Drumheller just may be the coolest place to visit in Alberta. Most people make a beeline to the Canadian Rockies in Banff or Jasper, but the Canadian badlands are not to be missed. The town of Drumheller makes for a great base to explore some of Alberta’s quirkiest and most amazing attractions. So let’s explore the dinosaur capital of the world and check out all the cool things to do in Drumheller.
The Remarkable Landscape of Drumheller
Drumheller is a small town 90 minutes east of Calgary. It can easily be done on a day trip from Calgary, but to really experience all of the amazing things to see and do near Drumheller, you need at least 3 days. We have created this travel guide to inspire you to spend some time in Drumheller and explore more of Alberta outside the Canadian Rockies.
If you plan to visit Drumheller, you will want a car. We have this stretch of road as one of the best drive in Canada. You can pick up cars directly at the Calgary Airport. Check rates for car rentals in Alberta here.
Things to do in Drumheller
An old coal-mining town that is home to the richest dinosaur fossil collection in the world, Drumheller offers plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and photography lovers. The surrounding Drumheller area is just as fascinating as the stunning Canadian Rockies, so let’s get started and check out what to do in Drumheller and beyond!
The Dinosaur Trail in Drumheller, Alberta, offers a captivating journey through the heart of Canada’s dinosaur country, unveiling the unique landscapes and prehistoric heritage of the region. Winding through the dramatic badlands and rolling hills, this scenic route features an array of notable attractions, including the renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, which houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur fossils.
The Trail is divided into the North Dinosaur Trail and the South Dinosaur Trail and we will break this travel guide into different parts to focus on each. But when visiting Drumheller you should make sure to see it all.
South Dinosaur Trail
1. Hoodoos of Drumheller
The Hoodoos are the star attraction of Drumheller. They are a cluster of thin rock spires with a dense rock cap sitting on top. The cap protects the spires from completely eroding away. They are smaller than you’d expect as a little cluster on the side of a hill, but they are awesome. The hoodoos are located just off the side of the road a short walk from the parking lot, but they are fascinating.
If you are up for a little light hiking, you can climb to the top of the hill to overlook the hoodoos.
Made of sandstone, they formed over hundreds of years of erosion. These fairytale chimneys are very delicate and two to four feet every 100 years. Many people only stay at the hoodoos for a few minutes taking in the tiny cluster of pillars sitting on the side of the road. But take your time to see them from all angles and make sure to hike up to the high lookout. Read about our experience here.
2. Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
The Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site is what this area was built around at the turn of the 20th century. Operating from 1936 to 1970 the Atlas Coal Mine produced coal to power steam engines for CN and CP rail heading to the prairies. It is considered Canada’s best-preserved complete coal mine and visitors can tour the mine and can climb the last wooden tipple in Canada.
You can do a self-guided tour of the grounds, but to access the underground and tipple you will need to take a guided tour. You will see And that’s where all the cool stuff is! The Tipple was used to transport coal to the train cars and you’ll be taking a trip through the underground tunnels.
Admission is Adults: $14.00 Youth/Senior: $11.00 (Self-guided) Where to Stay in Drumheller: If you are looking for accommodation in Drumheller, we recommend Heartwood Inn and Spa. There is a review at the bottom of this post.
3. East Coulee School Museum
If you want to pop into a museum to learn a bit more about life in the coal mining days. The East Coulee School Museum is a ghost town set in an old schoolhouse that focuses on life at home for the families of the miners from 1930 – 1971.
It serves as both a commemorative establishment and an educational center, aiming to preserve and depict the history and heritage of the East Coulee area and its people, particularly focusing on the life of coal miners and their families. If you stop in for a visit you will see the historic school building and experience what it was like in the classroom and there is a coal mining exhibit, artifacts, and photos.
4. Last Chance Saloon
It may be the first stop on your drive south from Drumheller, but we suggest stopping here on your way back, it’s a great place for lunch or dinner. The Last Chance Saloon is one of the coolest places to eat in Alberta! To get there, you need to detour off Highway 10 to Highway 10x and drive west.
After crossing 11 bridges zigzagging over the Red Deer River, you arrive at the Last Chance Saloon. This was a wild west type of saloon where coal miners spent their paycheck on the weekends and many a brawl broke out. They have made sure to leave bullet holes on the walls to show the rowdy heritage. You’ll definitely want to walk through and peruse the photos and memorabilia. It’s a living museum!
The Last Chance Saloon, is located in the ghost town of Wayne located 14km southeast of Drumheller. This was the heart of the mining industry where once 3000 people lived in the town, and 10,000 lived in the surrounding communities.
The 11 one-lane bridges are worth the drive alone, they are in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most bridges located in the shortest distance. (Guinness will measure anything!) The only structure left standing today is the Rosedeer Hotel which is connected to the Last Chance Saloon. Read about our full road trip at The Cowboy Trail – A Southern Alberta Road Trip
6. Star Mine Suspension Bridge
Note: The Rosedale Suspension bridge is permanently closed but we thought we’d leave in a little bit about the history.
Constructed in 1931 the Star Mine Suspension Bridge, (aka Rossdale Suspension Bridge) is a bridge spanning the Red Deer River that you can walk across. This 117-meter-long suspension bridge was created to give coal miners from the Rosedale community access to the Atlas Coal Mine. Before that, they rowed across the river.
7. North Dinosaur Trail Drumheller
The North Trail takes you on a loop north of Drumheller along Hwy 837 and 838. There is a lot to see on this 48 km loop. Heading out of Drumheller the trail will lead you along the north side of the Red Deer River. This route offers beautiful views of the badlands, the Little Church, and the Bleriot Ferry crossing.
Make sure to take your time to go for hikes and enjoy the viewpoints. The whole charm of this part of Alberta is experiencing the awe-inspiring scenery.
Another great Alberta Road trip is the Icefields Parkway. Check it out here.
8. World’s Largest Dinosaur
Canadians love roadside attractions, and it is fitting that the dinosaur capital of the world displays the world’s largest Dinosaur. The structure is a model Tyrannosaurus rex that stands approximately 86 feet (26 meters) tall and 151 feet (46 meters) long, making it nearly four times larger than a real T. rex would have been.
Across the Street is Rotary Spray Park which is a popular destination for families, especially during the warmer months. The park offers a variety of activities and facilities to keep visitors of all ages entertained. The park features a large spray pad with various water features, fountains, and spray nozzles that children can run through and play in. It’s a great way to cool off on a hot day.
10. Hoodoo Trail
The hoodoos of Drumheller are the entire reason we wanted to visit Drumheller in Alberta. So starting on the Hoodoo Trail is our number one thing to do. From Drumheller, start driving south along Highway 56 to highway 10 following the Red Deer River. Most of the route is located in Midland Provincial Park which offers plenty of pull-offs and picnic stops. The Hoodoo Trail is an out-and-back route totaling only 50km. (23.5 km each way) Read more: The Hoodoos of Drumheller
We suggest going directly to the Hoodoos in the morning before they get too busy and then take your time exploring the rest of the trail. Read more of our southern Alberta Road Trip here.
11. Royal Tyrrell Museum
We aren’t ones to gush over museums, but the Royal Tyrrell Museum is amazing! 75 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed this land and they left their mark all around Drumheller. The Royal Tyrell Museum is the best dinosaur museum in the world displaying the finds that have been discovered throughout Drumheller and the Badlands. Unlike most museums around the world where dinosaur skeletons are fake, the Royal Tyrell sows real dinosaur bones.
Plus, The Royal Tyrell Museum has the best-preserved authentic T-Rex skulls in the world and there are actual Paleontologists working on bones. You can approach them to talk to them, and there are others working behind glass showing you what is involved in excavations.
12. Badlands Interpretive Trail
While you are at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, take a walk along the Badlands Interpretive Trail located in Midland Provincial Park.
Once you arrive at the park, you can follow the signs to locate the starting point of the Badlands Interpretive Trail. The trail offers an opportunity to learn about the geology, paleontology, and ecology of the Canadian Badlands.
13. Horsethief Canyon
The first viewpoint you will see along this drive is Horsethief Canyon. It is the classic Alberta Badlands site and what a sight to behold! Horsethief Canyon got its name from cowboy outlaws hiding stolen horses in the 1800s. When looking at the canyon below, you can see how it made for a great hiding place!
You can actually see the layers of time etched in the canyon walls. There are platforms to take in the scenic views and you can go hiking. I highly recommend hiking through the badlands. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Just be sure to bring plenty of water, it gets hot!
14. Little Church
As we said above, Canadians love a road side attraction and the Little Church of Drumheller is definitely that! Built in 1968 as a place for meditation and worship. It is also a tourist attraction in Drumheller attracting 10,000 people six at a time. It seats six people and still operates as a wedding chapel and holding services. How cool would it be to get married here?
15. Bleriot Ferry
Cross the Red Deer River by using the Bleriot Ferry. It’s free and it’s always cool to take a ferry. Operating daily from 8 am to 11 pm from May through September, this little ferry crossing has been in operation since 1913. It’s the oldest cable ferry in North America! And the ferry is free!
16. Orkney Viewpoint
Once you cross the river, you are now on the way back along the Dinosaur Trail and the Orkney Viewpoint offers beautiful views of the Red Deer River Valley. Located on high red rock cliffs, it’s the quintessential Alberta view.
17. Horseshoe Canyon
When driving from Calgary this will be the first stop you see on your way to Drumheller. Or if you are us, the last stop you see on your way out. But it can totally be done on the Dinosaur Trail. Horseshoe Canyon has a 3.9 kilometer loop trail for better views of its coulees and hoodoos and the abundance of wildflowers that grow in the canyons. Keep in mind, it can get very hot in the Alberta Badlands, so always carry water.
18. Dinosaur Provincial Park
After spending a couple of days in Drumheller exploring the Dinosaur Trail and the Hoodoo Trail, make your way to Dinosaur Provincial Park to really dig into the dinosaur culture.
19. Centrosaurus Quarry Hike
Located in the heart of the Alberta Badlands, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the richest collection of dinosaur fossils on earth. You can take a tour out to The Centrosaurus Quarry to see actual dinosaur fossils. Once you know what you are looking for (which you learn about on this guided hike) they are everywhere. Much of the park is off-limits as it is still a working excavation site, but there are a few tour opportunities.
We really enjoyed our hike, but we also took a sunset tour by bus taking us out to all the amazing lookouts in search of its rich deposits of dinosaur bones. Dinosaur Provincial Park deserves a couple of days to explore. Read all about it here.
When to Visit Drumheller
When visiting the Drumheller area there are a few things to take into consideration. We have broken down the best time to visit.
Late Spring (May to June): The weather begins to warm up, and the landscape comes alive with blooming wildflowers. Outdoor attractions and trails are open for exploration. There might be fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months. Summer (July to August): This is the peak tourist season in Drumheller, with warm temperatures and long days. Most events, festivals, and outdoor activities are scheduled during these months. Popular attractions like the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the World’s Largest Dinosaur can be busy, so plan accordingly. Early Fall (September): The weather remains pleasant, but the crowds start to diminish. The landscape features beautiful fall colors, and outdoor activities are still enjoyable.
Things to Consider:
Weather: The weather in Drumheller can be quite variable, so it’s wise to check the forecast and come prepared with layers, sun protection, and appropriate footwear. Crowds: If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (late spring or early fall) to avoid peak crowds. Attractions Availability: While summer offers the most accessibility to attractions, some sites and activities remain open in the off-season, offering a different experience. Events: Check the local event calendar for festivals, exhibitions, or other happenings during your visit.
Regardless of when you visit, Drumheller offers a unique and enriching experience with its fascinating dinosaur heritage, striking badlands landscape, and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.
Drumheller Itinerary in Two Days
To help you plan a trip to Drumheller, we put together an easy downtown Drumheller Itinerary in two days. Enjoy!
Day 1: Exploring Prehistoric Wonders
Morning: Royal Tyrrell Museum
Time: 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM Activity: Begin your Drumheller adventure at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Explore the fascinating exhibits showcasing Canada’s prehistoric past, featuring one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs. Tips: Arrive early to avoid crowds. Don’t forget to check out the museum’s rotating special exhibits!
Lunch: Bernie and the Boys Bistro
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Activity: Enjoy a hearty meal at this local favorite, known for its mammoth-sized burgers and milkshakes. Location: 305 4 St W, Drumheller, AB T0J 0X0, Canada
Afternoon: Drumheller’s Giant Dinosaur & Fossil World
Time: 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM Activity: Climb inside the World’s Largest Dinosaur and enjoy the panoramic views of Drumheller. Afterward, head to Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Center for interactive exhibits and fossil digging activities. Tips: The climb inside the Giant Dinosaur involves stairs, so wear comfortable shoes!
Dinner: Sublime Food and Wine
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Activity: Indulge in a fine dining experience at Sublime Food and Wine, enjoying locally-sourced dishes in a cozy atmosphere. Location: 109 Centre St, Drumheller, AB T0J 0Y0, Canada
Evening: Drumheller Valley Lookout
Time: 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM Activity: End your day by watching the sunset over the stunning landscapes of the Drumheller Valley from one of the scenic lookouts. Tips: Bring a light jacket, as it can get chilly in the evening.
Day 2: Adventure & Scenic Beauty
Morning: Horsethief Canyon & Bleriot Ferry
Time: 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM Activity: Start with the picturesque Horsethief Canyon, followed by a ride on the historic Bleriot Ferry across the Red Deer River. Tips: Wear sturdy shoes for hiking and bring your camera for some beautiful landscape photos!
Lunch: WHIFS Flapjack House
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Activity: Savor some delicious pancakes and other hearty breakfast fare at this local gem. Location: 680 2 St E, Drumheller, AB T0J 0Y0, Canada
Afternoon: Horseshoe Canyon & ATV Adventure
Time: 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM Activity: Explore the breathtaking landscapes of Horseshoe Canyon. Consider booking an ATV tour for an exhilarating ride through the canyons. Tips: Dress appropriately for outdoor activities and bring water to stay hydrated.
Dinner: Yavis Family Restaurant
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Activity: Conclude your adventure-filled day with a relaxing meal at Yavis Family Restaurant, a local establishment offering a diverse menu. Location: 1102 AB-9, Drumheller, AB T0J 0Y3, Canada
Evening: Ghost Walk Tour
Time: 8:30 PM – 10:00 PM Activity: If available, join a local ghost walk tour to explore the eerie and mysterious side of Drumheller, learning about local legends and folklore. Tips: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a flashlight.
This two-day itinerary offers a mix of adventure, history, and natural beauty, showcasing the unique charm of Drumheller, Alberta. Make sure to check the availability of activities and opening hours of venues in advance, as they can vary depending on the time of year. Safe travels!
Where to Stay in Drumheller
Heartwood Inn and Spa is a popular choice in Drumheller. We stayed here and loved it! Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson stayed here during the filming of Shanghai Noon. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for Dave and Deb! It’s a great inn with elegant rooms and friendly owners. It’s the type of place that takes an interest in what you see and do and gives excellent advice.
We especially enjoyed their famous French Toast in the morning. It’s the only thing they serve for breakfast. As the owner said to us “I do one thing and one thing very well.” Yum!
Other Places to Stay in Drumheller
Cactus Coulee Fun Park & RV Resort is a great place to stay in Drumheller with kids. Even if you are not staying at Cactus Coulee Fun Park & RV Resort, you can visit for the day and enjoy the attractions like go-karting, mini golf and EuroBungy
Horseshoe Canyon Campground is another great place to stay with tenting, cabins, and RV hook-up.
Dinosaur Provincial Park has camping as well. Read: Dinosaur Provincial Park – Glamping Tour in the Alberta Badlands
And these are the top attractions near Drumheller. Have you been to the Alberta Badlands? Where is your favorite place to visit in Alberta?