Planning the perfect camping trip can be a hard task. You want to jam pack as much into a weekend as possible, but also want it to be a good time. Finding the right mixture of adventure (so you don’t hear the age-old statement: ‘Dad, I’m bored’) and relaxation (you know, like a weekend’s meant to be). We know that feeling. While we also know that our region’s stunning atmosphere brings about both those feelings (Drumheller is a true vacation hub after all), we understand that not everyone has the same local knowledge as us. That’s why we’re here to help.
Here’s what we have planned:
Friday: Get to Drumheller, set-up camp, relax
Saturday: Take a drive down Hoodoo Trail and visit the Valley. Stop at the famous Hoodoos, Atlas Coal Mine and East Coulee School Museum
Sunday: Pack-up and check out the town before heading home
Your Weekend Camping Trip Exploring Drumheller Valley
What you’ll need: a spot to camp and some ideas for where to explore while here. In this guide we’ll outline a fantastic camping option along with two awesome places to stop along Hoodoo Trail (besides stopping to marvel at the Hoodoos themselves).
Camp Out at Dinosaur RV Park
The first thing you’ll notice about Dinosaur RV Park is its fantastic location. You’re not too far away from fun at Dinosaur RV Park; located right in Drumheller, you’re a 5-minute walk to many local attractions like the Rotary Spray Park, World’s Largest Dinosaur and the shops, restaurants and activities of downtown Drumheller. With 150 spacious sites and the ability to accommodate any size RV or tent, Dinosaur RV is your gateway to a camping adventure in the Badlands. Plus, how many RV Parks have mini-golf and arcade right on site?
The family-owned business is a museum in and of itself; the original homestead built in 1904 is still on the site and there are plenty of antiques such as train cars and tractors dotted around the property, built into the landscaping. The RV Park offers shuttle services to nearby Royal Tyrrell Museum, the Atlas Coal Mine and also provides tour services to Drumheller Valley – to book: phone, email or ask when you check in!
Explore History at Atlas Coal Mine
You can’t talk about the East Coulee region without bringing up the historic Atlas Coal Mine. A visit to this coal mine-turned museum will give you a sense of the importance mining had on the Drumheller region. To put it into perspective, Atlas Coal Mine is the last of 139 in the Drumheller region. There were at least 6 mines in East Coulee alone! This place is testament to history.
One of the longest operating mines in the province, Atlas Coal Mine employed more than 300 people at its peak. Now a National Historic Site, the coal mine lives on as a unique and authentic touring experience, toting plenty of mystery and adventure for even the hardened of travelers. Open from May until Thanksgiving for the public, and year-round for group tours, Atlas Coal Mine is one of the best guided historic tours you can undertake.
The mine is home to the last wooden coal tipple in the country, originally built as a coal loading and sorting machine. You can tour the facilities still standing such as the wash house, supply house, lamp house and mine office to get a feel for how mining life used to be: there are no traditional museum buildings on site. So, come prepared with good footwear and a willingness for adventure – this isn’t your typical passive museum. You’ll get stories and tours that can even take you into the same tunnels the miners worked in. The mine’s slogan this summer asks visitors to “dig up something different” so be prepared for adventure!
Enhance your visit with one of their many Specialty Tours and Signature Experiences – from the Tipple Tour (video above) to the Processing Plant Tour to the Underground Experience Tour, you’ll have no difficulties finding an activity to compliment your experience.
Go Back in Time at East Coulee School Museum
Built in 1930, the East Coulee School started off as a 4-room schoolhouse, providing classes to a rapidly growing community of young learners. Quickly, the schoolhouse became too small for the school’s needs – and temporary classes expanded into other East Coulee buildings. In the early 1940s the schoolhouse was added on to, expanding into the 12-room building we now know. The influence of miner culture was pervasive – a story involves a new teacher moving to the school during coal mining’s peak. After teaching for only a couple of days, an alarm went off at a nearby mine. The kids hurried out of the room silently. The teacher was very startled, but soon found out the alarm signified an accident in the mine, meaning the kids were rushing to see if the accident had to do with anyone in their families.
After a period of steep population decline in the region, the 1980s saw the school freshly renovated and reopened as the East Coulee School Museum, preserving three threads of coal miner life within its walls: school life, home life and Hungarian culture. This Provincial Historic Resource takes an entire hour just to get through – there are a lot of coal mining cultural displays and exhibits to take in. The grounds around the school are also home to plenty of period-specific artifacts. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the history and get a sense of what life was like back then – with real stories and heritage of the local community.
While there, visit the Willow Tea Room for some homemade soups, sandwiches and scones. The museum also offers guided tours for groups between 15 – 20 people, providing plenty of opportunity for any families looking for a blast to the past.
Here are a few other significant events to keep your eye out for: Four times a year, the museum teams up with the Atlas Coal Mine to offer ‘Mine & Dine’ experiences where you’ll turn back time and go through a typical day as a miner. Handle some artifacts, rub shoulders with grit and dirt then relax with a great Hungarian family meal. The museum also plays home to the East Coulee SpringFest, an annual music festival that sets the region alive with the sounds of awesome tunes.