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Get To Know The Real Jurassic Park—Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park

Ryan
Published Dec 22, 2015

OK, this may not be like the Jurassic Park in the books or movies. You won’t find any live dinosaurs. There aren’t any Disneyland-like jeep rides throughout an archaic landscape. You won’t even find much from the Jurassic Period—most of the remains here are from the Cretaceous Period. But you can spend the night in a landscape where dinosaurs once roamed and where their fossils remain to this day. Spend a day—or a week—wandering around this ancient terrain, marvel at the beauty of the surrounding environment, and immerse yourself in a past where dinosaurs were once the most dominant creatures on the planet.

Get lost in an ancient land

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Canada’s Dinosaur Provincial Park is located right in the heart of Alberta’s Badlands region, and can be found in the Southwest portion of the province. The park itself is quite difficult to find. There is no technical address, which makes mapping apps a bit of a chore. I recommend getting a good map, using GPS, and/or asking for directions from locals (be warned, there are several twists and turns on backcountry roads, making the trek somewhat labyrinthine). Generally speaking, the park is a little over 200 kilometers east of Calgary and 18 kilometers just outside of the small town of Patricia. Don’t worry; it’s worth the effort.

See our full list of recommended Hotels near Dinosaur Provincial Park and also compare the prices with airbnbs near Dinosaur Provincial Park

There’s nothing bad about these lands

Much like the American Badlands, this region was named for a terrain that was infamously difficult to traverse by indigenous populations and homesteaders alike. But don’t let the name fool you, this is a hauntingly beautiful landscape. The park has several trails, giving you access to the natural surroundings. If you’ve never been to a badlands region and consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast, this is a must. There’s nothing quite like it. Just looking across the eroded plains lets you imagine the kind of dread that travelers of the past must have felt.

The only down side of this park, is that the accessible portions are rather limited. If you are not that into camping, there’s probably not much for you to do that will extend beyond a full day. For those who do camp, there are over 120 campsites, including accommodations for tents, motorized caravans, and RVs. On top of this, the park also offers yurts (tents made from felt) for those who desire a little more comfort with their camping experiences. Overall, every site and public facility is very well maintained. If you are camping, you may find yourself soaking in everything the park has to offer the longer you stay.

See our full list of recommended Hotels near Dinosaur Provincial Park and also compare the prices with airbnbs near Dinosaur Provincial Park

Find your lost world

Although the park provides accessible accommodations, the real reason to visit is for the dinosaurs. You probably won’t consider the Canadian plains the warmest place you’ve ever been (those who have experienced the kinds of winters the northland provides will know what I’m talking about), but 75,000 years ago this was a coastal region that abutted a sea, remained rather hot and humid, and was an ideal location for dinosaur populations. This means that dinosaur fossils have been found throughout the park. In fact, fossils from about 5 percent of known dinosaur species have been found in the surrounding area. This includes the remains from the Tyrannosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, and Chasmosaurus families.

You’ll want to spend your time driving around the park and wandering along the small hiking trails that are scattered throughout. It’s true that there are no Jeep rides, but if you have a Jeep you can pretend like you’re in one of the movies and drive along a well-defined route that stops along informative displays that inform you of the dinosaurs found in the region, how paleontologists dig for fossils, and a broad history of the park. There is also an excellent visitor center/museum that has displays on the area’s diverse and wild past. The park also offers private tours that allow you access to the more restricted corners (the vast majority of the park is off-limits for preservation purposes). These fill up fast, so make sure you plan ahead and make reservations.

See our full list of recommended Hotels near Dinosaur Provincial Park and also compare the prices with airbnbs near Dinosaur Provincial Park

Walk with the dinosaurs without getting eaten

Haven’t you ever thought that it would be kind of cool to go to a theme park like those in the Jurassic Park movies, but you’re also genuinely terrified of being eaten by a live T-Rex? That’s what the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada offers: a view into an ancient and wild past, where dinosaurs roamed, educational insights into the region’s paleontological endeavors, and access to one of the most unique landscapes and natural environments in today’s world. It may not be as exciting, or life-threatening, as the movies, but it’s definitely worth the trek.

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Mark Twain once wrote that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts." Like Twain, I believe that traveling does...Read more

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