Millions of years ago, Alberta was a vast land home to lush forests and many species of dinosaurs. Today, the province’s spectacular badlands contain the greatest concentration of Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils on Earth.
A trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park is the ultimate way to explore where dinosaurs once roamed. Located a 2.5-hour drive east of Calgary, Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason – the abundance of fossils is exceptional. There’s been discoveries of more than 50 species of dinosaurs here, as well as many other kinds of ancient animals. Follow these four tips to make the most of a visit to this one-of-a-kind park.
Take a Guided Hike
Most of Dinosaur Provincial Park is a natural preserve, meaning access to many sites is restricted to guided programs. Luckily, there are lots of escorted offerings to choose from, including bus tours, family programs, sunset tours designed especially for photographers, and hikes. For a true taste of exploration, join a guided hike to see the park’s stunning landscape, wildlife, and fossils up close. Deer, coyotes, and pronghorn antelope all live here. Hikes are offered from mid-May until mid-October – reserve your spot for these popular programs online or by phone.
See Bone Beds Up Close
A scenic road accessible year-round winds its way throughout the park. Drive this two-mile loop and stop at two outdoor fossil displays, both providing an insider’s look at the park’s paleontology. One display is modeled on a so-called “bone bed”, a messy concentration of dino bones found together. The other display contains the skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur that’s still partially encased in sediment, a shining example of one of the 150 complete dinosaur skeletons found here.
Follow in the Footsteps of Fossil Hunters
Take a self-guided walk on one of five short trails located throughout the park, ranging from 15 minutes to one hour. These well-worn paths also feature interpretive signage, so you’re sure to learn something along the way. Follow the Trail of the Fossil Hunters to the site of a 1913 quarry, where early relic hunters competed for fossil fame. On the Badlands Trail, discover how the remarkable landscape of valleys, hills, and hoodoos that surround you formed. Wherever you go, you’re likely to see animals, birds, and flowers. Bird watching is especially excellent in May and June – watch for golden eagles, prairie falcons, mountain bluebirds, woodpeckers, and owls.
Explore Interactive Exhibits Indoors
The park’s indoor visitor center, open from April to early October, is worth a stop. For a small admission fee, enter the exhibit gallery and find interactive displays describing the history and significance of this area. Travel back in time and learn about what made this land the perfect habitat for dinosaurs. Watch educational movies in the theater, and stop by the center’s concession for a snack or meal. The visitor center’s friendly information desk is a great place to ask about trail conditions, flowers in bloom, and recent wildlife sightings.