Looking for an easy day trip near Calgary? There are many memorable things to do in Drumheller, Alberta. The town population is nearly 8,000, but don’t let its size fool you. This prehistoric playground calle the Canadian Badlands has something for everyone. You’ll find mind-blowing canyons, dinosaurs galore, and so much more!
I’m surely not alone in feeling a bit restless these days. But for you Albertans, what if I said you could feel like you’re in California or Arizona without leaving the province? There are many great things to do in Drumheller! This road trip to the Canadian Badlands provides the chance to explore close to home—including a world-class museum, canyons and hoodoos, and delicious local favourites.
No Shortage of Things To Do in Drumheller
There are a few things that are helpful to know when planning a trip to the Canadian Badlands.
First, not everything is open. The Royal Tyrrell Museum and the World’s Largest Dinosaur are both temporarily closed. However, Drumheller has several outdoor attractions that are perfect for staying safe and fun.
Second, toilets and outhouses are sparse. You won’t find a throne at the hoodoos or Horse Thief Canyon. Before venturing out of Drumheller, find a rest stop in town with toilets like a restaurant or gas station.
Lastly, there’s little in the way of trail signage. You’ll be able to locate the hoodoos and the Horse Thief Canyon easily on Google Maps, but there are few markers once on the trail.
Discover Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
Sadly, there won’t be any discovery at the “dinosaur museum” these days. The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology is temporarily closed as of December 13. Even so, no Drumheller feature would be complete without mentioning this history hotspot.
I loved dinosaurs as a kid, with The Land Before Time on my most-watched list. I still get excited to learn more about these prehistoric wonders. Dinosaurs roamed the Canadian Badlands over 75 million years ago, and many fossils are still discovered around Drumheller! Needless to say, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is heaven for dinosaur-loving kids and adults alike. Hopefully its doors can reopen sometime soon.
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Walk Among the Hoodoos
First things first, what the heck are hoodoos? They’re sandstone pillars that take millions of years to form, some standing 5 to 7 metres tall. You’re guaranteed to see these giant hoodoos just south of Drumheller, and we also found several smaller hoodoos at Horse Thief Canyon. These sandstone spectacles are all over the Canadian Badlands.
You’ll find the giant hoodoos in Willow Creek, just 15 minutes southeast of Drumheller. We spent an hour exploring around. At the main location, you can walk the trail to get the bird’s-eye view from above. If you continue down the road, you’ll find another trail with fewer people.
There’s much to explore in this semi-arid climate. Slow down to find the blooming prairie crocus and the prickly pear cactus (watch your step!). There are also prairie rattlesnakes and northern scorpions, but we didn’t see any.
Note: Snakebites are very uncommon in Alberta, and no one has ever died from a rattlesnake bite. If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.
Horse Thief Canyon: Highlight of the Badlands
Horse Thief Canyon is well worth the visit, as one of the most popular attractions near Drumheller. Don’t be surprised to find many visitors exploring the area. Not to worry, as there’s plenty of space to stay physically distant here.
This canyon is an incredible natural site. You can either enjoy the canyon from above, or trek down to explore the canyon floor. We spent 45 minutes walking in the canyon but could have enjoyed for much longer if time allowed.
Why’s it called Horse Thief Canyon? Well, let’s just it was called the Wild West for a reason. As legend has it, thieves stored their stolen horses and cattle in the canyon some years ago. That would be an incredible game of hide and seek….
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The World’s Largest Dinosaur
Who doesn’t wanna see a 25-metre-high (that’s 86 feet tall!) Tyrannosaurus rex? Even for just a quick stop, you don’t want to miss this massive creature in the Dinosaur Capital of the World.
You can typically climb the stairs up the T-Rex to see Drumheller from its tooth-filled mouth. However, the lookout is currently closed due to public health measures. But it’s still a worthwhile stop and there’s even a park with picnic tables for a nice rest.
Holy Thing To Do in Drumheller
Whether you attend church on the regular or not, you’ll probably enjoy this tiny little building in Drumheller. They say the Little Church holds 10,000 people—6 people at a time. You can’t go inside right now, but it’s still a unique little stop. Designed as a place of worship and meditation, the Little Church is now a popular tourist attraction.
Burger and Shake at Bernie & the Boys
If you’re looking for lunch or supper in Drumheller, you can’t go wrong with takeout from Bernie and the Boys. We stumbled across this restaurant on Google, and it was easily one of our trip highlights. I got Steve’s Dad’s Burger with the best poutine I’ve had in Western Canada (Seriously… amazing!). To top it all off, the tiramisu milkshake really hit the spot. They’ve got tonnes of fun milkshake flavours.
Some might say that this place rivals Calgary’s famous Peter’s Drive-In….
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Local Latte at Black Mountain Roasters
Doesn’t matter where I am, I love finding local cafes to enjoy a latte or cup o’ jo. Drumheller’s Black Mountain Roasters has delicious caffeinated options. Get your coffee fix and support local at the same time. I had the vanilla latte… yum!
Have you spent time in Drumheller, Alberta? What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear about your experience in the Canadian Badlands—drop a comment below!
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