As we scrambled down a steep, clay covered canyon I decided to swallow my pride and just slide down on my backside. I was the caboose on this little, yet treacherous, hike down to a plateau overlooking the many levels of Horse Thief Canyon. I slide down, back side grazing the clay because I had a 24 pound human on my back and was feeling about as sure footed as a newborn foal.
Once at the bottom of the 25 metre descent, I stood up, kid chattering away on my back, dusting off my clay covered gluteus. The only other backside slider in my hiking group was my friend’s five year old daughter. We gave each other high fives after our little scramble and set out to examine the many interesting rocks protruding from the crumbling clay and sandstone of the canyon sides. There was even an area flat enough to let my son down and out of the backpack to waddle along the plateau.
Welcome to the canyons and hoodoos surrounding Canada’s dinosaur capital, Drumheller, Alberta.
My hiking buddies were a five-year old, nine year old (who leapt from steep surface to surface like a gazelle) and two of my dearest friends, their parents. Rewind to 48 hours previous when I received a welcome but totally spontaneous invite to join them in Drumheller. See my previous post about last minute travel decisions here.
You, see, when you get a call from a friend who lives faraway on Vancouver Island, you drop weekend plans and start packing tout de suite.
With little notice, I packed up my precious things: kid, camera, overnight gear and drove south on a sunny Saturday morning, Serial blasting, bambino napping in the backseat.
Drumheller is a quaint, almost subterranean town located on the shores of the Red Deer River in a long valley. These are the badlands of Alberta and one of the best spots to go fossil digging. At the tops of the river canyon are rolling fields of canola, alfalfa round bales and slow pumpjacks.
Drumheller is Canada’s number one vacation spot for dino-crazy kids (and their families) because of the spectacular Royal Tyrell Museum and the bountiful fossils that pop out from the crumbling terra firma. But when your toddler’s comprehension of cretaceous creatures is limited to a growling sound then you hold off on a museum visit and opt, instead, to visit local parks (Midlands and Horse Thief Canyon), wander through the tiny villages (Rosedale, Wayne and East Coulee) and check out the small-town, home-cooked dining scene in Drumheller’s mom’n’pop eateries.
We manageg to book a brand new off-grid cabin (see the Steller slide show below) and glamped. The cabins come with bedding, towels, eco-friendly toiletries and a nifty old-timey looking led lantern. The only thing you need: your own blankets and the willingness to walk to the ablution block about 75 metres away. I’d highly recommend the 11 Bridges Campground in Rosedale – the bathrooms are clean and functioning, the campsite full of families who turn in early and it’s just outside of Drumheller, making it a more affordable than other cabins in the area.
To my lovely readers in Western Canada, Drumheller is worth the trip. It has a lot to offer families: affordable accommodation, a kick butt spray park and plenty of interesting landscape to scramble around on. For those of you further afield: if you’re ever in Western Canada and have kids who can tell their Velociraptors from their Tyrannasaurus Rex then Drumheller is necessary addition to your itinerary. I can’t wait to return in a couple years when the little dude is a bigger dude and a little more dino-crazy.
In the mean time, take my word for it, there are easier ways to hike down Horse Thief Canyon. Try going to the left when you’re on the viewpoint, not straight down the face. Unless that is, you like the not so graceful bum slide.
The hills surrounding Drumheller are a photographer’s dream, so I put together a little photo essay on Steller. Enjoy!
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Have you been to Drumheller? What is your favourite thing to do there (family-friendly or not).
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