Trail of the Fossil Hunters is an educational hiking experience in Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta, Canada.
The one-way, 3.2 KM (2⅛ mile) Public Loop Road across the bridge from the campground at Dinosaur Provincial Park provides a collection of short, easy and fascinating hiking trail opportunities. Past the trail-head for the Badlands Trail there is a clearly-signed, short and worthwhile diversion from the Public Loop Road to visit Fossil House # 1. No official trails begin from here but the exhibit provides excellent perspective for the fossil recovery work underway here which has secured Dinosaur Provincial Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the best representation of late Cretaceous period fossils on the planet. Recovery efforts, which began in the Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush between 1910 and 1917, continue today.
Images above are from a brief preliminary visit to Fossil House #1
The Trail of the Fossil Hunters begins further along around the Public Loop Road at Fossil House # 2.
Interpretive information at Fossil House #2 addresses the history and collection of prehistoric specimens and the structure contains samples of the tools, equipment and process employed in fossil reclamation.
The obvious trail-head is adjacent to Fossil House #2. The excellent quality, gravel, 0.9 KM (⅝ of a mile one-way) trail gains gentle elevation through fascinating badlands terrain. Viewpoints near the crest of the hill host benches to relax and enjoy the impressive view.
The gentle downhill hike past the crest expands Badlands vistas with longer views as the trail continues towards one of the original quarry sites where many dinosaur fossils were discovered then preserved and extracted for shipment to world-wide, renowned museums capable of performing the delicate extraction of fossilized dinosaur remains from the solidified pits of prehistoric mud which encased them.
Interpretive plaques provide fascinating history of the early days of less-disciplined fossil recovery in substantially less regulated and less sophisticated times during the original frontiers of discovery and excavation. Multiple interpretive panels provide overview information. Books have been written. Surrounding terrain reveals clues from original recovery efforts wandering around the interpretive signage reveals a series of sturdy steel survey spikes serving as reminders of past scientific exploration and recovery.
The return hike is via the same route used for access.
At the crest of the hill, it is worth the time to enjoy surrounding views. Fossil House # 2 is visible at the parking area and tiny, moving specks on surrounding mounds and ridges are hikers exploring alternative, less formal features of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Tragically, vandalism is a serious problem here as evidenced by marks on soft rock surfaces.
Click here on Trail of the Fossil Hunters for one expansive view from the trail crest.
This short, easy trail is fully exposed to the sun. On a typically hot and dry summer day, sensible precautions like sunscreen and the intake of fluids can prevent an ugly and potentially dangerous experience.
There are a large number of paleontology sites across Canada from coast to coast. This link to the Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre website provides a comprehensive list of these opportunities. Perhaps there is a site near you.