Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park

If you've been following my blog it should come as no shock when I say that I LOVE camping.  Absolutely love it, dream about it, plan months in advance for each trip, and eagerly anticipate that first spring camping trip!  What you may not know though is that I didn't used to like camping very much at all.  I enjoyed an annual backpacking trip or two each year and loved overnight stays at wilderness cabins and huts but car camping didn't hold much interest for me.  Driving to a campsite and spending the night served for one purpose only and that was for creating a base camp for weekend adventures too far from home to easily drive out for. 

So, what changed?  How did I end up becoming the girl who actually started a camping project to camp 40+ nights in one season?  I camped at Dinosaur Provincial Park last May and fell in love!  I discovered my camping style and realized that for years I had been doing it all wrong!  All wrong for ME that is. As much as I love mountains, I prefer to camp where it's warm, open, and not closed in by big trees.  I like to camp with friends in large double sites and I like destination camping where you can hike, paddle, explore, ride bikes and play - without ever leaving camp. This is my definition of camp paradise and it is Dinosaur Provincial Park in a nut shell.

Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park is now my favourite campground in Alberta and we will be making an annual trek south every spring for years to come. I wrote about our trip to Dinosaur last year and I encourage you to read the story if you would like more information about the park's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its location in the Alberta Badlands on the Dinosaur Trail, or the Alberta Parks Reservation Service for campground bookings.

Below is a look at our most recent camping trip in Dinosaur Provincial Park a couple of weeks ago. It's heavy on photos and short on words because the photos really do say it all!

Our Patch of Heaven at Dinosaur Provincial Park

Wide open camping under lush Cottonwood trees!  We booked three double sites along the creek in the north loop for our group.  Each family had their own picnic table and plenty of space to spread out.  The creek had warning signs that we shouldn't swim in it and well, I guess we obeyed the sign.  Nobody swam in it.

How can you NOT play in the mud when it's right beside your camp site?
Daddy pulling our son out of the mud (same kid who wouldn't go NEAR mud last summer!
Playing in the Mud - best camping activity EVER! (and yes, that's me!)
We were not only situated next to a fabulous creek and mud pit, but also located right across from a playground.  It was just on the other side of the creek.  The kids would ride their bikes to it with one or two parents tagging along for supervision.

Not bad for a camp playground (one of the best I've seen in fact!)
And when the kids felt the need to get dirty again, we were lucky to have giant monster puddles located beside our campsites from the May monsoon season.

The kids could have spent hours in this puddle - oh wait, I think they DID.
When we weren't getting dirty and trying to find ways to get clean, we chose to just sit back and chill.  After all, that's what camping is for, right?

My idea of chilling at camp
The kids hanging out at camp in our new Eno hammock

Exploring the Park - Biking

The kids all had bikes with them so we tried to get them riding around camp a lot.  Most of them were content to ride the loop around our campsites but we got a few of the kids out on a short hiking trail for a scenic easy ride.  Fortunately the trail was very short because the mosquitoes LOVED this spot!

Checking out a massive Cottonwood tree on the Cottonwood Flats Trail
Great bike ride for little kids
Note:  According to park rules, "Bicycles are restricted to the park's paved and gravel roads.  Bikes are not allowed on the interpretive trails or in the badlands."  While I definitely respect this rule where the badlands are concerned, I personally saw no real reason to not allow a four year old on a 6 pound balance bike (no pedals) to have a bit of fun on the Cottonwood Flats Trail.   It was wheel chair accessible after all.

Our Junior Biker Gang takes on the Badlands

We also had a lot of fun riding right in the campground and even tried a little mountain biking.

Riding around the campground on the gravel loop road
Sweet little trail we found in the campground

Exploring the Park - Hiking

I confess that this section is going to be a bit of a teaser because I have way too many photos to share here at the end of this post. (Watch for a sequel in the next day or two.) We hiked two trails while we camped at Dinosaur and both gave us breathtaking views of the badlands and hoodoos.  If you are not from Alberta and don't know what a hoodoo is, the photo below features my favourite ones in the park.

Hoodoos - Flat topped sandstone rock formations
I will be writing a second post on hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park but below is a look at our magnificent Alberta Badlands from the Badlands hiking trail.

The Alberta Badlands in Dinosaur Provincial Park
And finally, here's one of my favourite photos from the Coulee Viewpoint Trail as a parting shot.

Climbing up to the top of the Coulee Viewpoint Trail

I have many more spectacular photos to share with you from Dinosaur Provincial Park so check back in another day or so for part two - Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park.

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