Drumheller is a beautiful, and genuinely amazing part of Alberta. Bailey and I just returned from a weekend in the area, and have some great activities to share, for those who haven't been or those looking to explore a little deeper...
The Badlands always seem to have this ability to blow my mind, no matter how many times I visit them. It's hot, historic, and humble. Never ceasing to force one to picture gigantic creatures meandering across the landscape, in an age of anarchy and lawlessness. Drumheller is infamously known for being packed with dinosaur-themed activities all over the town, so what happens when you've had your fill of palaeontology?
Bailey and I love dinosaurs. I can't say how many of the town's brightly coloured, pre-historic statues we took pictures of. Despite this, we really wanted to see the side of Drumheller that is more than dinosaurs and tourist traps.
Originally, we were planning to visit the canyon on our way into Drumheller, but as we approached it was clear that the parking lot was absolutely packed. With such a large parking lot being that full, we knew that it was pretty unlikely we'd have a chance to get some quality photos and enjoy the view. That night we carried on, but fortunately on our drive back home on Sunday it was much more reasonable.
Pulling in, I mostly expected a small hill with a slight incline, or at least something not nearly as spectacular as what we really found. Horseshoe Canyon is glacier-formed, located about 17 km southwest of Drumheller along Highway 9. There is a company on-site offering canyon helicopter tours, and we were surprised to discover they were only $50 per adult, which seemed surprisingly reasonable.
Unfortunately, due to time restraints we had to skip the helicopter ride, but we had some great chances to snap some photos and play around with the camera. The canyon showed up excellent on our Canon T5, and gives a well-deserved perspective towards the sheer size of the geological feature. Strangely, there is a no-drone policy which was kind of disheartening because we plan on getting one in the near future, and Horseshoe Canyon would be an amazing place to gather footage. At any rate, it's a beautiful location that we highly recommend if you have the time to stop.
Okay, let's be honest: what post about Drumheller or the Badlands is complete without mentioning the Hoodoos? Bot Bailey and I haven’t been northeast of Calgary for quite some time and I was pleasantly reminded of the attraction to these strange, ancient sandstone tower formations. Admittedly, there were quite a few tourists, arriving in buses, minivans, and whatever other high-capacity vehicles they had at their disposal. This may seem deterring, but there is actually the plus side: very few wander past the walkway that has been built around the "model hoodoos”—those who appear to be the ideal shape and size for viewing. And due to their shape and size, they have been confined to a small area surrounded by this walkway.
Inside the walkway is a "restricted area" but taking off in virtually any other direction will land you better, less crowded views. Taking this approach to our hoodoo trip allowed us to see some unique scenery, and enjoy it without the help of 200+ other would-be explorers. I think one of the only things that could have made the hoodoos more fun would be flying a drone over and capturing the truly unique landscape (and maybe even a dinosaur in the process). Overall, once you've made it past the crowds, the hoodoos are much more rewarding. We never discovered any dinosaur bones, but maybe we're just lacking in the Indiana Jones department. At any rate, we spent a surprising amount of time out at the hoodoos - almost an entire afternoon.
Drumheller's hoodoos are located about 15 minutes southeast of the town. The parking lot is huge, and it's easily accessible off Highway 10 East (which also goes past the Star Mine Suspension Bridge - another pretty cool stop). From there, it's pretty much free reign as long as you don't enter the restricted hoodoos! We set up the tripod and had a heyday with the camera: with 330 photos; I'm certain we could explore and hike around that area for an entire day or two. We recommend checking out the hoodoos if you're ever in the area. It's a free activity, and can be as exciting as you want if you come with a camera and a good pair of boots.
The Little Church
Though we wouldn't exactly call ourselves “church goers” very rarely will we ever turn down an attraction, especially one with this level of simplicity. Drumheller's Little Church is exactly that – a little church. Bailey had wanted to stop in and visit, mentioning it on our drive in to town. I thought, "a church?" of all places, "surely we would have passed 50 churches on the drive out, and now we need to stop at EXACTLY this church in particular"? However, it wasn't as out-of-the-way as I thought. It's located on the North side of the North Dinosaur Trail between Royal Tyrell Museum and the golf course. This is the same road that goes to Midland Provincial Park (another recommended stop).
Pulling up to the Church, I noticed what set this one apart from all the others - it has only 6 seats! I wish there was a way to compare the truck to it, as they are notably similar in size. Immediately, I had to try to stand in the door. Standing at around 6'4" while wearing my cowboy boots, I knew things were going to get interesting. As you can see in the piggyback photo, I was very close to door height even while standing on the ground. When I attempted to stand in the frame, I'll definitely say I was amazed that I couldn't stand straight up!
The last neat thing about Little Church is that the door is always unlocked. This may be a given to those who are more familiar, but we thought it was nice that in today’s day-and-age where everything, everywhere is locked there is still enough faith in humanity to leave a modest building outside of town unlocked for everyone to enjoy and explore.