Prairie Trail is a short, flat loop perched above the entrance into Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta.
Dinosaur Provincial Park is NOT located near Drumheller, Alberta which hosts the world renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. Dinosaur Provincial Park is about a 315 KM drive east and south from Calgary to this relatively isolated provincial park located in the County of Newell 50 KM northeast of Brooks, Alberta. The drive between Calgary and Brooks is predominantly past legions of rolling prairie fields frequently hosting oil and gas wellheads. The big sky drive passes homestead farm dwellings which often include the rustic and fascinating, occasionally crumbling, skeletal structures from previous generations.
Dinosaur Provincial Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Prior to arrival at Brooks the clearly defined exit from the TransCanada Highway swings north past Patricia to jog north and east past hints of progress towards unique and strikingly beautiful Badlands terrain. The park entrance, on prairie above the unique and fascinating canyons, is well defined with flags and engraved rock prior to an immediate right turn into a parking area hosting the clearly signed trailhead for the modest, interpretive Prairie Trail.
The official Prairie Trail is circular, flat and only 300 m (985 ft) long but should be embraced as an opportunity to stretch the legs and deeply inhale the invigoratingly fresh prairie air. A protected and sacred glyphstone addresses the area's indigenous heritage and interpretive significance. Regional interpretive information introduces local flora and fauna along the wide path through grassland.
The Prairie Trail provides a must-do link to the edge of the badlands valleys for panoramic vistas of the terrain hosting unique and spectacular hiking opportunities. A nearby structured viewpoint provides substantial perspective, history and overview for the adventures about to unfold. This is a special place. Hiking well-established dirt trail on the rim above the badlands provides an overview of the badlands plateau bordering the Red Deer River and heightens the anticipation of dropping into the valley.
A wide variety of trail at the top of the valley provides a wide choice of scenic overview. Wiggling streams of water nourish dense shrubbery at the bottom of the valley and ribbons of dirt trail, some sparsely occupied by hikers, lead across the valley bottom to disappear into subsidiary coulees along the valley borders. The beauty of the terraced terrain is surreal.
Crossing the entrance highway provides more opportunity to view fascinating terrain surrounding the park facility and cottonwood forests concealing campgrounds adjacent to the Red Deer River curling through the broad expanse of the valley bottom.
Following the opportunity taken to stretch the legs, the next step is the short, scenic drive into the valley to the large parking facility adjacent to the seasonally available Concession and Convenience Store which hosts a restaurant, grocery and camping supplies, bathrooms and showers, a laundromat and a pay phone.
A well marked trailhead marks the short uphill hike from main parking to the well-appointed Park Visitor Centre and the Royal Tyrrell Museum Field Station. Alternate road access is available for people who cannot do the short, 2 minute on average, hike but parking at the Park Visitor Centre is very limited.
Many areas of the park are closed to the public to protect valuable historic resources while scientific investigation continues perpetually. Fascinating Guided interpretive tours are available seasonably to provide access and education at historic treasures and some of the international scientific endeavor.