The Dinosaur Trail is a 56-kilometer (35-mile) circular route to the west of Drumheller . From downtown, head out toward the museum, passing Midland Provincial Park, where buildings from the coal mining era remain and an island in the Red Deer River is home to a day-use area shaded by willows and cottonwoods.
Beyond the Royal Tyrrell Museum , the road climbs steeply out of the valley onto the prairie benchland. Take the first access road on the left—it doubles back to Horsethief Canyon Lookout, where you can catch spectacular views of the badlands and the multicolored walls of the canyons.
Slip, slide, or somersault down the embankment here into the mysterious lunar-like landscape, and it’s easy to imagine why early explorers were so intrigued by the valley and how easy it was for thieves to hide stolen horses along the coulees in the early 1900s.
The halfway point of the trail is the crossing of the Red Deer River on the eight-vehicle Bleriot Ferry (8 a.m.–10:40 p.m. Apr.–Nov.), one of the few remaining cable ferries in Alberta . The road continues along the top of the valley to Orkney Hill Lookout for more panoramic views across the badlands and the lush valley floor.
The 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) East Coulee Drive, southeast from Drumheller , passes three historic coal-mining communities in an area dotted with mine shafts and abandoned buildings. The first town along this route is Rosedale, from where a suspension bridge leads across the river to an abandoned mine site.
A worthwhile detour from Rosedale is to Wayne, an almost–ghost town tucked up a valley alongside Rosebud Creek. It is nine kilometers (5.6 miles) south along Highway 10X, which crosses the creek 11 times. In its heyday early in the 20th century, Wayne had 1,500 residents, most of whom worked in the Rosedeer Mine. By the time the mine closed in 1962, the population had dipped to 250 and then to as low as 15 in the early 1990s, but now the population stands at approximately 30.
Many old buildings remain, making it a popular setting for film crews. The oldest operating business in the sleepy hamlet is the 1913 Rosedeer Hotel (403/823-9189) and its Last Chance Saloon, where the walls are lined with memorabilia from the town’s glory days. It opens daily at noon, just in time for a lunchtime buffalo burger. The hotel’s back porch overlooking the creek is a great place to sip on a beer and wallow in nostalgia.
From Rosedale, Highway 10 continues southeast, passing hoodoos to the left. These strangely shaped rock formations along the river valley have been carved by eons of wind and rain. The harder rock on top is more resistant to erosion than the rock beneath it, resulting in the odd, mushroom-shaped pillars.
At East Coulee, the Atlas Coal Mine (403/823-2220, May–June daily 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., July–Aug. daily 9:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Sept.–mid-Oct. daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., $7, tours $9–12 include admission) protects Canada’s only remaining wooden ore-sorting tipple.