alberta’s hidden gem: dinosaur provincial park

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I’ve started to see Dinosaur Provincial Park a bit more, whether it’s on Instagram, marketing material or even at the Jurassic World Exhibition. It still hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. At all. If you have a day and a half to spare before heading to the Rockies, don’t waste a minute in Calgary. I mean it. Rent a car and get your butt to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

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This place is straight up magical. As I drove down into the valley, I felt like I was entering a Land Before Time movie. I arrived at around 7pm (later than I’d have liked) and decided to get straight into the guts of the park by driving around the 3km scenic loop. Here you can get a feel of the place and suss out the hikes you might like to do. I’d consider the Badlands Trail a must as it gets you amongst the Badlands and explains how they actually came to be. For a map of the park, click here.

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Then there was the tent… I opted for comfort camping since I didn’t have a tent with me. My goodness, I’m glad I did. Not only is there a ridiculously comfortable queen bed, there’s also a pull out sofa bed than can sleep another two. But wait, there’s more: lights and electricity ports, coffee maker and kettle, mini fridge, a barbecue, heater and fan, fire pit and all utensils. I was so devastated I’d run out of time to pick stuff up in Brooks (the closest larger town) because having dinner and a cup of tea out on the little deck would have been utter perfection.

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In the morning I didn’t want to get out of bed, the tent was that nice; and that’s saying something considering how infatuated I was with this park from the get-go. Considering the price of the place ($105 for the night, or $138 for the lake-side ones with a little more room), having four people stay here would be an absolute bargain.

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In June, the light is stunning from around 8.30 to 10.30pm, so grab something to eat (either at the Cretaceous Cafe or cook yourself up something on the supplied BBQ) before that so you’re ready for some incredible photos. Just as the sun was about to disappear, I headed back up to the lookout you see on the right as you enter the park. The pink light was softly hitting the badlands, and it made for quite the experience. Make sure you spend at least one sunset here – you won’t regret it.

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To finish my time at the park, I spent the day Fossil Prospecting. It was so unbelievably awesome. First of all, you are driven (after a quick intro in the lab, having a look at some fossils belonging to species found in the park) to an area of the park the public can’t otherwise access since most of it is a nature preserve and reserved for excavations during the warmer months. The park is also As soon as we entered the Badlands, we came across an area with a very high concentration of fossils. They’re quite easy to spot since this orange lichen often grows on them. Once you know what you’re looking for, the group (five or less + guide) heads off in whichever direction they like in search of more fossils. The guides can often tell you which dinosaur and/or body part the fossil is from.

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I wouldn’t normally spend $80 on something like this, but I think it was 100% worth it. Nine-thirty to 3.30pm, with an epic lunch (that you carry), small group size and being able to handle fossils in a part of the park you otherwise couldn’t even see, you can’t ask for much more than that. There’s a whole bunch of programs but I can give this one my absolute tick of approval. Afterwards, I’d planned to spend hours more in the park, but I felt so satisfied after that, I just did one last loop of the park and headed on my merry way.

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Some warnings: it can get very hot here (some of the signs said it can reach 47C in the shade!) so make sure you check the weather before you go and be prepared. There’s also lots of mosquitos – have your bug spray handy! Also, no you can’t take fossils from the park, and no, don’t even try.

I can’t more highly recommend this park enough if you have an interest in dinosaurs. Not only is it amazingly beautiful and like nothing I’d seen before, it’s not every day you get to pick up fossils and feel as though you’re walking amongst the dinosaurs. If you can squeeze it in, Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller make the perfect addition to any Alberta itinerary.

Tess x

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