It comes as a surprise to travellers as vast prairie lands suddenly drop into a deep valley, fed by the waters of the Red Deer River flowing through it. Here dinosaurs once roamed freely and sandstone rocks erode over time to form a spectacular display of nature known as Hoodoos.
The first dinosaur bones were discovered here in the latter part of the 19th century by Joseph Burr Tyrrell who came looking for coal and found the skull of a dinosaur near the Red Deer River. While coal was eventually discovered in the town, with 139 mines registered between 1911 and 1939, it is the landscape and the Royal Tyrrell Museum which draw thousands of visitors to the town each year. The dinosaur museum houses one of the world's largest displays of dinosaurs. The dinosaur theme continues around the town with the World's Largest Dinosaur standing tall over parkland between the Red Deer River and the downtown core. Smaller dinosaur statues are dotted around the area.
The Canadian Badlands offer spectacular scenery along several tourist trails. Travel the Dinosaur Trail, a circular route to the west of the town. Look out for the Little Church on the north section of the trail, originally erected as a place of meditation but heavily visited as a tourist attraction. This little church seats 10,000 people - 6 at a time. The north section of the trail will carry you through prairie lands - in summer swathed in yellow as the canola crops are in bloom - which are dotted with pump jacks extracting crude from the earth below.
Horsethief Canyon offers opportunities for hiking. The North Dinosaur Trail seemingly ends at the river. While the river can be traversed on a seasonal barge-like ferry, travellers in an RV would be well advised to return to Drumheller on the North Dinosaur Trail, as the approaches on and off the ferry could cause the rear of the RV to 'bottom out'.
The Hoodoo Trail is the road heading east from the town, taking you to the Atlas Coal Mine Provincial Historic Site. The was the last of the coal mines to operate in the area and is home to Canada's last standing wooden coal tipple. Guided tours are available from May to early October. The famous HooDoos are also a stop along this Trail, the site being free to visit.
This fascinating landscape is definitely a place to include on your Canadian RV vacation.