Drumheller, is north-east of Calgary, Alberta
Horseshoe Canyon - The Badlands - Drumheller, Alberta, Canada
Just prior to dropping from big sky, prairie farmland into Drumheller, travelling north on Highway 9, there is a pullout to a parking area at the crest of a valley for amazing views of the colored layers in Horseshoe Canyon.
Horseshoe Canyon offers a variety of excellent, rustic, hiking opportunities but this is only a hint of attractions to come.
Drumheller, Alberta, Canada is a town nestled in the Red Deer River Valley an hours drive northeast of Calgary. Time and weather have eroded the valley into badlands formations and a history of coal mining offers a unique and worthwhile road trip combined with a wide variety of wilderness adventure and day hiking opportunities.
To the northwest of Drumheller, clearly signed, often red-colored highway, leads to a wide variety of world class attractions. At the Midland Coal Mine Exhibit there are interpretive trails which document the history of the mine and short off trail treks will reveal foundations of old processing facilities. This is a short, easy hike through history.
The Dinosaur Trail is a paved road on pavement that is often red due to materials available in the area. The North Dinosaur Trail meanders the bottom of the north side of the Red Deer River Valley bottom, west from Drumheller, for a short road trip to the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.
Adjacent interpretive trails provide amazing views of the landscape. There have been a number of dinosaur remains found in this area but the main Alberta digs are a long driving distance south and east in Dinosaur Provincial Park to the northwest of Brooks, Alberta.
Driving further up the North Dinosaur Trail passes the tiny church, which seats 10,000, to the top of Horsethief Canyon, where other wilderness hiking opportunities abound. It is quality time to take a few minutes to absorb the incredible views from the top before traveling on to the Bleriot Ferry which takes the vehicle across the Red Deer River.
It is wise to be prepared for a long wait in the lineup for the tiny ferry but today the trip is quick across the Red Deer River to South Dinosaur Trail, along the top of the Red Deer River Valley, with fabulous, expansive viewpoints and outstanding photographic opportunities on the return trip to Drumheller.
Driving south-east from Drumheller on Hwy 10, arrival at Rosedale and a left turn for the short drive to the park area begins the walk across the suspension bridge over the Red Deer River that leads to a myriad of trails through property of the long-abandoned Star Mine. A quick uphill hike over dunes arrives at the old trestles partially buried by the flow of clay-like terrain.
Back at the Rosedale intersection, crossing Hwy 10 and taking the road south, over 11 bridges (some are single lane traffic) arrives at the hamlet of Wayne, home of the historic Last Chance Saloon, as an enduring reminder of the bustling coal mining era in days long past.
Around Wayne, there are many, short, scenic hikes to old mining ruins. There is nearly limitless opportunity for fascinating exploration and discovery in an era of intrigue eventually ended by reduced demand for coal and river flooding which repeatedly decimated the town.
Back at Hwy. 10, a turn right continues southeast to the Hoodoos for more hiking through the stark, pristine rock formations and deposits of petrified wood. Continuing down Hwy 10, arrival at reconstructed remnants of the old Atlas Coal Mine provide the opportunity to explore Canada's largest free-standing coal tipple.
The Atlas Coal Mine is a National Historic Site. The historic site is receiving the benefit of a limited budget, long-term, restoration project. Dedicated tour guides in the summer lead visitors into and through the fascinating tipple. Many of the original buildings, and examples of generations of mining equipment remain and, combined with brilliant oratory, the remarkable experience is memorable and educational.
Continuing south on Highway 10 leads to the exit for Finnegan Ferry which will provide transport across the Red Deer River again.
A brief stop for refreshment complements a walking tour of the restored, turn-of-the-century, quaint town of Rosebud, Alberta, home of live theater in the restored Opera House. At the end of this long exhilarating day the only task remaining is the return drive to Calgary.
This brief description of a fascinating road trip with frequent, brief, intermittent stops offers a taste of the wide variety of unique attractions. The road trip can be achieved on a long, summer day between sunrise and sunset, but those who have only one day will be constantly moving to get it done.
The badlands area offers a wonderful experience of discovery and learning for children and there will be no time for them to say "Are we there yet?" Those of us who are blessed to live in this area, travel here often with guests and easily spend an entire day hiking and exploring portions of the areas mentioned. It is a remarkable area rich in history that began with the dinosaur population. If you have time, try to take in the view from the mouth of the large dinosaur in the center of Drumheller.