Thursday, June 06, 2013

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Here it is, the much anticipated sequel to my last post, "Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park" that focused on camping in the park.  (humour me and just nod your head that yes, you have been on pins and needles waiting for these photos...)

As with the last post, I have way too many photos to share with you and am trying to choose the absolute best ones that will make you want to jump in your car and head south immediately.  And again, I'm not going to focus on the text but am merely going to showcase why we LOVE hiking in Dinosaur - through photos.  Consider this a photo essay if you will.

Hiking on the  Badlands Trail

Quick overview on the area:

Dinosaur Provincial Park is located in the heart of the Alberta Badlands but is not anywhere near the town of Drumheller or the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology .  It is located 50km NE of the town of Brooks in Southern Alberta.  And personally, while Drumheller may be more famous for its badlands and hoodoos, I prefer Dinosaur Provincial Park for both camping and hiking. 

The Alberta badlands are easily recognized by the presence of flat topped sandstone formations called hoodoos, deep canyons and coulees, and spectacular rock colour displays.  While Drumheller's badlands are much more extensive than the ones in Dinosaur, this provincial park has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its important fossil discoveries from the "age of reptiles".  Fossils from 35 species of dinosaurs have been found in Dinosaur Provincial Park and interested families can join guided tours to go explore the fossil beds while camping in the park.

Exploring the Hoodoos on the Badlands Trail

While there are 5 interpretive trails in the park listed on the Alberta Parks website, we have two favourites and they are listed below with a lot of photos.  I would only do the Cottonwood Flats Trail again if the rule against bikes was lifted on it (and I had a lot of mosquito repellant on).  It would however be a good choice for families with strollers or Chariots as it is wheel chair accessible. For photos of this trail go to the last post I wrote, Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Hiking the Badlands Trail:

The Badlands Trail is a 1.3km loop located inside the Dinosaur Provincial Park Campground.  It is unique in the park because of its proximity to the restricted Natural Preserve that is accessible by guided tour only.  The trail climbs past many spectacular hoodoos and sandstone ridges to make a very short family-friendly loop that can't be missed when camping in the area.  It is not bike-friendly so please use bike racks provided at the trailhead or walk from your campsite.

Playing on the Sandstone Ridges
Boys gotta climb
We tried really hard to stay on the trail...
The ridges were just too tempting to climb.
Wild About the Badlands
The most lovely family-friendly trail!

Hiking the Coulee Viewpoint Trail:

The Coulee Viewpoint Trail is a 0.9km loop that departs from the Dinosaur Visitor Centre.  It is rated as difficult because of sections of stairs, steep sections requiring a bit of hands-on scrambling, and loose sections that are slippery when wet or muddy.  That being said, my son hiked the trail by himself and he's only 4 years old.  It's not really all that difficult! My only caution would be that the trail drops off very steeply at the top so you definitely need to watch small children as they race towards the edge!  I was a bit nervous at moments last year.

I'm not certain as to why it's called a loop because we've always done it one way from the Visitor Centre to the descent trail into South Campground Loop. If it's a loop I've missed something.

Again, this trail really should not be missed if you are camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park or visiting for the day.  And as with the Badlands Trail, it is not bike friendly.  It is definitely not stroller friendly! 

The trail up to the ridge top from the Visitor Centre

Climbing up to the top of the ridge

Short scramble section (these are 4 year olds though so it's not that hard!)
Approaching the stair case to reach the top of the ridge
Climbing the stairs
Looking back on the trail we took up
Hiking on top of the ridge overlooking the Little Sandhill Coulee
These two friends held hands the WHOLE hike.  So precious!! (and yes that's my son in red)
Love in the Hoodoos (good lyrics for a song)
Can't help it but I just think they're TOO cute!
Follow the Leader - best hiking game ever (helps when you have a keen Dad to lead the crew)
Happy kids that they made it to the high point on the trail
Hiking along the top of the ridge (and this is the actual route - we were not off trail)
Descending off the ridge
Possibly the crux of the hike - getting down this section off the ridge
Heading back to the campground
Back at the campground - and as I told you, they held hands the whole time!

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