. North Dinosaur Trail). From there, find the trailhead or Horsethief Canyon, the equally beautiful but less-visited cousin of Horseshoe Canyon. Its outof- the-way location and steep clay walls deter the unpractised from venturing down to the prairie grass and bushes below. Spend the afternoon admiring colourful layers of rock while picturing the thieves who gave the canyon its name hiding in the coulees and rebranding their stolen mares.
The Drumheller hoodoos are internationally recognized icons of the Alberta badlands. Composed of sand and clay from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation, the solid, strong capstones protect the softer, underlying base creating their unique mushroom-like shape. They have been formed over thousands of years by erosion caused by water, wind, and freeze/thaw cycles.
The Hoodoos recreation area is located approximately 15 minutes east of Drumheller on Highway 10.
Midland Provincial Park
The Royal Tyrrell Museum stands on the southwest corner of the 280-hectare Midland Provincial Park. A trailhead a few hundred metres east of the museum marks a one-kilometre-long loop, where interpretive signs recount the glacial forces that sculpted the badlands from 70-millionyear- old layers of sedimentary rock. One or two kilometres east of this path is another self-guided tour through the remains of the Midland Coal Mining Co., a relic of the area’s once-thriving coal industry. Explore the remnants among the hills, be they dino-bones or dilapidated mining equipment, but remember to leave everything the way you found it.
With 18 kilometres of pathways running alongside the Red Deer River, around downtown and to the doorstep of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, you can hit all the key sights by bike or on foot. Park your car at the Visitor Information Centre — underneath the tail of the 26-metre-tall World’s Largest Dinosaur — and walk, bike or splash your way through the busy water park to the riverside pathway. Cross the bridge northwest toward the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Pause at the Homestead Museum and see everything from antique teacups to a two-headed calf. Or, skip the antiques and pop into Bumper Boat Amusements for a few hours of bumper boats and mini golf. Back on the path, continue several kilometers through the coulees and gullies that lead you right into the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s parking lot.