An Explorer’s Guide To Dinosaur Provincial Park

Last Updated on February 1, 2023

A Guide To Dinosaur Provincial Park

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind prehistoric experience, look no further than Dinosaur Provincial Park. Located in the heart of the badlands of Alberta, this UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in the world.

Over 50 different types of dinosaurs have been discovered here. But it’s not just about discovering dinosaur bones; the park also offers a stunning look at ancient environments and ecosystems.

If you’re planning on visiting, make sure to check out our guide to Dinosaur Provincial Park!

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Table Of Contents

Where Is Dinosaur Provincial Park?

Dinosaur Provincial Park is located in the Canadian province of Alberta, about 2.5 hours southeast of Calgary. To get to the park, start by driving on the Trans-Canada Highway east until you reach Brooks (NOT Drumheller). From there, take Highway 544. It is widely and incorrectly believed that Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller are one and the same. However, this is incorrect and the two locations are actually a couple of hours apart!

Is It Worth Visiting Dinosaur Provincial Park?

Absolutely! This park offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in pre-historic times, with guided hikes and tours led by expert paleontologists. You can even take part in a one or two-day guided excavation.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a sacred site for archeologists and dinosaur lovers all over the world because it contains more complete dinosaur skeletons than any other place on Earth. In addition to this, fossils of turtles, flying reptiles, fish, and lizards have also been found here.

If you’re looking for bones during your stay, don’t worry–they’re not too difficult to find! Just remember not to disturb them in any way. Leave the fossils exactly where you found them.

Check out this list of the dinosaurs of Dinosaur Provincial Park!

How Much Does It Cost To Go To Dinosaur Provincial Park?

There is no entrance fee to enjoy the park. However, fees apply for the guided hikes and tours, checking out the exhibits at the Visitor Center, as well as campsite reservations.

Planning Your Excursions At Dinosaur Provincial Park

If you’re planning on taking a tour, it’s best to book your tickets in advance online. Keep in mind that there are different types of tours available, such as bus and hiking tours, each with its own age restrictions.

The Best Time To Visit Dinosaur Provincial Park

The park is open all year round, but the most popular time to visit is during the summer months (June-August) when weather conditions are generally more favorable. However, in the summer, it can get quite hot. If the heat bothers you, you will have more comfortable adventure weather if you visit just before or after summer.

We have visited twice in the peak of summer and honestly felt like we had the trails mostly to ourselves, passing only a dozen people on our adventures.

Though it is open year-round, keep in mind that tours and hikes may be limited during the winter due to icy or snowy conditions.

Can You See Fossils At Dinosaur Provincial Park?

Yes, there are ample opportunities to see fossils in the park. The Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre features an impressive display of dinosaur bones and fossils, as well as educational exhibits about their ancient environments and ecosystems.

Additionally, you can join a guided hike or tour led by expert paleontologists to search for your own fossils, or to see some fossils at the exact location they were found!

Can I Take The Dinosaur Fossils I Find?

No. If you were hoping to take a piece of history home with you, think again. According to the Historic Resources Act, it is illegal to tamper with or remove these fossils.

Leave No Trace

Remember to always follow the Leave No Trace principles during your visit. This means packing out all of your garbage, and leaving any fossils you may come across exactly where they are.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a truly unique and special place that should be respected and preserved for future generations. Keep in mind that the hoodoos and sandstone are delicate. Do your best to stay on the trails, and don’t forget to take your trash with you when you leave!

Wildlife At Dinosaur Provincial Park

Aside from the ancient creatures that once roamed the land, Dinosaur Provincial Park is also home to a variety of modern-day wildlife. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, coyotes, pronghorn antelope, varieties of deer, cottontail rabbits, scorpions, black widow spiders, and even rattlesnakes. Remember to respect all wildlife and keep a safe distance. If you stay on the trail, you should be completely fine. Also, do not provoke wildlife; that is when bad things happen!

It is always a good practice, regardless of where you are hiking, to make noise while you hike. This will keep most wildlife away and you shouldn’t have any close encounters with any bears or cougars.

We were amazed when we first saw a couple of deer on the badlands trail – we couldn’t believe that deer really live within such a landscape!

Although rattlesnakes are not aggressive, they will attack if provoked. They usually give a warning before attacking though in the form of shaking their tails which make a rattling noise – listen out for this! To avoid being attacked, it is best to stay on trails and away from rock piles, ledges, and long grass. If you hear the rattle, stay far away.

Prairie rattlesnakes are venomous, their bites usually aren’t fatal. If you leave them be, they will do the same to you!

To avoid any potential close encounters with scorpions and spiders, always check your surroundings before you start moving around, shake out your shoes before putting them on, and don’t put your hands or feet in cracks, holes, or crevices.

While black widow spiders and scorpions both have venom, you’re unlikely to see them since they spend most of the day underground.

Which Is Better – Drumheller Or Dinosaur Provincial Park?

Both Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park offer unique opportunities to explore dinosaur history. However, Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in the world. Additionally, it offers a more immersive prehistoric experience, with guided hikes and tours led by paleontologists. Ultimately, it would depend on what kind of dinosaur experience you’re looking for. Both Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park are worth visiting, but Dinosaur Provincial Park offers a truly unique opportunity.

If you’re spending time at Dinosaur Provincial Park, we would recommend adding on a couple of extra days to explore Drumheller too! There are so many things to do in Drumheller that would really add to your dinosaur adventure!

Is There Camping At Dinosaur Provincial Park?

Yes, there are campsites available to reserve in the park. However, reservations fill up quickly during summer and it is recommended to book in advance. There are also facilities for showers and laundry available at the campground.

You can camp at Dinosaur Provincial Park from May to October. The regular camping sites consist of unserviced, powered, and pull-through options.

Are There Hotels Near Dinosaur Provincial Park?

If you would prefer some extra creature comforts during your Dinosaur Provincial Park adventures, the closest hotels to Dinosaur Provincial Park are in Brooks.

You will not find any luxury hotels, but the modest hotels we recommend are Ramada by Wyndham Brooks and Canalta Brooks. Both are around 35km away from Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Where Can I Find Food?

Dinosaur Provincial Park has the Cretaceous Café and convenience store with snacks, drinks, and light meals available.

There are also restaurants and facilities for groceries in nearby towns such as Brooks (48km away). It is recommended to bring your own food and water if you plan on camping at the park.

In addition, there are day-use areas that have no fee and come with picnic tables and fire pits.

There is nothing like camping against the backdrop of the badlands!

Things To Do In Dinosaur Provincial Park

Badlands Lookout

When you arrive at Dinosaur Provincial Park, you’ll see a parking area near the Welcome To Dinosaur Provincial Park sign. Pull over there to enjoy a panoramic view of the badlands. It will take your breath away!

Public Loop Road

Drive the public loop road and enjoy the scenery right from your car. The loop road is an easy drive and gives you the opportunity to stop as you wish to hike one of the public trails. Even the scenery from the vehicle is unreal! Drive, walk, or bike this 3.5 km scenic road through the beautiful Canadian Badlands.

Theatre Performance

If you have kids with you, you’ll want to stop by for a performance on the stage. The kids were absolutely fascinated with the show and they learned so much. The skits, song and dance was all a huge hit!

Hiking In Dinosaur Provincial Park

There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, offering stunning views of the badlands. Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park is easy and family-friendly, with a good chance of finding an actual dinosaur bone.

To see beyond the public lands, you must sign up for a guided hike. The Great Badlands hike and the Centrosaurus Bonebed hike are a couple of the most popular.

If you want to hike the public trails, there are five named trails; all are short and easy. Explore Dinosaur Provincial Park through the Badlands Trail (1.3km), the Cottonwood Flats Trail (1.4 km), the Coulee Viewpoint (0.9 km), the Prairie Trail (0.3 km), and the Trail of the Fossil Hunters (0.9 km).

The Badlands Trail (1.3km)

The Badlands Trail is our absolute favorite and if you’re only doing one hike, this is it!

The Badlands Trail is the first one on the public scenic loop road so it’s easy to find, making it a perfect place to start your adventure.

The signage on the trail provides information about the creation of this unique badlands environment and why dinosaur bones are found here.

The hike gently climbs while you marvel at the hoodoos and pinnacles around every bend. The sandstone ridges are cut with tiny streams (rills), and in some areas, you’ll trek through bentonite clay. Be sure to take lots of pictures – the views are incredible!

Although you can finish this hike in a short 30 minutes, take your time to appreciate the picturesque views. You will want to stop again and again to explore and take photos, so we recommend leaving an hour for this trail.

Cottonwood Flats Trail (1.4km)

Travel through a riverside world surrounded by plains of cottonwood trees. Bring your binoculars to the park if you want to see some of the 165 different kinds of birds that live there. The park also has 26 kilometers of riparian habitat along the banks of the Red Deer River which it protects.

Coulee Viewpoint (0.9km)

This short several-meter climb will take you up to a ridge where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Little Sandhill Coulee. The return journey features a section with rills, pipes, and tunnels that have been deeply carved over time.

Please take extra caution when on the Coulee Viewpoint trail, as the rocks can become very slippery in rain or snow. Also, because there are sharp drop-offs near the viewpoint, it is not recommended for children to go unsupervised.

Prairie Trail (0. 3 km)

This pathway leads you through the often-overlooked grassland surrounding the park, where you can explore how animals and plants have adapted to survive in their dry, windy home.

Trail Of The Fossil Hunters (0.9 km)

If you follow this path, it will take you to a quarry from 1913. Delve into the excitement that early fossil hunters experienced as they competed for fame in science.

Guided Programs At Dinosaur Provincial Park

Join a guided hike or tour led by expert paleontologists to search for fossils or see them in their exact location of discovery.

The park offers various tours, including hikes into the private area of the preserve, explorer bus tours, fossil safari, or guided excavation. There are so many options that you are sure to find something that tickles your fancy!

Guided Hikes

To see beyond the public lands, you must sign up for a guided hike. The Great Badlands hike and the Centrosaurus Bonebed hike are a couple of the most popular.

Explorer’s Bus Tour

Discover Dinosaur Provincial Park UNESCO World Heritage Site through the perspectives of the First Nations people, fossil hunters, and paleontologists over this two-hour tour.

A few times during the tour, you will disembark the bus so your park guide can show you some of the more interesting land formations and fossils up close, including an “in-situ” hadrosaur ( still in the rock where it was found).

This program is not accessible to wheelchair users or strollers. Due to extreme weather conditions, including heat and rain, cancellations may occur.

Short on time, or not sure how your young children would do on a longer tour? Another shorter option is the Bare Bones Bus Tour, which lasts an hour.

Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Center

Visit the visitor center to see an impressive display of dinosaur bones and fossils, as well as educational exhibits on ancient environments and ecosystems. We were blown away by the amount of detail and the abundance of things to learn in a fun and interactive way.

If you are visiting during the summer heat, the Visitor Center is also a nice little air-conditioned escape when you need a break. They also occasionally offer some dinosaur movies in their little theatre. Stop by to find out what is happening when you are visiting!

Staying Safe In Dinosaur Provincial Park

• Badlands weather can get incredibly hot, so make sure to bring enough water, a hat, and sunscreen on your hike. Bring more water than you think you will need!

• The Badlands are known for being very slippery, so be sure to wear proper footwear. Climbing and hiking should also be avoided after it rains.

• Cacti have sharp spines, so be careful where you step or sit.

• Hikers should be mindful of natural caves and sinkholes that are prevalent in badland areas, as they can pose a safety hazard. Don’t stand or walk directly over them.

• Children must be closely supervised.

• Although prairie rattlesnakes are venomous, their bites usually aren’t fatal. If you leave them be, they will do the same to you! To avoid any interactions, stay on trails and away from rock piles, ledges, and long grass.

• Both scorpions and black widow spiders have venom, but you’re unlikely to run into them since they spend the day underground. To avoid getting hurt, don’t put your hands or feet in cracks, holes, or crevices.

 

A visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park is truly a unique and unforgettable experience. Take advantage of the expert-led tours and educational exhibits to truly immerse yourself in the ancient world.  Happy fossil hunting!

 

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