Hikes in Dinosaur Provincial Park
The landscape of Dinosaur Provincial Park will wow you as soon as its canyons and hoodoos come into view. This park, formed by mountain erosions over centuries, is a historically significant area for dinosaur fossils. Its designated area of 73.29 square kilometres has a small network of trails exploring the nooks and crannies of this unique region, which comprises a delicate ecosystem of prairies, badlands, and riparian habitats.
A visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park will undoubtedly teach you something. Interpretive signs mark some of the routes, so adventurers can learn about the area’s history. You may be walking in the footsteps of the largest animals ever to roam this Earth! Needless to say, hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park engages and excites young children since they can wander around pretending a Brontosaurus is around the corner.
Even though the dinosaurs are long extinct, wildlife watching remains a fun activity in Dinosaur Provincial Park. While you’re exploring along the banks of the Red Deer River and through the hoodoos and cacti, keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, antelope, coyotes, and mule. Along the ground, you might encounter red-sided garter snakes, bull snakes, and prairie rattlesnakes. To avoid snake encounters and preserve the ecosystem, stick to the designated trails.
If dinosaur fossils, special wildlife, and fascinating landscapes aren’t enough to entice you to visit Dinosaur Provincial Park, its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site might solidify your interest. The park was formed in 1955 and gained its UNESCO recognition in 1979. Exploring on foot remains the preferred way to navigate the park, so we’ve listed the best hiked in Dinosaur Provincial Park to help you plan your trip.
The 5 Great Hikes in Dinosaur Provincial Park
As you can imagine, this dinosaur fossil field is terrific for families with young children. The best hikes in Dinosaur Provincial Park provide insight into the area with interpretive signs and lead hikers through a world of sandstone ridges, hoodoos, pinnacles, grasslands, and wetlands. All are reasonably short and easy, giving you and your family plenty of time to appreciate the little details and read all the informative signs.
As this is a precious ecosystem, you must stay on the trails to protect the precious habitats around the routes. Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park can be done year-round, but check for rainy conditions as the rocks can get very slippery when wet!
- Scenic Loop Trail: If you only have one day to explore Dinosaur Provincial Park, this is the best trail to explore. It combines three of the park’s trails, giving you a well-rounded journey filled with views of the Badlands with its unique sandstone cliffs and vegetation, some interpretive signs, and ultimate birdwatching. Take the kids on a half-day expedition around Dinosaur Provincial Park.
- Coulee Viewpoint Trail: This short and rewarding hike leads to an epic viewpoint over Dinosaur Provincial Park. Expect to be surrounded by otherworldly landscapes of cliffs, canyons, and unique vegetation. Once you reach the top, you can imagine dinosaurs once roaming this land!
- Badlands Trail: Follow a well-marked lollipop route that leads you into the stunning scenery of the Badlands, including hoodoos, which are fascinating rock formations. If you head here during spring and summer, you’ll be welcomed with fragrant wildflowers covering the landscape. Insider tip: explore this trail at dawn or dusk to admire the magical colours created by the rising and setting sun.
- Trail of the Fossil Hunters: Most of the trails in Dinosaur Provincial Park have signboards, but this trail is particularly interesting. It provides information about the fossils found in this area. If anyone in your family loves fossils, definitely walk this short route. There are two Fossil Stations to teach you more about the park’s history.
- Cottonwood Flats Trail: This unique trail takes you to the riparian habitat around the Red Deer River and offers a completely different vibe than the other trails in Dinosaur Provincial Park. You’ll walk among giant Cottonwood trees and see vegetation and wildlife thriving along the riverbed. Suitable for all skill levels, this trail has informational signs to enhance your experience. Be sure to bring bug spray on this one!
When is the Best Time to Hike in Dinosaur Provincial Park?
The trails in Dinosaur Provincial Park are open year-round, but due to its location in southeastern Alberta, the park sees a lot of snowfall during winter. The best time to visit might surprise you: shoulder season! Yes, April and May are ideal months to visit. The spring sun melts the snow, and the summer crowds are nowhere to be seen. September and early October come in a close second, but the nights will be a little colder. Summer, of course, would be a fantastic time to explore the region, but take precautions like wearing a hat, sunscreen, and packing plenty of water, and know that it will be busy.
Other Outdoor Activities in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Hiking remains one of the most engaging ways to explore this area, but water-lovers, fear not! Dinosaur Provincial Park encompasses part of the Red Deer River and some other water features, allowing canoeing and kayaking opportunities during the summer. Cyclists can take a short ride on the Public Scenic Loop Road for 3.5 km. Apart from the interpretive trails, the Visitor Centre operates tours, including guided tours, family tours, and enriched learning programs for groups. Photographers should also head to this area for some epic snaps of the eroded landscape under ever-changing skies.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big is Dinosaur Provincial Park?
Dinosaur Provincial Park covers an area of 73.29 square kilometres in southeastern Alberta.
What cities are close to Dinosaur Provincial Park?
The closest city to Dinosaur Provincial Park is Brooks, 48.0 km southwest. A few prairie villages are closer, but for supplies, you’ll want to head to a city. Drumheller is a two-hour drive north, and Calgary is a two-and-a-half-hour drive west of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Why do people visit Dinosaur Provincial Park?
Apart from its unique ecosystem, Dinosaur Provincial Park marks an area where the most dinosaur fossils have been found in Canada, dating back to the Cretaceous Period. It’s a fascinating zone that UNESCO recognizes for its plant and animal life and its paleontological significance.
Where can I stay in Dinosaur Provincial Park?
Within the park boundaries, there are designated campsites and comfort camping options. To reserve your spot, you can book ahead on the Alberta Parks website.
How far is Dinosaur Provincial Park from Calgary?
The park is 220.0 km from Calgary and takes about two and half hours to drive there.
What was the largest dinosaur found in Alberta?
The fossils found in Dinosaur Provincial Park date back an estimated 110 million years, with most being placed in the Cretaceous Period, about 66–81 million years ago. Among these fossils and trackways, the largest dinosaur thought to roam this area was the Tyrannosaurus.
Best Hikes in Dinosaur Provincial Park
Scenic Loop Trail
Walk the beautiful Scenic Loop in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Along the way, hit three of the best trails: Cottonwood Flats Trail, Trail of the Fossil Hunters, and Badlands Trail.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
Cottonwood Flats Trail
The Cottonwood Flats Trail is a unique trail in Dinosaur Provincial Park, with greenery, abundant bird life, and stunning river views.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
Coulee Viewpoint Trail
The Coulee Viewpoint Trail is spectacular. On this short walk, you’ll explore the most dramatic scenery of all the trails in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Don’t miss this highly recommended trail in Dinosaur Provincial Park.
The Badlands Trail is a fine trail to see the beautiful scenery of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Trail of the Fossil Hunters
The Trail of the Fossil Hunters is an interesting little trail in Dinosaur Provincial Park. As you walk along the short path, you’ll see many informational signs providing insight into the fossils found in the area.
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