Compiled by the Road Trip Alberta team
Updated on December 18, 2020
Many people who visit Alberta immediately look west. And we can’t blame them – the Rocky Mountains possess an interminable draw. But it would be a mistake to repeatedly do so and not turn attention to the east, where the Canadian Badlands stretch out across the prairies, and where the town of Drumheller sits as its epicentre.
It is nearly all dinosaurs, all the time, as Drumheller is home to the world-famous Royal Tyrell Museum, and is Canada’s only museum dedicated to paleontology. There are so many creative and fun experiences within the museum and around it, even just spotting all the dinosaur statues around town (including the world’s largest!) is a fun way to spend some hours.
But the geology of the Badlands themselves is also a marvel. Have you ever hopped on a hoodoo? Probably not, if you haven’t been to or around Drumheller, but trust us and add it to your bucket-list.
Our complete guide of what to do in Drumheller will give you all you need to know on how to get here and enjoy this goodness in the Badlands.
About the Town
The land on which Drumheller is located is Treaty 7 territory and the traditional territory of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Nakoda (Stoney), and Tsuut’ina.
The area around Drumheller was once a tropical paradise full of flora and fauna, and dinosaurs flourished here.
Drumheller was first a railway station, and was first incorporated as a village in 1913, and then was recognized as a city in 1930. It started out as a coal-mining town and boomed until after WWII. In 1998 it amalgamated with the Municipal District of Badlands and reverted back to town status.
Today Drumheller is a hot-spot for dinosaur tourism and the agriculture industry. The community is known for its hospitality and sunny days.
Fun fact: The first part of the Albertosaurus was found in the Drumheller area all the way back in the 1880’s!
Where is Drumheller?
Driving east through southern Alberta’s rolling prairies, and suddenly the fields will give way to steep and colourful coulees! The Drumheller Valley is the heart of the Canadian Badlands. 281kms southeast from Edmonton or 136kms northeast from Calgary, you’ll find the town at the crossroads of Highway 56 and Highway 9. (For detailed instructions, check out our guide on how to get to Drumheller).
Getting to Drumheller
Calgary to Drumheller – The drive from Calgary is 135km and takes 1 ½ hours on Highway 9.
Edmonton to Drumheller – If you’re driving south from Edmonton, the drive is 280km and it takes 3 hours.
Lethbridge to Drumheller – The trip from Medicine Hat is 244km, which is around 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Medicine Hat to Drumheller – Driving from Medicine Hat is 262km and takes 2 ¾ hours.
Looking for some fun things to do along the way? We’ve got a whole article themed on Alberta Badlands road trips that will be sure to fill you with ideas.
The closest airport to Drumheller is Calgary International (YYC). For directions on how to get from YYC to Drumheller, check out our Drumheller travel guide.
Note that Wild West Badlands Tours acts as a Taxi service from the Calgary International Airport to help you get to town.
There are currently no direct bus routes from Calgary and Edmonton to the Drumheller area. Some taxis will take you from Calgary, but finding willing drivers elsewhere can be tough. See our travel to Drumheller guide for more information.
Getting Around Drumheller
Drumheller is a small town – so small in fact, that it does not have a public transit system! People get around via car, bicycle or walking. The town has a tourist map to help you find your way by foot.
For Taxis in Drumheller you are also low on options. Classic Cabz is the only choice.
When to Visit Drumheller
You’ll want to visit when there’s plenty of daylight to get as much exploring time as possible – that means visiting Drumheller between June and September! Make sure to book accommodations and tours ahead of time to avoid disappointment as the little town can get very busy.
Where to Sleep
Luxury(ish) – Keep in the dinosaur theme of your vacation going and stay at the Canalta Jurassic! In addition to a great location, this top-rated Drumheller hotel also includes a free breakfast with your stay. And if you are traveling with kids, Ramada by Wyndham is also in a great location and offers an indoor pool and waterslides.
Mid-range – Benefit from the remarkable Badlands scenery in a budget-friendly hotel. Travelodge by Wyndham is nestled right in the river valley and is a great option if you are only looking for a place to spend the night and have unlimited adventures happening all day during your stay.
Budget – Take your dinosaur experiences with a side of local history and stay in the Dinosaur Hotel which was originally built in 1924 and has rooms for cheap.
Home away from home – Airbnb is always one of our favourite ways to stay in new places and there are a few options for a Drumheller Airbnb to choose from!
Camping – Planning on pulling your own RV or pitching a tent? Then we’ve got you covered with this guide to the best Drumheller camping spots.
Sights to See in Drumheller
A hoodoo is a tall and thin rock spire made of sandstone. Formed over millions of years, the Drumheller hoodoos mark the landscape surrounding the town and provide a remarkable backdrop for selfies! Standing 5 to 7 feet tall, smaller versions of hoodoos can be found throughout the Badlands but the biggest ones can be found in a protected site right within Drumheller (just outside of town, east on Highway 10). Keep in mind that hoodoos are extremely fragile so climbing in most places is prohibited.
Horseshoe Canyon & Horsethief Canyon
There are two canyons near Drumheller which allow for magnificent views (and plenty of hiking). Of the two, Horseshoe Canyon is busier due to being right on Highway 9, so it sees plenty of Calgary traffic but is only 17kms southwest of Drumheller. To get to Horsethief Canyon, follow the Dinosaur Trail north past the Royal Tyrrell Museum for 16kms.
Both canyons are where the yellow canola fields meet the quintessential Badlands landscape. Get a tour by air or step down into the canyon with some hiking boots – just be sure to follow the interpretive signs as it’s deceptively easy to get turned around in the canyons.
Located 17kms northwest of Drumheller, this simple lookout provides some of the most stunning views of the Red Deer Valley. Perched high on red rock cliffs watch the Red Deer river snake through the river valley for a great distance.
World’s Largest Dinosaur
Climb 106 stairs into the mouth of the largest dinosaur in the world to take in the views of downtown Drumheller! The dinosaur structure stands 86 ft (25 metres) tall and 151 ft long and she (yes she!) has been looking over the town since 2001. The Drumheller dinosaur is an iconic part of this Dinosaur Capital of the World, and certainly one of the most popular of all the Alberta roadside attractions.
Take a self-guided tour around downtown Drumheller and get to know over 20 dinosaurs that were discovered in the area. Each way-finding sign location features one of the dinosaurs, so you can learn about the prehistoric heritage while visiting different areas around the town. All of the locations are mapped out here.
Rossdale Suspension Bridge
Located just 9 km from Drumheller, the historic Rosedale Suspension Bridge was once used by miners to get to and from the mines. Now the bridge is a favourite fishing spot with the locals and of course, now offers a cool backdrop for photo ops.
Things to Do in Drumheller
Being the Dinosaur Capital of the World, Drumheller offers visitors the world-class Royal Tyrrell Museum which takes visitors into the not so distant past when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Housing the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs, and Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to palaeontology, this museum is a must-see and makes a great day trip destination from Calgary. Marvel at the hundreds of thousands of fossils in the museum and take in the sheer magnitude of the reconstructed displays. They also allow a glimpse into the work uncovering each fossil takes with observation windows into palaeontologist labs. Tip: Test your hand at archaeology and sign-up for one of their interactive digs experiences!
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
Step back in time to a more dusty and dirty period in Alberta’s history. The history of coal mining and the time when “Coal was King” in the Drumheller Valley is displayed at Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. Their signature experiences take curious visitors on specialty tours that explore parts of the site not normally seen by the public.
East Coulee School Museum
Twenty minutes east of Drumheller, the East Coulee School Museum gives a glimpse into the life of a coal town, focusing on the home life and schools of the coal mining era of the Drumheller Valley. The 11-room building operated as a school from 1930-1971 and now pays tribute to the men and women who built their homes, raised their families, and contributed to the coal mining community of East Coulee.
Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Centre
Get a dinosaur experience that is fun for the whole family at the Fossil World Discovery Centre, complete with an animatronic T Rex! Enjoy a variety of hands-on experiences including digging up a dinosaur skeleton and learning how to identify different minerals while taking in over 200 real fossil specimens. And don’t forget to check out Drumheller’s largest fossil and souvenir gift shop on your way through.
Badlands Amphitheatre & Rosebud Theatre
The outdoor Badlands Amphitheatre is naturally formed by the massive Badlands coulees and seats 2,500 spectators. Throughout the summer season, it holds a variety of musical, theatre, and light shows.
For another performing arts option, the Rosebud Theatre attracts its own share of visitors to this community of fewer than 100 people, just 35kms southwest of Drumheller. With five plays a year and shows happening seven times a week, the musical and theatrical productions at Rosebud Theatre are widely-acclaimed.
Food to Eat
- A unique dining experience is located in a (very) small community of Wayne, Alberta which is just southeast of Drumheller and has a population of roughly 50 people. The Last Chance Saloon is in the historic Rosedeer Hotel and served thirsty coal miners in the 1920’s when the Rosedeer Coal Mine was across the street. Now it is a decorated restaurant where every item on the walls has a story behind it.
- Definitely plan to go to Whifs FlapJack House if you are looking for the best breakfast joint in Drumheller. (Note that they are closed during winter months, and generally open again in March.) Tip: get there before lunch because they close shortly after!
- Featured on the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”, Bernie & the Boys Bistro is known for their extremely generous portion sizes and serving the juiciest burgers in Drumheller. Tip: If you’re into spicy food, try the Volcano Burger with magma sauce!
In the Area
In just 1 1/2 hours you can find yourself in CowTown. Whether you’re a foodie, an art lover, or a sports enthusiast, the biggest city in Alberta has something that everyone will love! Take a walk down 17th avenue SW for some shopping and people watching (there are many great restaurants there too). Catch sports action at one of the stadiums around the city or get involved yourself at WinSport or one of the many beloved parks. Our full Calgary Destination Guide covers everything you’ll need to know! Want to cruise a little further? Take yourself from the Badlands to the Rockies, as you can also reach Banff in just a little over an hour more. Let our Banff Destination Guide woo you there, too.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
If your dinosaur interests have been peaked but not sated, we highly recommend also visiting Dinosaur Provincial Park. Just 170 km east of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Dinosaur Provincial Park is the location where many of the displays in the museum are recovered from the earth and fossil fragments are scattered across the landscape.