Dinosaur Provincial Park: The Best Tourist Guide & 8 Attractions

Updated On: June 07, 2023

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Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada takes visitors into the past when dinosaurs roamed the area. The park has endless things to discover, from local wildlife to scenic vistas in the unique Canadian badlands.

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Dinosaur Provincial Park is located 30 miles outside of Calgary.

It is easy to get overwhelmed when exploring the nearly 20,000 acres of Dinosaur Provincial Park. To help you experience the best of what the park has to offer, we’ve broken down the history of the area, the best times to visit, how to get around the park, and 8 of the most popular attractions.

What is Dinosaur Provincial Park?

Located approximately 30 miles outside of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, Dinosaur Provincial Park is a fascinating area to explore and learn about. Although the park is a dry badlands area today, it is far from what it looked like millions of years ago!

During the Late Cretaceous Period, about 75 million years ago, Dinosaur Provincial Park had a subtropical climate. Lush forests and raging rivers covered the area. In the waters, marine life thrived. On the ground and in the air, dinosaurs roamed.

However, this climate did not last forever. The rivers dried up, and the forests disappeared. As the area changed, the conditions were perfect for preserving fossils. Dinosaurs, marine life, and other flora and fauna were perfectly preserved through time. 

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Hundreds of fossils have been found at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

To date, there have been over 150 complete fossilised dinosaur skeletons discovered at Dinosaur Provincial Park. These fossils come from over 50 different species. In addition, hundreds of other fossils of marine life, other mammals, and local plants have also been found.

Fossils and deposits are still being found today at Dinosaur Provincial Park. Bone Beds can be seen from the hiking trails, and it is possible to find a new fossil just by exploring the park! There’s much to explore and discover at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Dinosaur Provincial Park was founded by the Canadian Government in 1955. The goal was to protect and preserve the numerous fossils found there and maintain the gorgeous landscape.

24 years later, in 1979, Dinosaur Provincial Park was established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognised internationally for its significance. The park was given this designation due to the abundance of dinosaur fossils, the cottonwood trees that provide shelter for local birds, and because it is the largest badlands in Canada.

When is the Best Time to Visit?

Although Dinosaur Provincial Park is open year-round, some seasons make for better visits than others. Alberta, Canada, experiences all seasons, so temperatures vary a lot throughout the year. No matter when you visit, make sure to bring the correct clothing and any sun protection, water, or other necessities for the climate.

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The most popular time to visit Dinosaur Provincial Park is during the summer.

Summers at Dinosaur Provincial Park can get extremely hot. During the warm months is when the park is most popular, and the amenities can become fully booked months in advance. During the summer is also when the interpretive tours are held, which makes May-September the best time to visit.

During the winter months, the temperature at Dinosaur Provincial Park is much lower than during the summer. Trails are still open during this time, as well as the campgrounds. Just because it is cold does not mean you can’t explore! Just make sure to bring a winter jacket.

How to Get Around

The best way to explore Dinosaur Provincial Park is by car. With a vehicle handy, you can fully explore the park to its edges. To see its full potential, camping in the park is recommended. 

From the campground, you will have access to the hiking trails in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Some areas, however, are only accessible via guided tours. In addition, you will have access to the Scenic Loop road, bus tours, and other attractions at the park.

8 Things to Do at Dinosaur Provincial Park

Explore the Visitor Centre & Museum

The visitor centre at Dinosaur Provincial Park is open from April-November and is the perfect place to start your visit. The visitor centre can be found on the park maps and is sometimes labelled as “Field Station”.

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The best way to get around Dinosaur Provincial Park is by car.

Access to the museum in the visitor centre costs $4 CAD per person. The museum features exhibits of 49 different dinosaur species that have been found at Dinosaur Provincial Park. The museum also has a theatre that can seat 80 guests per screening.

Inside the visitor centre museum, displays of the local flora, fauna, and geography can be found. These exhibits provide a history of the park and help guests understand more about what makes Dinosaur Provincial Park unique.

The visitor centre has interactive exhibits about the dinosaurs whose fossils have been found in the area, which are perfect for children. In addition, the visitor centre is also where tour reservations are made and tickets are picked up. 

Go Camping

Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park is the best way to fully experience what the park has to offer. Camping is available year-round, and the park maintains the campsites to keep them clean for visitors. 

Campsite reservations can fill quickly at Dinosaur Provincial Park during the peak season and summer months. Reservations can only be made online or over the phone, so make sure to save your spot if you want to sleep under the stars!

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Camping is popular at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Tents & RVs

For anyone wanting a traditional camping experience, Dinosaur Provincial Park has the perfect place. Over 120 campsites for tents and RVs are available at the park. These sites also feature a playground, food concessions, showers, and a laundry facility.

These spaces can fill up fast. If you can’t secure a camping spot at Dinosaur Provincial Park, check the area for other campsites nearby!


If you want a more glamorous camping experience, check out the comfort camping areas at Dinosaur Provincial Park. There are 7 of these tents available for visitors to rent from June to October, and each tent can accommodate up to 4 people.

The comfort camping areas are separate from the main campground. They provide stunning views of the rivers and parks around the site. In addition, these tents also have private decks, fridges, electrical outlets, and more.

Hike the Interpretive Trails

Hiking is easily the most popular activity at Dinosaur Provincial Park. The Interpretive Trails lead visitors through the terrain and help them explore the unique formations formed over millions of years.

To get the most information out on the trails, it is best to go on a guided hike. However, all of the trails at Dinosaur Provincial Park can also be explored without a guide.

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There are 5 main trails at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Prairie Trail

The Prarie Trail is a short hike that takes about 15 minutes to complete. The trail is 0.3 kilometres long and winds through the grasslands of the park. Although it is not the most popular trail at Dinosaur Provincial Park, it provides contrasting scenery to the barren badlands.

Trail of the Fossil Hunters

The Trail of the Fossil Hunters is just under 1 kilometre long. It takes approximately 40 minutes to complete the hike. The trail begins at Fossil Shelter #2 on the map and takes hikers through fossil displays. Also on the trail are information boards about important historical figures from the area.

Badlands Trail

The Badlands Trail is the most popular hiking trail at Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is 1.3 kilometres long and takes around an hour to complete. The trail goes through the badlands and highlights some of the most beautiful scenery of the park. 

Fascinating rock formations can be found along the trail through the badlands. In addition, there are signs on the path that provide more information on the area’s history and how different landscapes formed. 

Coulee Viewpoint

Starting at the visitor centre, Coulee Viewpoint is a 1-kilometre-long trail. The trail takes hikers uphill to a stunning view of the badlands and valley. This trail takes 45 minutes to complete but can be more difficult than others due to being uphill.

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The plains cottonwood trees provide shelter for over 150 bird species.

Cottonwood Flats

Cottonwood Flats is the longest hiking trail in Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is just under 1.5 kilometres long and takes an hour to complete. The trail begins at the campground and follows the river.

This trail goes under the plains cottonwood trees, making it the best trail for birdwatchers. The trees are home to over 150 different bird species, and they can commonly be seen and heard from the trail.

Go Fossil Hunting

Another one of the best things to do at Dinosaur Provincial Park is to search for fossils. Among the fossils you can find at the park are turtles, fish, reptiles, and of course – dinosaurs! 

The best chance to find fossils is on a tour of the nature preserve. These guided tours are focused on fossils, the animals that lived in the area, and the park’s history. However, it is not impossible to find fossils on your own while exploring.

Take a Guided Tour

Guided tours of the park and nature preserve are available from May to October each year. The tours are ticketed and must be reserved either online, by phone, or in the visitor centre. The tours can sell out very quickly, so booking ahead of your trip is recommended.

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Night hikes at Dinosaur Provincial Park take visitors under the stars.

There are multiple different guided tours available at Dinosaur Provincial Park. Some tours are perfect for beginners and children, while others require more physical ability and knowledge of the area.

Night hikes are also available during the summer months. These guided tours begin at dusk and take groups throughout the park under the stars. The night hikes are a beautiful experience and capture the serenity of the area.

Visit John Ware’s Cabin

John Ware was born in the United States as a slave in the 1800s. After the civil war ended and the slaves were free, Ware became an expert in ranching and moved to Canada by driving cattle. He settled with his family on the Red Deer River in today’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.

During his time in Canada, Ware helped to set the foundations for the ranching industry in the country. He brought what he had learned from his time in Texas up north to Canada, where he spent the rest of his life.

Ware’s first cabin was destroyed by a flood in 1902. He and his family were forced to relocate to higher ground in the area and build a new cabin. Unfortunately, John Ware and his wife both passed away in 1905, and the cabin was sold.

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John Ware’s cabin was restored in 1998.

Over time, the cabin fell into disrepair and became severely deteriorated. In 1998, the Canadian Parks Service began restoring the cabin to its original design, using traditional log structures as a guide.

Today, the cabin is a famous part of Dinosaur Provincial Park.  Displays and signs were installed in the cabin to educate visitors on Ware’s story and why he was influential in the area.

The cabin is located near the visitor centre and is open to visitors on weekends in July and August. If you want to visit the cabin outside of these months, tours are provided by appointment.

Drive The Scenic Loop

The Scenic Loop is a 3.2-kilometre-long gravel road that goes around the eastern perimeter of Dinosaur Provincial Park. The road is a one-way loop that starts near the campgrounds and takes visitors around the badlands.

From the Scenic Loop, you can access 3 of the park’s trails and 2 fossil display houses. In addition to the attractions along the route, it provides stunning views of the park as you drive. The Scenic Loop can be driven, biked, or walked. The amenities have designated parking areas since bikes and vehicles are not allowed on the hiking trails.

Paddle Along The Red Deer River

A unique way to experience Dinosaur Provincial Park is by water. Seeing the park from the river provides a different perspective of the trees, rock formations, and badlands. The Red Deer River flows along the north side of the park and features several access points.

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Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to the largest badlands in Canada.

Canoes and kayaks are allowed out on the Red Deer River. The most convenient access point is located near the comfort camping site. However, there are no kayak or canoe rentals at Dinosaur Provincial Park, so you will need to bring your own or rent them from a local business.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a Scenic Holiday Destination in Canada

With scenic views and fun activities, Dinosaur Provincial Park is a brilliant travel destination in Canada. The area has been formed over millions of years, and guests today have the unique opportunity to discover the past.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is full of history, adventure, and educational experiences. Whether you are searching for a challenging hike or want a laid-back adventure, there is something for everyone at the park.

If you’re planning a holiday in Canada, make sure to check out these Canada Travel Statistics.

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