Alberta Day Trip – The Badlands

Jon’s brother and sister were out visiting the past weekend and since this was their first time in Alberta since our wedding (2005) and their first time in Calgary, we spent some time showing them the sights. While we did take them to the mountains (you can’t really come all this way and not go) we also took them to the less traveled “badlands” to see another part of Alberta. While I’ll always love heading to the mountains, our mini-roadtrip east of Calgary was a nice change and a chance to cross some items off my Alberta bucket list. We only had a half day to take in as much as we could but I think we did a good job!

Stop 1 – Picnic Lunch at Horseshoe Canyon

We left Calgary around 11:30 and took Hwy 9 East for about an hour to the well signed Horseshoe Canyon Recreation Area for an overview of some “badlands” terrain. It hasn’t been that long since we were last at the canyon but  there have been several improvements to the site including a set of stairs to make it easier to access the canyon and lots of viewing platforms. We took some photos of the canyon and then headed down to the bottom to explore a little bit. We didn’t spend much time in the canyon but you could easily wander for quite a while.

Baby’s first trip to the Alberta Badlands

After we checked out the canyon we climbed back up the stairs (which isn’t a huge climb but the stairs are at a very awkward height) and ate the picnic lunch I’d packed while admiring the view. There are picnic tables, trash cans and out houses so it was a good place to stop for a bit.

Stop 2 – The World’s Largest Dinosaur

After lunch we loaded back into the Rover and got back on the highway for the 15 minute drive into Drumheller. While I’m sure there are other things to do in the town, we were there to see the World’s Largest Dinosaur (I’m a sucker for the largest statues of things). Just follow the signs to the Tourist Info Centre and it’s hard to miss!

We didn’t but you can pay $4 to climb up inside for views over the city

Stop 3 – The Hoodoo Trail

From the dinosaur we headed east out of Drumheller for about 15 minutes to the Hoodoo Trail. I’d never been before but the site has a very short developed trail around some hoodoos as well as the option to explore. We opted for a quick visit just to see the main hoodoos but a longer walk would be possible.

Lots of cheesy family shots happening!

Stop 4 – The Star Mine Suspension Bridge

Along with all the spectacular scenery, the Drumheller area has lots of historical sites. We didn’t have time to visit everything but it was easy to squeeze in a stop at the bridge since it is just off the highway as you return towards Drumheller from the Hoodoo Trail. You can cross the bridge to access the hills on the other side of the river but we just had time for a quick stop as the little guy was demanding to be fed.

Stop 5 – The Last Chance Saloon

By this point we’d been out in the sun all afternoon and were ready for a cold drink so just west of the suspension bridge we took the signed road to Wayne to visit the Last Chance Saloon. A drink at the saloon has been on my to-do list for a while and it was the perfect day for it since the bar was quiet and it was warm enough to enjoy the patio. The saloon is kid friendly so the little guy enjoyed a nap while the adults enjoyed a beverage.

Taking a break from the sun and enjoying a beverage on the patio
Last Chance Saloon and Rosedeer Hotel – just in case you want to spend the night
Some of the seating options inside the saloon

Stop 6 – Back Home to Calgary

From Wayne we retraced our route back to Drumheller and then home to Calgary. We left Wayne just after 4:00pm and made it home just before 6:00 pm with everyone feeling just a little tired.

While we’ve got other adventures planned for the next while, I’m definitely going to be thinking about some other ways to explore east of Calgary this summer and visit a few of the sites we missed on this trip.

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