Discover Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Entering Dinosaur Provincial Park was like reliving my childhood. (Cue Land Before Time theme song). One moment you are in the flat parries and the next you entering a whole nother world. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and there are still active digs within the park. The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller actually has artifacts that were found here, and are still finding today.

Even though this park can get busy in the summer months, I would consider this off the beaten path. I think a lot of visitors relate Alberta with the Rocky Mountains. But there is really so much more. Take a chance, get off the beaten path, and discover Dinosaur Provincial Park.

I traveled here June 2017 and July 2019. Read on for tips to make your camping trip a success, as well as a easy to follow itinerary. 

Planning for your stay at Dinosaur Provincial Park

Travel Plan

Where is Dinosaur Provincial Park

  • Dinosaur Provincial Park is a 2 1/2 hour drive from calgary
  • It is NOT close to Drumheller. It is 1 hour 40 minutes from there. Talking to the park staff apparently a lot of people have the misconception that the Royal Tyrell Museum and the park are close to one another. They are not.
  • The closest city is Brooks, and is 30 minutes away.
  • It is 5 hours from Saskatoon, which may seem far to some. When I made this trip we stayed for four nights, so it was worth it.

When to Book your campsite

  • If you are planning your trip around a holiday, or a weekend in July and August, it is best to plan ahead as sites will fill up. Major holidays in Canada include: Victoria Day in May, Canada Day weekend over July 1, and August long which takes place the first weekend in August.
  • Alberta Parks starts taking reservations in February and March. 
  • Group Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park is not available in July and August. They turn that area into overflow.

Camping Accommodations

Dinosaur Campsites

What I love about this park is that there is a campsite for everyone. There are three ways to camp at the park: tent, RV, and comfort camping. 

  • There are 7 comfort camping sites. These are canvas tents that have most  necessities that you would need to camp. 
  • A large campground for tents and campers.
  • Group camping site, except for the months of July and August when its overflow. 
Please note: The sites on the West side of the campground do not have shade. Instead some have a wooden overhang. It doesn’t really provide shade, but I have seen people set up hammocks and twinkle lights on the structure.

Amenities

  • Click here for a full list of amenities.
  • The concession building has some really good burgers. Definitely plan to eat here for a meal.
  • The Visitor Centre runs a lot of different guided tours to purchase. Everything from archaeological digs to a photography sunset class. (I recommend to purchase these in advance. I wanted to do the photography class but it was sold out weeks in advance).

Have any Questions?

Don’t be afraid to call Dinosaur Provincial Park if you have any questions. They are open year round, with limited hours in the winter.

I emailed the park in February 2019 regarding reservations for their group site (this is when I learned that it was their first year converting it into overflow camping). And i got an email back from the manager with her extension so I could call and talk to her. The information she provided me was super helpful, and even went as far as to send me additional pictures of the overflow camping area. (I am a little particular with my camp sites LOL).

My Experience at Dinosaur Provincial Park

I have been to Dinosaur twice, and from my experience you need more than one night here. The second time I traveled here was with a group of nine of my friends, and after 4 days everyone agreed that they would go back. Trust me you won’t regret your time here.

Day One: Arrive at the Park

When you arrive make sure to check in at the Registration and Concession building, and not the Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre has a museum and is where you will meet for any planned excursions. They do not have the system to check you in.

My recommendation: Never prebook activities on the day of arrival. You never know what can happen on your journey to the park.

Dinosaur Campsites

Our views for the night, from the overflow campsites. I really can’t rave enough about these sites. If you are given the choice to camp in overflow… do it!  The only downside for some people is that the sites are not electrified, and the nearby washrooms are pit toliets. However the walk to the better washrooms is only 5 minutes.

Day Two: Check out the Hiking Trails

Dinosaur Provincial Park has 5 self guided trails that you can do in the park. You are also allowed to explore off the path behind the visitor centre as well as the North East area of the park. 

I have attached the Alberta Parks Map PDF to better illistarte what i mean.

There are areas in the park where you must stay on the trail, as well as areas that you can only access on a guided tour. 

Coulee Viewpoint Trail

This hike starts behind the Visitor Centre. It is not wheelchair accessible, however it is fairly easy, and is under an hour. If you want to do a hike with rewarding views, than you should definitely check this one out.

Coulee View Lookout

Coulee Viewpoint

Get off the Path

Dinosaur Off the Path

There is a lot of the park that you can explore on foot, without being on a set path. Behind the campground is a popular area for this, as well as the North Eastern side of the park. However, there are areas that you cannot explore off the path

On the Badlands Loop trail, you must remain on the path. There are also signs throughout the hike that indicate this.

There is also a blocked off road on this side of the park. The only way to gain access to this is to go on one of the parks guided paid for tours. 

If you are unsure of where you are able to hike off the path, just stop by the Visitor Centre and they will be able to direct you as to where is safe to hike.

Day Three: Go to the Beach

In general the park usually has great weather, so it can get hot. The first time I visited the park I had read that there was a beach. However, when I asked the park staff about it the response I got was “….There is, but i can’t recommend swimming there”. I guess the river that flows through the park commonly has runoff from nearby farms… so people swim at their own risk.

Instead they recommended going to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park.

Kinbrook Island Provincial Park is located 45 minutes from Dinosaur Provincial Park. If you do decide to make the trip, you have to go through Brooks to get here. It makes for a good opportunity to get gas and any other necessities. 

If you have your own canoe or kayak, there is a place you can launch it from within the park. I have never personally done it so i can’t speak to how that is.

Day Four: Take a Guided Tour

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Since the first time I visited in 2017, I wanted to do one of their guided hikes. To go where hiker has gone before… jk…. well almost.

The tour I chose to do is the Great Badlands Hike. With all tours your day will start outside of the Visitor Centre, which is where you will meet your guide.

The interpretive guides are actually University students. I don’t know if they strictly hire students in the archaeology field, but our guide was studying to be a paleontologist, and really knew what she was talking about.

It starts off with a bus ride, onto the road that us travelers cannot go on our own. From there it was maybe a 10-20 minute journey to the beginning of the hike.

**Disclaimer** The park gives a lot of leeway to their guides as to where your hike will take place. Every guide develops their own unique trail that they can take you on, so every hike is potentially a little bit different.

Interpretive Hike

Along this trail you will see a ton of fossils, including dinosaur bones. Don’t worry you don’t have to spot them, your guide will know what to look for.

However, if you do find something, its always possible it might be the next big find. The area of the park this tour takes place is still an active dig site. That is why you cannot come here on your own.

Other tours: When I booked my tours last year there was a lot to choose from. Sunset photography tour, to multi day archaeological expeditions…. for a hefty price of course. However writing this right now of July 2020, some of those are not available. I assume this is due to covid. However, they are still offering the Great Badlands Hike, so if you want to do a great hike, and learn all about fossils, it is available. 

Day Five: End of your Journey

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