When I think of an underrated destination in Canada, Drumheller comes to mind. The town, located northeast of Calgary in the province of Alberta, is an oasis amongst the prairies. Suddenly, after driving through an endlessly flat landscape, your car will descend down a massive hill, and the landscape known as the “badlands” will expand out before your eyes. Driving beside the river through the valley is incredibly scenic. In the hills, you can see the different layers of ground, giving the walls of the valley a colourful, varied appearance. Along with the interesting colour and shape of hills that form the valley around Drumheller, there are exotic land formations called “hoodoos”. The hoodoos are rock columns that have been formed through water eroding the land around them. There is a designated self-guided area located southeast of the town. It’s a really fun hike to go through the hoodoos and examine the different land formations in the area.
The Drumheller area is renowned for the many prehistoric discoveries that have been made here. The Royal Tyrrell Museum, which has the largest collection of fossils in Canada, is located here. Many dinosaur bones and other ancient relics have been exported from this area, and it is really amazing how many fossils you can find in museums worldwide from this small town. Because of the massive influence paleontology and dinosaurs have had in Drumheller over the years, there are countless sculptures of dinosaurs throughout the municipality, including the world’s largest dinosaur, a 26.2 meter dinosaur sculpture rising above the town, giving great views of both the community and river valley.
Originating as a coal town, Drumheller established its first mine in 1911. Even though mining is no longer an active industry in the area, there is a Canadian National Historic Site dedicated to sharing the history of coal mining in the area, called the Atlas Coal Mine. With an array of tours including going through old mining tunnels (if you are claustrophobic, I do not recommend this), an introduction to how coal mining worked, and tours with a more historical focus, the Atlas Coal Mine is an interesting visit for someone intrigued by the history of the area or coal mining. The mine is only open in summer months, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly.
The Red Deer River flows through Drumheller, and continues down along the valley. An activity for the slightly more adventurous in the summer is river floating, but make sure to bring your own floating devices! A route that I would recommend would be to start in the nearby town of Dorothy by the bridge, and to float down the river for about two hours until you reach the bridge by the town of East Coulee. This float is enjoyable, and it’s a nice place to relax on a hot summer day in the Drumheller Valley.. Make sure to be safe in the water, and to wear sunscreen!
Overall, Drumheller and the surrounding area are wonderful places to visit in Southern Alberta, if you’re looking to escape from the tourists of other popular Albertan areas. There are a variety of hotels to stay in for any budget level. Many of the popular attractions are free, or almost to free, so any traveller can access the best attractions! Drumheller is probably best seen in the summer in order to visit most of the places including the hoodoos, Tyrrell Museum, Atlas Coal Mine and in order to go river floating. Other highlights of the area include the Dinosaur Trail Golf & Country Club and Horseshoe canyon. Have fun and safe travels.