Below is a 3-day itinerary where you’ll explore the town of Drumheller, the Valley, and the Canadian Badlands. It’s a family-friendly itinerary, for sure.
But let’s be clear: it’s a busy itinerary loaded with activities your entire family will love.
There are so many things to do in Drumheller and the surrounding areas that it really is a multi-day destination. If time allows, I highly recommend adding at least an extra day (especially if you are traveling with young children).
Day 1: Horseshoe Canyon, Downtown Drumheller & Royal Tyrell Museum
Arrive in Drumheller in the early afternoon.
If you arrive from AB-9, stop at Horseshoe Canyon on your way into town. The canyon entrance is well-marked on the highway. It’s about 17 kilometers before Drumheller.
Take your time while at the canyon.
You can plan for at least an hour or two to admire the canyon and walk through it. The entire hike is a 4.3 km long loop trail. But you can also admire the scenery from the viewpoints at the top of the canyon or just do a small portion of the hike before turning back.
Note: For this trip, we were staying at the campground just in front of the canyon, the Horseshoe Canyon Campground, so we decided to explore the area in the evening instead.
After visiting the Horseshoe Canyon, it’s time to head into the town. Make a first stop at the Welcome to Drumheller sign. There is a small parking lot just down the hill (you’ll easily see it with the sign). It’s a great place to take some fun family pictures.
Take the time to hike up the hill behind the Welcome to Drumheller sign where you’ll have a beautiful view.
When everyone is ready, get back to the car and head to the tourist information center. Directions to the information center (and the World’s Largest T-Rex) are well-marked, and there’s a public parking lot for easy access.
Next, get your ticket to climb the 106 stairs to the top of the World’s Largest Dinosaur, one of the must-do tourist attractions. You can also stop at the gift shops for some dino souvenirs.
Tyra, the famous T-Rex of Drumheller, is the World’s Largest Dinosaur. It is 25 meters (86 ft) tall and weighs 145 000 lbs (65 tonnes). 12 people can fit in its mouth at the same time, and it’s 4.5 times bigger than a real Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The lookout from the top of the T-Rex is beautiful. You’ll have a spectacular view of the Red Deer River Valley.
When you are done with the World’s Largest Dinosaur, it’s time to start walking downtown following the Dino Walk. There are more than 30 dinosaur statues throughout the valley, and many of them are in downtown Drumheller.
The Dino Walk is a good way to engage kids in visiting downtown. I know my kids are not big fans of wandering in cities, but when we added the dinosaur scavenger hunts, there was no complaining.
From the visitor center, simply follow the dinosaur footprints painted on the sidewalks and search for all the statues.
You can find the map of the dinosaurs’ location here on DinoArts website.
Drumheller is a small town, but it’s really charming. Make sure to stop at:
- Lois + Ani Tea Shop for bubble tea
- Downtown plaza to listen to some live music
- Miners Memorial Park (236 Centre St) to learn about all miners of the Drumheller Valley
Then, if weather permits, grab a snack/picnic dinner and relax at the Rotary Spray Park. This is THE Drumheller spray park, and it’s amazing! Kids will play for hours in the downtown Drumheller spray park and fountain. There are also a few other dinosaur statues across the park and on the other side of the street (next the to ice cream shop!)
Once the kids have burned off the extra energy and are well-fed, it’s time for an evening visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. Plan for at least 2 hours to visit the museum. Add one hour if you want to take the 1.4 km loop through Midland Provincial Park.
The Royal Tyrell Museum is the only museum in Canada dedicated entirely to the story of ancient life.
If you are interested in participating in one of the hands-on activities such as the Dinosite or the Dig Experience to find some dinosaur bones, you’ll need to plan a day visit to the museum. You can find the schedule for the activities here. Plan for an extra 90 minutes for each activity. .
It’s now time to get the kiddos to sleep so they’ll be full of energy for your second day in the Badlands of Alberta.
Unfortunately, this itinerary doesn’t have any secrets for getting your kids to sleep after a day of excitement. 😉
Day 2: Dinosaur Trail & Barney’s Adventure Park
On your second day in Drumheller, you’ll discover a section of the Dinosaur Valley by following the Dinosaur trail. You’ll be driving into the heart of the Canadian Badlands. Alberta is not only mountains and Prairies, there is this unique landscape that is the badlands.
The Dinosaur Trail is a 48-kilometer loop starting in Drumheller, Alberta. There are many stops to do on the loop (most of them being located on the North Dinosaur Trail) such as:
- Homestead Antique Museum and the Wanderlust Boutique
- Fossil World Dinosaur Museum and the Lion’s kids’ playground
- Midland Coal Mine in Midland Provincial Park
- McMullen Island
- Drumheller’s Little Church
- Barney’s Adventure Park
- Horse Thief Canyon
- Bleriot Ferry (it separates the South and the North shore of the Red Deer river)
- Orkney Viewpoint (on the South Dinosaur Trail)
- Andrew Farm Old Grain Elevator (on the South Dinosaur Trail)
You can find the map of the Dinosaur Trail loop on the Travel Drumheller website.
Our Recommendation for a Family Day on the Dinosaur Trail:
For a day exploring the Drumheller Valley and the Dinosaur Trail with younger kids (aged 3 – 7, probably), I recommend driving from downtown to Horsethief Canyon and then back into town, with a special stop to the Dinosaur Trail Playground.
While the badlands’ landscape is breathtaking for the entire loop, kids (especially younger ones) are rarely “wow-ed” when it comes to looking at the landscapes from the back car windows. That said, if you time this right, you might be able to grab a coffee and get the kids to take an afternoon nap along the way.
Note: If you want to discover more of the Alberta Badlands, make sure to visit the Dinosaurs Provincial Park, near Brooks. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The perfect day itinerary through the Alberta badlands would be:
Start your day at the Midland Coal Mine day-use area. You can walk along the Midland Interpretive Trail where you’ll discover the local mining history.
Then, drive less than 3 km to the Drumheller’s Little Church where 6 people fit inside at the same time.
After a quick visit to the Little Church (and a few pictures), head to Horse Thief Canyon. It’s a 10 km drive.
Horse Thief Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the Canadian Badlands, Alberta. Take as much time as you want to explore and admire the badlands’ landscape.
When you arrive at the Horse Thief Canyon, take your time on the grass area near the parking lot. It’s home to a lot of not-so-shy Prairie dogs. Kids will have fun looking at the animals. It’s also a large viewing area that offers amazing views.
Keep in mind that it gets pretty hot in the summer, and there’s no shaded area, so it’s better to visit in the morning.
After your visit at the canyon, it’s time to drive back into town with a final (but long and fun) stop at Barney’s Adventure Park. It’s about 4 km from the canyon on the way back to Drumheller.
Barney’s Adventure Park is definitely the place your kids will want to spend an afternoon. It’s a huge outdoor playground for the little ones (and the not-so-little ones). You’ll want to plan for at least half a day (if not more).
The entire family will love Barney’s Adventure Park. There are so many fun things to do that it will be hard to leave, so give yourself plenty of time.
The entry pass gives you access to all the fun activities. Plus, all the dinosaur lovers will want to go on the Dinosaur walk. During this walk in the forest, you’ll encounter more than 15 giant mechanical dinosaurs.
Because the dinosaurs make noise and move, it may be scary for small children. You know your kids best, so use your best discretion. I went with my 3.5 years old and he loved it, but not all toddlers will.
Another option could be to go to the Cactus Coulee Fun Park, located near Barney’s Adventure Park.
When the kids are tired, drive back into town for dinner and an early bedtime to be ready for Day 3 of our road trip into the badlands of Alberta.
Day 3: eBikes, Hoodoos and Ghost Towns
Start your third and last day at Bikes & Bites for a fun family bike ride. Bikes & Bites offers eBike rentals and picnics for a different way to explore the badlands and Drumheller valley.
To rent eBikes, riders must be 12 years old and up.
But they also have regular youth bikes, ride-along extensions and child carriers to suit all the family. If you decide to also get the “picnic” option, they’ll prepare a delicious lunch for you and pack it in the bike cooler bag to take on your adventure. I recommend the beets hummus and the charcuterie box.
Below is the map of the bike trails in the area:
After your 2-hour bike ride, it’s time to drive east in the valley to discover the old mining towns and the hoodoos. You’ll be driving on the Hoodoos Trail, east of Drumheller toward East Coulee.
Drive to Wayne, a historic mining town.
It’s now pretty much a ghost town, but you can see the Last Chance Saloon and maybe even grab a coffee and some snacks. Ok…definitely some coffee and maybe some snacks. Don’t miss the Welcome the Wayne sign where you’ll see that the town now has only 25 residents.
On the way to Wayne, you’ll pass 11 bridges. You can also pass the Last Chance Saloon and drive to the gravel road to the Jewel Mine interpretive sign. There is a nice small trail and beautiful views.
Then, drive back to the Hoodoo Trail (AB-10 E) and follow the sign to the Star Mine Suspension Bridge. As of June 2022, the Rosedale suspension bridge was closed to walk on, but there is still a nice view from the parking lot.
Back on the main road (the Hoodoos trail outside Drumheller) drive to see the hoodoos. There is a small parking fee ($2), but no entrance fee. Walk on the trail and admire the hoodoos.
Hoodoos, also called fairy chimneys, are amazing rock formations created by erosion, naturally shaped by wind and water. They take millions of years to form and they are very fragile.
It’s important to stay on the pathways and never climb on them. You can walk up the hill to the top for an amazing view of the valley. You can even see some cacti.
Be careful when climbing up and down, though, especially after it rains. This area can get really muddy and absolutely covers shoes/boots.
We saw a young couple taking wedding pictures in nice, white clothes on a muddy day which, needless to say, did NOT look like fun for the bride and groom.
After a few hours at the Hoodoos, drive a few kilometers east to Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. It’s a site where a now-inactive coal mine was operating from 1936 to 1979. It’s the last of the 139 mines that were operating in the Drumheller Valley.
On your way to the Atlas Coal Mine, you may want to stop at the East Coulee School Museum.
The Atlas mine offers a self-guided experience on the surface areas of the mine where you’ll learn about the coal mining history in the Drumheller Valley. They also offer a guided train ride and a few other guided tours – some of which may not be suitable for little ones (tour of the processing plant and tour of the mine portal).
And that should bring you pretty much at the end of your third day.
If you’re staying for an extra night, make sure to book tickets to see the Canadian Badlands Passion Play at the Badlands Amphitheater. This amphitheater is the largest outdoor stage in all Canada.
A Few Things to Know When Visiting Drumheller Valley and the Badlands in Alberta
Before wrapping up this post, there are a few things that are worth remembering before you visit the badlands in Alberta:
- Drumheller and the Alberta badlands can be very HOT in the summer. There is limited shade in the Dinosaur Valley, so make sure you have sun protection and stay hydrated. Bring a hat with you and try to hike in the morning or late afternoon.
- There are bull snakes and garter snakes at Atlas Coal Mine. Rattlesnakes are not in Drumheller but can be found further out near Dinosaur Provincial Park. You can also find deer, moose, coyotes, porcupines (they are not as common to see but are there), and foxes. There are also a lot of birds (falcons, hawks, etc) in the Drumheller area.
- No matter where you travel in the Drumheller Valley, please follow the “leave no trace” principle. Take your trash back with you if there are no garbage bins. Also, if you travel with a dog, bring some plastic bags to pick up after them.
- Always check the weather before heading out. Many trails are bentonite which is extremely slick when wet. Stick to hiking trail paths, and keep an eye open for wildlife in the area.
- Leave the landscape the way you found it so that others can enjoy it. Don’t build Inukshuks as they can damage the landscape, destroy wildlife habits that you might not know, or mislead hikers. It’s also disrespectful.
But the most important thing? Bring your camera and enjoy yourself! The views in the Valley and the badlands are as incredible as they are unique.
Places to Stay in Drumheller
There are different places to stay in Drumheller, ranging from campgrounds to hotels.
During our stay in Drumheller, we stayed at the Horseshoe Canyon Campground. It offers tents as well as RV camping.
This campground is located right in front of the Horseshoe Canyon, 17 kilometers away from downtown (from Calgary, it’s a little before the city center). This RV camping location is beautiful and peaceful. Plus, you’ll get to explore the canyon away from the crowds at Golden hours, which is something most people miss when they make this a single-day trip.
This campground near Drumheller offers full hookups, public restrooms and showers as well as a central kids’ playground where kids can have fun while parents prepare meals.
Finally, the hosts, Dick and Lucy, are really nice and helpful.
Final Thoughts: A Weekend Itinerary to Drumheller and the Badlands of Alberta
Drumheller, the Valley and the badlands are much more than a day trip destination. There are so many things to do in Drumheller and the surrounding areas that you’ll want to stay at least for a weekend (2 nights-3 days), if not a little longer. From searching dinosaur fossils to learning about coal mining, the area will amaze you and your family.
Will you be visiting Drumheller Valley this summer for a few days?