Exploring Dinosaur Provincial Park

by - Monday, June 15, 2015

Every time I visit Dinosaur Provincial Park, I am astonished when the prairie gives way to badlands. The landscape suddenly changes from flatland to a world of whimsical hoodoos, striped hills, and sculpted coulees that looks it came from a Dr. Seuss book! Take a walk at sunset and the hills come alive with vibrant shades of red. Between the spectacular scenery, epic dinosaur tours (participate in a guided excavation!), and warm weather, it's easy to see why Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top places to camp in Alberta.  

Big POG LOVES Dinosaur Provincial Park!

Things to Do

  • Hiking (info below)
  • Paddling on the Red Deer River (Bring your own boat - no rentals available)
  • Year round RV & tent camping: from early October to early May there is no firewood sales, no water, no showers and no flush toilets
  • Comfort camping: $130 or $105 per night, each unit sleeps 4 people
  • Self-guided hikes & outdoor displays (free)
  • Geocaching: The park currently has 3 geocaches and 1 Earthcache.
  • Fishing - Fishing is permitted in the Red Deer River. See Alberta Fishing Regulations for more information.
  • Free presentations in the amphitheatre
  • Guided hikes & tours including photography tours ($) include: Centrosaurus Quarry Hike, Explorer's Bus Tour, Fossil Safari, Sunset Tour, Fossil Prospecting, Great Badlands Hike, Guided Excavations (1, 2 or 3 days)
  • Children's & Family Programs ($) include: Palaeo Lab Program, Palaeo Puzzlers
  • Dinosaur Digs ($)

Hiking

Coulee Viewpoint Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
There are five self-guided interpretive trails in the park. Our children (3 & 5 at the time) had no difficulty with any of them! Here's a trail summary:
  • Stroller-friendly / wheelchair accessible trails: Cottonwood Flats (1.4 km), Prairie (0.3 km), and Trail of the Fossil Hunters (0.9 km)
  • Easy trails: Badlands (1.3 km), Cottonwood Flats, Prairie, and Trail of the Fossil Hunters
  • More challenging: Coulee Viewpoint (0.9 km)
  • Shady trail: Cottonwood Flats
If you only have time to do one hike in the park, I would recommend the Badlands Trail (easy) or Coulee Viewpoint (moderate). Both are particularly beautiful at sunset.

Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Coulee Viewpoint Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Please note that bikes are not allowed on the interpretive trails. You can, however, bike on the 3 km ring road. Bike racks are available at each trailhead if you would like to bike from camp.

Biking at Dinosaur Provincial Park
To explore other parts of the park, sign up for a guided tour! *To avoid disappointment, book your tour before you go!

Sunset Color along the Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
See 200 year old cottonwood trees on Cottonwood Trail

Camping

Most tent & RV campsites were large and shaded. There is a power loop as well as an unserviced area for tents and many amenities (see below) including showers, a nice playground and boat launch.

For more privacy and premium riverside locations, book a premium Comfort Camping unit.

Our campsite at Dinosaur Provincial Park.
This creek flows through the park and is accessible from the campground.

Park Amenities

  • Dinosaur Visitor Centre: Visitor Information, Gift shop, washrooms, ticket pick-up and pick-up/drop off location for tours, Exhibit Gallery ($) - admission includes free family theatre programs, Free wifi
  • Free amphitheater presentations
  • Campground Office
  • Cretaceous Cafe
  • Convenience Store
  • Playground
  • Showers - take $1 coins
  • Laundry
  • Pay phone
Dinosaur Provincial Park
John Ware Cabin, Dinosaur Provincial Park

Know Before You Go 

Mosquitoes

At certain times of year, the mosquitoes can be really bad. When we were there, they were swarming constantly and no amount of Family Care Off! could keep them away. We love the park, but were only able to stay one night last August due to the bug situation. My advice regarding mosquitoes follows:
  • Bring strong bug spray (the stuff for kids/families is not strong enough) & mosquito head nets. 
  • Cover up as much as you can.
  • Bring a bug screen shelter.
  • Consider Comfort Camping if you do not have a bug screen shelter so you can have more space to relax away from the bugs. 
  • Visit the park earlier or later in the season when there are no bugs. May long weekend and late September are particularly lovely! 
  • Check TripAdvisor reviews to see what the bug conditions are like before you go. 
Rattlesnakes

There are prairie rattlesnakes in the park. They are usually not active during the day, but keep your little ones close and don't let them poke sticks (or hands or feet) in holes!

Guided Tours and Family/Children's Programs

The tours and programs are very high quality and as a result, book up quickly. Plan ahead and book your tour/program early to ensure you get spots. We enjoyed the Fossil Safari program and have heard the Explorers Bus Tour and Centrosaurus Guided Hike are fantastic. If you have the time, sign up for a guided excavation!

Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park

Insider Tip

Allow at least two days so you have time to explore the park, take a tour, and visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller on the way home. The museum houses the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the world and is a must-see.

Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller
Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller

Where Is It?

Dinosaur Provincial Park is located 220 km south-east of Calgary, about 50 km from the town of Brooks.

For More Information

Alberta Parks - Dinosaur Provincial Park
Canadian Badlands
Travel Alberta - Canadian Badlands

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