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Amazing Drumheller is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Western Canada. Known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World, it also features spectacular scenery, bizarre topography, gorgeous camping, fascinating coal mining history and a wide range of activities and attractions geared specifically toward families. What most people don’t realize, however, is just how many great Drumheller hiking options there are as well. On our many visits we have checked out all the Drumheller hikes on offer.
To help plan your trip to this unique Alberta destination, check out Drumheller: The Ultimate Guide to Alberta’s Dinosaur Capital that includes all the best things to do in Drumheller (spoiler alert: hiking is one of them), Drumheller attractions for kids, when to visit, how to find the world’s largest dinosaur, where to stay and where to eat.
But if hiking is your main focus, Drumheller Alberta is a fantastic destination that contrasts nicely with the awesome mountain scenery in the nearby Rockies. Here are the best Drumheller hikes:
Top 7 Drumheller Hiking Trails
1.4 km / 30 min / 80m elevation gain
AllTrails: Hoodoos Trail Drumheller
This fun area boasts by far the most popular Drumheller hiking trail, for a couple of reasons. One, it is short, and can be even shorter if you decide not to climb to the top of the ridge.
Two, it is the best place in Drumheller to see a lot of hoodoos up close and personal. Many people choose to stay at the bottom and just wander around among these amazing geological marvels.
If there is one Drumheller hike you shouldn’t miss, it’s this one. Mainly because they sell milkshakes at the end.
Horsethief Canyon Trail
? km / ? hrs / “some” elevation gain
The Horsethief Canyon hike is my personal favourite in Drumheller, although even calling it a “hike” is making it sound too formal. This wonderful canyon is a great example of Canadian badlands and doesn’t have any marked trails or even any real trails, as far as that goes.
You simply pick your way down from the spectacular viewpoint next to the parking lot and… wander! It is possible to spend hours exploring this confusing maze of hills, rocks, hoodoos, ravines, gullies and canyons next to the lovely Red Deer River.
Located just 20 minutes northwest of Drumheller, Horsethief Canyon got its name because it was once a notorious hideout for nomadic horse thieves. It is easy to see why once you find yourself half lost among the bewildering terrain that seems dropped straight out of the old Wild West.
Horseshoe Canyon Hike
4 km / 1 hr / 110m
AllTrails: Horseshoe Canyon Trail
Another seriously popular stop near Drumheller, Horseshoe Canyon offers similarly bizarre, captivating terrain as Horsethief Canyon, but with an actual marked trail and a slightly less sordid past.
Located right off the main highway between Drumheller and Calgary, Horseshoe Canyon is an easy stop with a few excellent viewpoints (and some handy toilets). The insane views of the Drumheller badlands are the result of glaciers carving a picturesque horseshoe-shaped valley out of the surrounding hills somewhere around 70 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.
The canyon drops abruptly away from the mostly flat surrounding plains and served as home to many different species of dinosaur back in its heyday. The different eras are easily recognized by the different layers of lighter and darker siltstone, coal seams and harder rock all stacked like prehistoric building materials.
Of course, many people are happy to simply gaze down at the canyon from one of the many good viewpoints next to the parking area. But it is well worth venturing down on the well-marked path to the wooden stairs and the wide, smooth gravel path at the bottom. The start of this badlands trail is to the right of the parking lot.
Or you can choose your own adventure on one of the steeper, fainter trails. If you stick to the main Horseshoe Canyon Drumheller hiking trail it is probably more like 3 kilometres rather than the 4 shown on the AllTrails map but, realistically, once you’re down there you can just wander aimlessly until you’ve had enough.
Horseshoe Canyon is located just 15 minutes southwest of Drumheller. It is also one of the more popular things to do from Calgary as it is less than an hour and half drive from there as well (less from the northeast). The entire canyojn is free and there is plenty of parking. Or you can opt for something even more adventurous and see Horseshoe Canyon from the air on a tour with Mountain View Helicopters.
Drumheller Pedestrian Trail
12 km / 3.5 hrs / 165m (one-way)
AllTrails: Drumheller Pedestrian Trail
The distances are tough to pin down as there are actually a total of 18 kilometres of trails lining the Red Deer River, winding through downtown Drumheller, past the world’s largest dinosaur and around the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Relatively flat, these trails are perfect for walking, biking or e-biking, and you can make your journey as long or short as you choose. If you want to do the entire route you’ll need a ride or two cars or backtrack since it is no longer possible to cross the abandoned CN train bridge to make it a loop.
A good place to start on this Drumheller walking trail if you want to stay away from the busier streets is the McMullen Island Day Use Area – look for a small path leading toward the river. There are picnic tables and outhouses, as well, if you arrive there in mid-hike or finish up there.
Midland Provincial Park Hikes
There are a whole bunch of fun hikes criss-crossing the tremendous Badlands terrain of Midland Provincial Park. Including the famous Royal Tyrrell Museum, Midland Provincial Park and its trails covers 280 hectares of beautiful natural scenery is one of the most popular destinations in the Drumheller Valley.
Formerly the site of the Midland Coal Mine – famous for a fatal mining explosion in the 1920’s – it was repurposed and eventually designated as a provincial park in 1979. Unlike the Atlas Coal Mine, there isn’t much left of Midland’s mining past. However, the vast array of hiking trails now draws a very different crowd to the area.
Make sure you set aside some time to wander among the hills and cacti. And don’t forget to make your way down to the river and McMullen Island (also part of the park) where you can often see people paddleboarding past (or just floating with a beer in hand).
Royal Tyrrell Museum Loop / Badlands Interpretive Trail
1.6 km / 30 min / 25m
AllTrails: Badlands Interpretive Trail
Although technically also part of Midland Provincial Park, the Royal Tyrrell Museum Loop or Badlands Interpretive Trail (it seems happy to be called either one) gets special mention because it is the easiest and most popular hike in the area. Everyone who visits the museum should head out on this easy, half-hour informative stroll through the Badlands. It is particularly gorgeous around sunrise or sunset. Check out our guide to the Royal Tyrrell Museum with 7 reasons you should visit it on your trip to Drumheller.
It is open all the time (even when the museum is closed) and follows a fairly flat gravel path past cacti, coulees, hoodoos and ravines. It is even possible to take strollers on it, although you will have to carry them up a few stairs at one point.
The trail can be walked year-round but is hot and exposed in summer so be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat and drink plenty of water. After a rain it can get a bit slippery so keep that in mind. And in winter it is almost always icy and slippery, especially on the stairs and steeper spots.
Kids will love this fun dinosaur hunt throughout downtown Drumheller. Use this Dino Walk Map to design your own route to find the 20+ brightly painted dinosaurs scattered around the streets, each one representing a dinosaur species that has been discovered in the area.
What to Bring on Your Drumheller Hikes:
Good shoes are the most important thing, with decent grip for the hills and solid soles to protect against the rough, rocky terrain. It also helps if they are good in the mud in case you get caught in the rain.
In summer, temperatures can get as high as 40C so make sure you pack a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. Snacks aren’t a bad idea, either, as many of the hikes can be extended if you’re enjoying yourself.
You can still do all the hikes in the winter but a pair of crampons can sometimes come in handy.
And, obviously, you’ll want a phone/camera to document all the amazing scenery.
If you’re planning a longer adventure, you might want to check out our Day Hike Packing List.
Outstanding Mountain Hiking Within Driving Distance of Drumheller
Many people visit Drumheller on their way to or from the magnificent Canadian Rockies including the Banff National Park. If that happens to describe your situation, there is a lot of incredible hiking we can recommend (and describe in detail) in the Canmore and Banff areas.
A good place to start is with our Best Hikes Near Canmore post. In addition, phenomenal Lake O’Hara is tough to access but if you can get a spot on the bus or in the campground you can enjoy some of the best hiking in Canada.
Some of our other favourites in the area are Smutwood Peak, Tent Ridge, Rae Glacier, Wasootch Ridge and the Big Beehive. For something a little more leisurely, check out 15 Easy Hikes Near Canmore and if you find yourself in the mountains in September you should definitely look into the Best Larch Hikes Near Canmore.
Of course, not everyone wants to spend their days sweaty and exhausted (your loss), but thankfully there are other options:
Drumheller Hiking Summary
While they don’t feature the epic mountain scenery of other great Alberta hiking areas like Canmore, Banff and Jasper, Drumheller hikes definitely offer some of the more unique landscapes and views to be found anywhere in Canada. From perfectly formed hoodoos to rugged ravines to wild Badlands, hiking in Drumheller is a fascinating and eternally memorable experience. And with most hikes being accessible to adults and children alike, it is a great place to hike with the whole family.