In the heart of beautiful badlands filled with dinosaur fossils and hoodoos, sits the town of Drumheller. There’s a lot to like about this little community and the attractions that surround it. There is a world class museum, a national historic site, hiking trails, hoodoos and much more all within an easy drive. Here are our suggestions for best things to do in Drumheller in both summer and winter.
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The Royal Tyrrell Museum
The Royal Tyrrell Museum tops the list of things to do in Drumheller. It is one of the best dinosaur museums in the world and the official repository for all of the fossils discovered in Alberta. The world’s top paleontologists do important research at the facility. Every year, new discoveries are made that advance mankind’s knowledge of the age of dinosaurs. In 2020, the museum announced the discovery of a new species of Tyrannosaur.
Seeing hoodoos is one of the best things to do in Drumheller in any season. It takes millions of years of erosion to form a five-metre-tall hoodoo and that makes the collection of hoodoos outside Drumheller even more incredible. A hoodoo is a giant sandstone pillar that rests on a thick base of shale that is capped by a large stone. The hoodoo site contains a large group of five to seven-metre tall hoodoos, but you can see smaller hoodoos throughout the badlands surrounding Drumheller.
Related: Check out our post about Things to do in Red Deer in Winter.
Drumheller Hiking – Badlands Interpretive Trail
Not far from the Royal Tyrrell Museum is the Badlands Interpretive Trail. The trail and the museum are in Midland Provincial Park and you can park your car in the museum’s parking lot and walk to the trailhead. Interpretive signs along the 1.4-kilometre loop trail explain the geology, flora and history of the region. The scenery is beautiful, and it’s easy to spend an hour exploring and photographing along the trail. Note: Ice cleats and hiking poles are useful if you’re hiking in winter. Bentonite clay, common in this region, gets greasy and slippery when it’s wet.
Related: You’ll want a set of ice cleats if you tackle the trails near Drumheller in winter. Check out our product review of Canadian Tire Ice Cleats.
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site of Canada
This registered national historic site lets you step back in time and see what life was like for coal miners in this region of Alberta. You can ride the mine train, put on a hardhat and go deep inside the tunnels and explore the wooden tipple with a retired miner. Atlas Coal Mine is closed in winter, but you can still stop by for an exterior photograph. This is one of the most historic things to do in Drumheller.
Visit the Ghost Town of Wayne
You’ll cross eleven bridges in just six kilometres getting to the ghost town of Wayne — the most bridges in the shortest distance, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Your reward for making the journey to Wayne is the chance to enjoy a pint at The Last Chance Saloon, a wild west saloon with real bullet holes in the walls. It’s worth the drive.
Related: Read our post Why You Should Visit Wayne, Alberta.
West of Drumheller, Orkney Viewpoint is a beautiful natural viewpoint high on the cliffs above the Red Deer River. There’s a bench to sit on to take in the view. During the summer, bathrooms are open at the site. In winter, the bathroom and the road leading to the viewpoint are both closed. In winter, you can park near the closed sign and walk up the road to the viewpoint. Wear ice cleats if you do this short hike in winter.
Horseshoe Canyon Overlook
For one of the best views of the badlands, visit Horseshoe Canyon Overlook. It’s a short drive from the town of Drumheller and it’s a great thing to do at sunset or sunrise. There is a day use area with viewing platforms and bathrooms. Hiking trails through the canyon give you closer views of the amazing geology of the badlands. The overlook is closed in winter, but you can park outside the day use area and walk to the overlooks. The canyon itself can be slippery in winter making hiking treacherous.
Pizza in a Ghost Town
Rowley is a ghost town that simply won’t die. The hamlet, located 38 kilometres north of Drumheller, hosts a pizza party fundraiser the last Saturday of every month. It’s run by locals who live in the area and for one Saturday each month, Rowley becomes the busiest ghost town on the prairies. On warm summer evenings, hundreds of people show up for the pizza party and wander through the historic buildings.
Visit the World’s Largest Dinosaur
Drumheller is home to the world’s largest dinosaur and seeing it is just one of those things you have to do when you visit. It cost over a million dollars to build the attraction which stands 25 metres (86 feet) tall. It’s a female Tyrannosaurus Rex and it’s 4.5 times bigger than a real T-Rex would have been. It weighs 65 tonnes (145,000 lbs) and for a small fee you can climb the 106 steps in the belly of the beast to take in the view from inside its jaws. Taking a picture from the outside is free.
Star Mine Suspension Bridge
This 117-metre-long pedestrian suspension bridge across the Red Deer River was constructed in 1931 for coal workers at the Star Mine. Today it makes a great photo-op. In summer, you might see locals fishing from the bridge. It’s also sometimes called the Roseddale Suspension Bridge.
Drumheller’s Little Church
The running joke about Drumheller’s Little Church is that it seats 10,000 people – 6 at a time. The tiny church is located on the north side of North Dinosaur Trail between the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the golf course. It was first built in 1968 by a local contractor who was working with the ministerial association. It was reconstructed by prison inmates at the Drumheller Institution in 1991.
Canadian Badlands Passion Play
Every July, hundreds of actors and musicians gather to re-enact the life of Jesus Christ at the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. The production features live music, an original score, incredible costuming and is played in a unique outdoor amphitheatre. The play attracts hundreds of spectators every year.
The tiny town of Rosebud lies just 35 kilometres southwest of Drumheller. Rosebud School of the Arts is a faith-based school that trains actors and others to work in theatre. The Rosebud Dinner Theatre employ the students and other members of the tiny community. The buffet food is delicious and the family-friendly shows are always entertaining and well-done. It’s fun to wander around the community and see the historic buildings.
Take a Tour With Red Deer River Adventures
Local tour operator and outfitter Red Deer River Adventures offers guided kayak and canoe tours in summer and guided snowshoeing and hiking adventures in winter. During a recent winter visit, my husband and I joined co-owner Andy Neuman for a two-hour guided snowshoe trek near McMullen Island Day Use Area in Midland Provincial Park. We loved snowshoeing through the incredible scenery of the Badlands. Along the way, we learned about the geology and history of the region.
Where to Eat
There are quite a few dining options in Drumheller. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Burgers and Milkshakes: Bernie & the Boys Bistro
- Grab a Pint: Vintage Taphouse
- Locally Roasted Coffee: Black Mountain Roasters
- Fine Dining Restaurant: Sublime Food & Wine
Where to Stay
There are plenty of good accommodation options in Drumheller. We stayed at the Canalta Jurassic Hotel, which has a nice hot tub and steam room as well as a free breakfast.
Related: Looking for more Alberta adventures? Read Canmore Cave Tours and a Claustrophobic Caver.