Alberta Roadtrip

Visitors can drive Alberta Badlands on a Wild West road trip By: Debbie Olsen
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, East Coulee // © 2012  Travel Alberta
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, East Coulee // © 2012  Travel Alberta

The Details

Canadian Badlands

Travel Alberta

Calgary International Airport (YYC)

Car rentals:
Avis, Budget, Dollar/Thrifty, Enterprise, Hertz and National/Alamo are located inside the terminal. Discount and Zoom are off-terminal, but have free shuttle service.

RV Rentals:
There are many RV rental companies in Calgary, but according to the Calgary airport website, only Canadream offers free shuttle service from the airport to the rental site. They also offer commissionable rates.

Where to Sleep:
If your clients choose to stay in hotels, they should use the town of Drumheller as a home base and travel to many of the sites on day trips. If they are going by RV, check the resource websites for info on pre-booking area campgrounds. A few popular hotels in Drumheller include: the Newcastle Country Inn, Heartwood Inn and Spa and the Ramada Inn & Suites.

Good Eats:
Bernie & the Boys Bistro in Drumheller is the home of the four-pound Mammoth burger and 70 flavors of hand-blended milkshakes, while Country Cousins, in Lyndon, is a Mennonite restaurant with great homemade pies. The Last Chance Saloon, in Wayne, offers pub food and a fantastic atmosphere. Visitors should also check out Sam’s Saloon, in Rowley, which features a pizza night the last Saturday of every month. Don’t let the small local population fool you — the place will be packed.

Sites Along the Way:
P Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
P Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park
P Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
P Dinosaur Provincial Park
P Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
P Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
P Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Top Experiences:
Visitors can go on a dinosaur day dig where they excavate real fossils with paleontologists at Dinosaur Provincial Park, while on the Atlas mine tour, guests can put on a miner’s hat and go underground in a real coal mine. At Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, visitors have the change to learn Blackfoot First Nations history from a Blackfoot interpreter and also spend the night in a real tepee. Finally, visitors can get a difference view of the unique landscape of the Badlands while paddling the warm and shallow Milk River.

The honeymoon suite at the Rosedeer Hotel has a private bath but not a private bathroom. If you want to use the toilet, you have to go across the hall. It’s the price you pay to honeymoon in a ghost town. Fortunately, the actual price you pay is only $65 per night.

The Rosedeer Hotel is located in a little place called Wayne, Alberta, about 95 miles northeast of Calgary and, if you want to stay in the hotel or enjoy a drink served in a quart sealer in the appropriately named Last Chance Saloon, you will have to go on a road trip through the Canadian Badlands.

Located in southeastern Alberta, at the edge of broad rolling prairies, the Canadian Badlands are as mysterious and compelling as their name implies. The strange lunar landscape of the Badlands is filled with hoodoos, pinnacles, mesas, gorges and scruffy hills lined with colorful layers of exposed rock. Each hill and rock formation is unique and some have retained the names originally bestowed by aboriginal people.

It isn’t hard to imagine dinosaurs roaming this weird moonscape and, fittingly, the badlands contain one of the richest deposits of dinosaur fossils in the world in a provincial park that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. One of the world’s premier museums of paleontology is also located in the region, making this a dinosaur aficionado’s dream vacation.

A drive through the Canadian Badlands can also encompass unique First Nations sites, historical markers and small-town attractions. But it’s the quirky off-the-beaten-path spots that are often the most memorable.

Even though Wayne — which is officially listed on the website — is not a huge tourist center, a lazy afternoon spent in the Last Chance Saloon is an experience that really shouldn’t be missed. It’s worth the drive just to sit in a Wild West bar with actual bullet holes in the wall.

All it would take is one night in the honeymoon suite to find out if there is any truth to the rumors that the hotel is haunted — an easy task if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.

Building a Badlands Road Trip Itinerary
A Badlands road trip could be the sole focus of a Canadian journey or it might be an extension of a longer trip that includes the Canadian Rockies. To help clients make the most of exploring the Badlands by car, it’s best to set up a loose itinerary with guaranteed reservations and avoid packing the itinerary so tight that they have to rush. On the next page is some information to help you plan the details and some recommendations for stops along the way.

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