While planning my itinerary through southern Alberta with Trip Alberta, it was important for me to visit the province’s Badlands area. What this remote area lacks in big cities it more than makes up for with its stunning landscapes. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, and Dinosaur Provincial Park was the highlight of my time in Alberta. Here are a few reasons why I think Dinosaur Provincial Park should be near the top of everyone’s travel bucket list.
1. Remoteness – Located about 48 kilometers from the nearest town, Brooks (population 13,000), and close to any number of small villages, Dinosaur Provincial Park is not a place one chances upon. This UNESCO World Heritage Site may not be an urban site, but that is part of its charm. Calling the Canadian Badlands home, the Park includes nearly 20,000 acres of stunning badlands terrain, hiding just beneath the soil those oh so famous dinosaurs. For me it was nice to visit such a remote location, to get away from the hustle and bustle and to be forced into a state of focus; focus on the park itself and the overall experience. There’s a lot to be said for that and personally it made my time there all the more richer.
2. Comfort camping – Since it’s remote you may be worried about where to stay. It’s true, many visitors come for the day and stay either in Brooks or other cities. But for the ultimate experience, I think it’s important to stay in the Park itself. They offer a variety of traditional camping and RV opportunities, but they also have something a little more special built with people in me in mind.
I love being close to nature, until it’s time to go to sleep. At that point a nice bed and private area is important to me, which is why the comfort camping in was so much fun. A series of outfitter’s tents with a wooden structure covering each one, these spacious tents include a very comfortable bed, tables, sofa and everything else you might need to enjoy a few days in the Park. You can grill out and I saw many families who, along with me, decided to call the comfort camp home for a couple of days. There’s nothing like being out there, listening to the soft call of a coyote far in the distance and realizing that yes, you are indeed in a very special place.
3. Beauty of the Badlands – Canyons, ravines, gullies and hoodoos; these are just a few of the many geographical features that define this beautiful type of terrain. While badlands can be found around the world, Alberta’s Badlands are a special kind of beautiful. Driving along the straight and narrow road with massive farms on either side the last thing I expected to find was the sudden and immense expanse of shockingly gorgeous badlands terrain that make up Dinosaur Provincial Park. A scenic overlook as you arrive to the park is the perfect introduction, and over the course of two days I saw hundreds of people stop and admire the stunning view.
You can do more than just look at the terrain though; you can immerse yourself in it. Through a variety of guided walks, the rangers at Dinosaur Provincial Park lead thousands of intrepid souls through the nature reserve every year, to admire the beauty, hunt for fossils or just to get closer to nature. No matter how you choose to see the badlands, the physical terrain is an important part of the visitor’s experience in the Park.
4. Yes, the dinosaurs – Don’t worry, I haven’t left out the most important part of the Dinosaur Provincial Park experience – the dinosaurs! Over 40 different species of dinosaurs have been found in the Park, making it one of the most important centers of world research for paleontologists and a lot of fun for tourists to visit.
I learned more about dinosaurs in a few days than I had learned in the previous 38 years of my life. The Park does a great job of educating the public, from the youngest to oldest, about the remarkable history of the area in ways that are both fun and engaging. A variety of programs and hikes take dinosaurs from the books to real life and it’s hard not to walk away a little more knowledgeable and a whole lot happier. I joined the Centrosaurus Quarry Hike, a great 3 kilometer walk through the Badlands that masterfully intertwined sightseeing with education and ended with the presentation of fossils still embedded in the soil. It’s one thing to learn about dinosaurs and to intellectually understand what paleontologists do, but seeing it in person takes it to a whole new level.
These are just a few reasons why I honestly think Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. There’s a reason why it’s the first aspect of the trip I decided to write about, it made that dramatic of an impression on me. Even if dinosaurs hold limited interest for you, go for the beauty of the natural landscapes, I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t want to see these vistas in person.
Have you been to Dinosaur Provincial Park? What did you do there?