This summer I’ve been driving all over Alberta working on tourism videos with Travel Alberta! I have been a vocal supporter of our beautiful province for some time now, and have worked with Travel Alberta on an ‘Edmonton on Wheels’ tourism video, as well as a Things to do in Edmonton in the Winter video (not yet released), so teaming up again to film these Explore Alberta videos have been so much fun, and only reinforced the love I have for my home province!
There is seriously so much to see and do in Alberta, and such a range of activities that appeal I think to all sorts of people and interests, I’m really excited to share the videos with you (next summer, lol).
In the meantime, I thought I’d blog about just one of the spots we visited during my Explore Alberta summer adventure—the Dinosaur Provincial Park located just two hours south east of Calgary, near Brooks and Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation that means it has ‘outstanding universal value’—home to some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made from the ‘Age of Reptiles,’ dating back 75 million years.
The area (in the heart of Alberta’s badlands) is not only stunning visually, but is unmatched in terms of the number and variety of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the park.
Over 350 full dinosaurs representing over 50 species have been found in the Dinosaur Provincial Park alone.
It’s truly incredible.
Not to be confused with Drumheller, Alberta where the also awesome Royal Tyrell Museum is located, the Dinosaur Provincial Park is more of your outdoors, living exhibit where Royal Tyrell is your indoor museum (that’s the simplest way our guide Donna Martin explained it to us).
Dinosaur lovers should visit both areas (and then head up north to Grande Prairie to see the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum!)
The Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to the largest badlands region in Canada, and receives 100,000 visitors a year.
Lots of people go camping (when we went, it said the campsite was FULL!), hit the trails, and/or book one of the park’s many tours. The Dinosaur Provincial Park does about 12-15 tours a day and are often sold out every day (especially during the summer!)
Beyond the tourists, researchers are digging in this area to find even more dinosaur fossils almost every day too!
Tours at the park range in time and cost. A few hours is really quite affordable (under $20 per adult), but you get into the hundreds of dollars cost if you book one of their more in-depth excavation trips where you can also dig for fossils (legitimately, it’s not like kids’ sandbox digging, it is for real).
Some of Dinosaur Provincial Park’s tours include:
- Bonebed 30 – a 1 Day Guided Excavation
- Explorer’s Bus Tour
- Sunset Tour
- Centosaurus Quarry Hike
- Fossil Safari
- Cast from the Past (indoors)
- Great Badlands Hike
- Fossil Prospecting
They even offer a few days ‘Dig and Discover’ Package which includes accommodations along with a variety of tours.
You can certainly walk and explore the park on your own—there’s a scenic public loop drive that anyone can go through, and areas that are available for public hiking, but it’s with a guided tour where you’ll really get into the heart of the badlands—access to areas of the park you wouldn’t be able to get to on your own, where it feels like there are fossils almost everywhere you step!
For me, and surely others, fossils look a lot like rocks or pebbles. I can never really tell (well, unless it’s clearly like a leg bone, lol). But a fun fact we learned from our guided tour, to tell whether a rock is a fossil, is to just lick your finger and stick it on the rock! If it feels sticky, it’s a fossil! If it doesn’t, it’s a rock. Cool, huh?
Alberta really is known for its dinosaurs.
It’s a big reason tourists (and palaeontologists) come to our province!
And our new drivers licenses even have a dino on them!
Places like the Dinosaur Provincial Park really highlight all the incredible dino history we have in this province.
If you love dinosaurs, or are just interested in doing a unique hike, or visiting a unique spot in Alberta, a visit to this park is a must.
Below are a few more tips for your Dinosaur Provincial Park visit, and I’ll be sure to update this post when our Explore Alberta video visiting this park is ready!
Tips for planning your visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park
- Determine where you’re staying first—are you camping or glamping in the park? Staying in nearby Brooks or Medicine Hat? Or coming in from Calgary? When you’ve decided, be sure to book well in advanced (particularly if you’re going to camp or glamp) because accommodations fill up fast!
- Figure out what tours you want to do. Sure, you can self-guide yourself, but you can’t visit this park without taking in at least one of their guided tours. You’ll learn so much more and get access to so much more! Like planning your stay, when you’ve decided on a tour, book or inquire about booking well in advance! Part of this planning also includes deciding whether you want to add in even more dinosaur fun by visiting Drumheller and the Royal Tyrell Museum too! Might as well make it a dinosaur week/weekend.
- Know when to go! The Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre is actually open YEAR ROUND! But their hours of operation change depending on what season you’re in. Spring season runs April 1-June 23 (open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Summer season is June 24-Sept 3 (open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Fall season is Sept. 4-Oct. 8 (open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends) and Winter season runs Oct. 9 – Mar. 31 (open only weekdays 9a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Bring comfortable walking shoes, water, snacks, and don’t forget your camera! Treat exploring the badlands like going on a hike. There will be ups and downs, and some tough terrain. And depending on the day, it could get really hot. So be prepared, stay hydrated, and obviously make sure your phone and camera are charged up for lots of photos. This is such a unique setting, you need to take photos!
- Speaking of photos, be sure to check out the Instagram location tag for Dinosaur Provincial Park and get inspired with the photos, settings, and poses. Do it for the gram! Their ‘Sunset Tour’ in particular is geared towards photographers so that’s likely a great one to go on!
- There aren’t too many food options at the park—just a “Cretaceous Cafe” (lol, super cute). It’s a convenient stop, but you should plan to bring snacks, or eat before or after in nearby Brooks, Medicine Hat or Calgary! Speaking of those places, they are probably your best bets for nearby gas stations. Make sure your car has ample fuel before you make the trek out!
So there you have it, my run-down of what you need to know before you visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park.
I’m not the expert though, so if you do have more questions, be sure to ask the park’s Visitor Centre!
All in all, I think the Dinosaur Provincial Park is a really cool place that makes a great attraction for tourists, but also somewhere that all Albertans should be visiting too. There’s so much to see and do in the province, get out there and explore Alberta!
Have you been to Dinosaur Provincial Park? What’d you think?!
Disclaimer: I am working with Travel Alberta this summer to create Explore Alberta tourism videos showcasing our beautiful province! My trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park was complimentary as part of my paid partnership with Travel Alberta. This has no impact on opinions stated in this post. I think dinosaurs are the coolest, and want to go back to explore Dinosaur Provincial Park immediately.