Drumheller. Definitely a place that seems “out of this province”. The descent into the strange, desert, canyon containing Drumheller was awe-inspiring.
It is almost as if a giant knife cut open the farmland to show an arid, foreign, landscape below. And with cacti growing everywhere?! Is this really Alberta? It certainly looked like a place where dinosaurs once roamed…
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Where is Drumheller, Alberta?
Where exactly is Drumheller? The small town is located in southeastern Alberta, about an hour and a half drive from Calgary (about 130 kms) or about 3 hours from Edmonton (roughly 280 kms).
Depending on your route, there may not be many gas stations (or anything!) so plan ahead and fill up! The drive is beautiful and quiet, whichever road you take…surrounded by miles of farmland. Enjoy the descent into Drumheller…it is unexpected!
Weather for Drumheller
As with anywhere in Alberta, Drumheller weather can be unpredictable! However, the best time of year to visit would be any season except winter! Of course it will be busiest, hottest and more attractions open in the summer. So pack warm clothes and rain gear. It is better to be prepared so you can still enjoy all Drumheller has to offer without being wet or cold!
Where to Stay in Drumheller
#1 tip – book accommodation ahead! Especially if you are visiting Drumheller in the summer. In my normal last minute planning style, I waited until the week before we planned to go and ALL hotels were booked up!
However, Booking.com saved my butt. I managed to find a cute little duplex with 2 bedrooms, plenty of space, and everything we needed close to downtown and the giant T-Rex/Visitor Center. But I’ll give you all the deets (and pics) down below…
Vacation Rentals in Drumheller
If you are traveling with a family (or large group), I highly recommend looking for a vacation rental. You can often save a lot of money if you were to need more than one hotel room. Even if you aren’t, you may prefer the homey-ness of an Airbnb. We had my in-laws visiting, plus our 4 kids. So with a crew of 8, it made more sense to rent a home.
Our Drumheller Vacation Rental – 2 Bedroom!
The cozy duplex we rented was open and roomy. It was also one of the most affordable options for our crew of 8!
The living room sofa turned into a bed that was plenty big for our 3 kids (all 8 and under), my in-laws took one bedroom and we took the other with baby (I brought my pack n play). The kitchen had a kettle, tea, coffee and the basics along with everything to cook a meal.
Update: Sadly, this unit is no longer on booking.com!
If I needed a hotel in Drumheller, I would be sure to look for a hotel with a pool! Because what kid doesn’t love to swim??! Out of the several hotels in Drumheller, only 2 have pools – and they both have waterslides!
Drumheller Hotels with Pools:
- SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western Drumheller
The SureStay besides having a pool (and water slide) also has a hot tub, free continental breakfast, and family rooms that can fit up to 8 people!
- Ramada by Wyndham Drumheller Hotel & Suites
Much like the SureStay, the Ramada Drumheller has a pool with water slide and hot tub and free continental breakfast. However, their largest room holds only 5.
There are also more hotel options in the neighboring towns of Hanna and Three Hills and more budget options in Drumheller if you don’t care about a pool.
Campsites in Drumheller
There are plenty of Camping options around Drumheller. Two campgrounds are right in town – walking distance to the visitor information center, giant T-Rex, and the splash park/pools.
As well, there are several campgrounds outside of Drumheller. One campground even has a heated swimming pool!
Things to Do in Drumheller
Below is a list of all the places to go to in Drumhellar (and vicinity). Keep reading to find the best itinerary so you don’t zig-zag all over! (I wish I had a route before visiting…instead we missed quite a few spots due to lack of time).
What to See & Do in Drumheller:
- Royal Tyrrell Museum & Interpretive Trail
- Hoodoos Trail
- Atlas Coal Mine
- Horseshoe Canyon
- Horsethief Canyon
- Tiny Church
- Orkney Lookout
- Bleriot Ferry
- Giant T-Rex at the Drumheller Information Center
- Cross 11 bridges on Highway 10x
- Ghost town of Wayne & Last Chance Saloon
- Outdoor (or indoor) pool at Recreation Center
- Splash Pad beside Visitor Information Center
- Star Mine Suspension Bridge – temporarily closed (as of August 2021)
- Newcastle Beach
- Helicopter Canyon Tour
- Paddle the Red Deer River
- Visit Cactus Coulee Fun Park or Barney’s Adventure Park
- See the Passion Play or another event at Badlands Amphitheatre
Day 1 – Drumheller Itinerary
Our first day in Drumheller was full of activities…after all, gotta keep those kids busy! Don’t forget to book your Tyrell Museum tickets ahead of time! If it is supposed to be a hot day, you may want to get up early so you can explore Horseshoe Canyon without boiling!
Visit Horseshoe Canyon, the Drumheller Visitor Info Centre, Royal Tyrrell Museum & Interpretive Trail, Tiny Church, HorseThief Canyon, Bleriot Ferry, and Orkney Lookout. If you want more time to hike at the canyons, save Horseshoe Canyon for Day 2 and start with the Visitor Centre or the Dinosaur Museum.
*Click the button on the top left corner of the map, then scroll down to check off the directions box for driving route.
Horseshoe Canyon Drumhellar
- Outhouses on Site
- Several lookouts
- Large parking lot
- Wide, easy to follow trail down into and through the canyon
If you are coming from Calgary, stop at Horseshoe Canyon (before reaching Drumheller). This canyon offers some of the best Drumheller badlands views and has a great wide trail.
The descent down into the canyon is either a wide graveled staircase or a slope. I brought my baby stroller down (yes, there was a baby in it) but went backwards since the grade was a little steep. On the way up, I pulled it up on the back two wheels…easier with all that gravel. So if you have a stroller – it can be done. Although a baby carrier would have been easier.
The walk through the canyon was beautiful and the kids loved running up the chiseled formations. Keep an eye out for the ground hogs…they are everywhere!
Drumheller Visitor Center & the Giant T-Rex
- Lookout from the mouth of the world’s largest T-Rex
- Souvenirs, maps, area info
- Public Washrooms
- Next to outdoor splash pad and outdoor pool
If you need to get your bearings, the perfect first place to stop is the Drumheller Visitor or Information Center. They have maps and all the info you will need to get around.
The place is also full of souvenirs and you can climb up inside the giant T-Rex’s mouth to get a view of Drumheller. T-Rex entry is $5 per person. There are also public washrooms in case you need an emergency stop like us!
**Keep in mind – the outdoor pool and splash park are located here as well…you might want to visit if it is a hot day.
Royal Tyrrell Museum & Interpretive Trail
- One of the largest dinosaur museums in the world!
- Big outdoor playground
- picnic tables
- food truck
- Interpretive trail through the badlands
The Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum was incredible! Seeing all the full-sized fossils was exhilarating and somewhat mind-blowing. Remember to book your entrance time and tickets ahead.
**Be aware- the museum is closed on MONDAYS unless it is a holiday.
We had snacks that we brought while the kids played on the playground. But, there was also a food truck on site. The museum’s cafeteria was closed (August 2021).
Afterward, we took the easy stroll on the interpretive trail that goes through the drumheller badlands behind the museum. The trail was wide and easy so we could navigate it with the stroller.
The kids poked sticks in every hole they saw since I had told them not to put any hands in…in case it was occupied by a rattle snake! Instead of being afraid, they were intent on finding one!
Don’t skip taking all those stairs up to the lookout beside the museum. It is a great view of the surrounding badlands and good exercise!
Tiny Church Drumheller
After visiting the museum, keep going away from town on highway 838 (or North Dinosaur Trail) and you will quickly see the Little Church on the side of the road. Stop for some quick pics with the world’s tiniest church!
We completely ripped by and therefore missed the photo shoot…but I hadn’t realized the tiny church was located on the same road (just past) the dinosaur museum.
- Outhouses on site
Unfortunately, the weather was quite blustery and cold when we arrived at HorseThief Canyon (just further down the North Dinosaur Trail). However the view was beautiful! And if everyone wasn’t starving, we may have done some hiking. But, I only saw steep trails leading down into the canyon, so it may have been tricky carrying a baby.
Some recommendations from AllTrails include: wear good footware, avoid when rainy or wet (the clay can get quite gross), bring lots of water, wear sunscreen if hot and bug repellent!
Apparently there is a dried creek bed, caves, and some big hoodoos. There are plenty of footpaths all over to explore on your own but no signs. Have fun!
Back on the road, we quickly hit a stop sign. Turn left to stay on Dinosaur Trail (sign for Bleriot Ferry). The road will take you directly to the ferry crossing…wait in line until it is your turn to board then enjoy crossing (it is SLOWWW – but the kids enjoyed it) the Red Deer River.
Interesting fact – it is the last cable operated ferry in Alberta!
- Clean Outhouses
Once across the ferry, drive until you reach a “T” this is highway 837 or South Dinosaur Trail. Turn left towards Drumheller. Shortly, a sign will announce the road for Orkney Viewpoint.
Orkney Lookout is a beautiful viewpoint over the red deer river valley and drumheller badlands. Google reviewers say not to miss this spot…but we did because- yes! THE KIDS WERE STILL STARVING!
Now it’s time to get dinner (we hit up Boston Pizza) and relax! Day 2 is just as full!
Day 2 – Drumheller Itinerary
Breakfast. I’m sure that is the first thing my kids think about as they bounce out of bed. Like usual, we rushed to get ready for the day of exploration, and tore out the door. After all, we had to get the gremlins fed!
We headed to Whifs Flapjack House which was jam-packed when we arrived. The wait wasn’t long, however. Running around the ceiling was a model train which kept the kids occupied while we ordered.
Most of the breakfasts were very good, however my crepes were quite dry – they weren’t filled with anything…simply stacked with a small amount of berries and whip cream on top. *The potato pancakes have been strongly recommended by a patron on trip advisor though!
Now on to Atlas Coal Mine, Hoodoos Trail, and The 11 Bridges Route. If you want to do more hiking, or missed a canyon from yesterday, squeeze it in on day 2!
*B- Atlas Coal Mine; C – Hoodoos Trail; D – 11 Bridges Route to Wayne
Atlas Coal Mine Historic Site
Head down highway 56 (turns into hwy 10) out of town towards Rosedale for about 22 km. A sign will direct you to turn right for Atlas Coal Mine, cross the bridge, then make another right. Super easy to get to and you can see it from the highway.
Note: Buy tickets online ahead of time for your desired entrance time (due to covid protocols)
A great historical site of a large underground coal mine. Plenty of history and stories- both inspiring and terrible – and great artifacts. The kids loved exploring all the different buildings! My favorite was the wash house!
- Clean, cute washrooms by the parking lot
- Little Souvenir Shop
Bring your own snacks and drinks!
One of the most popular of Drumheller’s badlands hikes, the Hoodoos Trail will not disappoint. Heading back towards Drumheller you will see the sign for the drumheller hoodoos hike and be able to see them from the road.
- Outhouses on site
- Food truck was on site when we went in August
- $2 per vehicle parking fee
The hoodoos here are incredible and the kids had a blast. Be aware though, when wet, some of that clay gets super mucky, sticky, and slick! Unfortunately we hit one of those days…I’ll just say hubs was not impressed.
11 Bridges Route to Wayne
At Rosedale, turn onto highway 10x – also known as the 11 bridges route. This short route has a world record for having the most bridges in such a short distance. 11 bridges in a measly 6 kilometers! The kidlets had great fun counting all the bridges on the drive.
Turn around when the road turns to gravel (or at Wayne). Stop at the Last Chance Saloon and try some of the best ice cream in the area. Wayne is also a ghost town with only a few residents left after the coal mine closures.
Things to Do in Drumheller – missed on our Itinerary!
There are plenty of things we weren’t able to do in our short visit to Drumheller! We could have easily spent a few more days or so exploring this area. Without further ado, here are just a few more Drumheller activities.
Star Mine Suspension Bridge
The Star Mine Suspension Bridge was temporarily closed in summer 2021. But if it opens up again (which it is supposed to), I would definitely add it to your Drumheller itinerary. The bridge is just outside of Rosedale.
Originally, the suspension bridge was built across the Red Deer River to allow the coal miners access to Star Mine from Rosedale. Now, there is some history at the old mine site and a few short trails. But, the heart pounder may be crossing the long, often-swaying, suspension bridge itself…especially if you’re leery of heights!
Kind of a hidden (and non busy) spot on the river, close to downtown Drumheller. A good beach to cool down on a hot day but don’t expect a fine-sanded tropical oasis.
Interesting fact: There are also Crayfish (or Crawfish) in the river! Bring a net – maybe you can catch enough for a Crawfish boil! Here is a website on where to find Crayfish around Calgary, but also How to cook them!
Helicopter Tours & Paddle the Red Deer River
Paddle down the Red Deer River with Red Deer River Adventures. They offer tours or rent a canoe or kayak. What a relaxing way to see the Drumheller badlands!
Want to see the impressive landscape from the air? Go on a helicopter tour at Horseshoe Canyon or Cactus Coulee Fun Park.
Cactus Coulee Fun Park
Cactus Coulee Fun Park has go-karts, mini golf, euro bungy, and ice cream. Or you can hop on a helicopter tour here. They also have a campground. TripAdvisor has mixed reviews on this place – some say it is overpriced and may have had issues with staff while others say it is alot of fun!
On the dinosaur trail close to the Royal Tyrell Museum.
Barney’s Adventure Park
With 30+ things to do at this newly opened park, there is too much to list. Think corn mazes, pig races, zip lines, karts and all kinds of kid fun! Check out the website and rates here.
Badlands Amphitheatre in Drumheller
Perhaps best known for the yearly “Passion Play” in Drumheller, the Badlands Amphitheatre also hosts other events over the summer. Apparently, the Drumheller Amphitheatre is the largest outdoor stage in Canada. Find out about upcoming events here.
What to See near Drumheller, Ab
Have more time on your hands? Explore these nearby towns and attractions close to Drumheller.
About 35 kms from Drumheller, Rosebud is a cute, westerny, town with a top-notch dinner theatre. Read about some of the town’s history at the Rosebud museum then take a walking tour before relaxing with amazing food and a spectacular show at the Rosebud Theatre. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time!
Interesting fact: Rosebud was found by an explorer who saw the valley when it was full of blooming roses, thus its name was born!
Ghost town…need I say more? Currently the town only has a few residents (around 8 or 9) and is thought to be haunted! It is located about 38 kms from Drumheller.
Pre-covid, the town association held pizza night usually on the last saturday of the month along with live music. Check out their facebook page to see when it is being held again.
The old buildings are in great shape and the town has an old-fashioned playground. Some TripAdvisor reviews note that some of the mannequins in the old buildings are quite creepy…but that might be right up your alley?! Creepy or not, the well maintained historical buildings in Rowley have some interesting history.
Rumsey Natural Area
If you visit Rowley, you can stop at the nearby Rumsey Natural Area. The area is quiet and secluded and is a great spot for bird watching. The Rumsey Natural Area was created to protect some of the areas native grassland and rare topography.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
Located along the red door river, these scenic badlands are the site of an ancient buffalo jump. Day Use only and if it is rainy, the entrance road may be closed as it becomes dangerous and slippery. About a 94 km drive from Drumheller.
There is great hiking, small hoodoos, and much less traffic than Drumheller and area. Trails are unmarked but if you head to AllTrails there is a map that can be downloaded of a 7 km hike. Otherwise just follow the goat trails!
Apparently the river is quite shallow and calm at Dry Island Buffalo Jump and would be a great swim spot in the summer. Or, according to HikeBikeTravel, you can start a easy 2 day canoe to Drumheller here.
I recommend visiting HikeBikeTravel’s post on Dry Island Buffalo Jump for great info and pics!
Good Knights Medieval Encampment & The Burrows
About 40 mins from Drumheller, near the town of Three Hills, is a Medieval Encampment! If you are looking to glamp (camp in glamour) in a medieval tent and be treated like royalty, this is the place to do it!
Activities, breakfast served at your tent, and even a medieval feast are included in your stay if you happen to be there on a saturday night. Archery, sword classes, medieval crafts, medieval attire, and photo opportunities. If you don’t want to stay the night, one sunday per month there is a royal feast along with entertainment open to the public. Check out the Feast page for more info.
Note: These guys are also creating a hobbit house built into the hillside! The first of “The Burrows“, as they are called, should be ready for booking this season (2022)!
Now that you know how to get to Drumheller, where to stay, and what to do, I hope you have a blast! Our kids, and all the adults, certainly enjoyed this ancient dinosaur valley. The picturesque landscape is unique and you will not run out of things to do and see for days!
If you only have 2 days – follow my itinerary to see some of the best sights in Drumheller. But if you have the time, I recommend relaxing, staying longer, and seeing more. I wish we would have. But, we will be back! See you soon Drumheller!
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