Okay, we know it’s an overused word in the travel business but if you’re looking for authentic, head to the Canadian Badlands of southeastern Alberta.
Hiking 34,000 acres at Alberta Western Uplands near the Red Deer River in the Canadian Badlands
Canada’s Wild West is where you can still rub shoulders with cowboys and “buckle bunnies” at small town rodeos, visit an old saloon, join a cattle drive or stay on a working ranch:
One hour east of Calgary, close to Drumheller and an easy drive to Dinosaur Provincial Park and more: The attention to detail is what we noticed first at Rocking R Ranch. One and two-bedroom cabins feature contemporary western decor and the place is absolutely spotless. Book trail riding, golf at nearby courses, live theatre @Rosebud_Theatre or try a guided flyfishing trip on Alberta’s famous Bow River.
One of the cabin bedrooms at Rocking-R-Ranch
1.5 hours east of Calgary: Cottage and rustic cabin accommodation as well as trail riding, camping, and even canoeing can be had at TL Bar Ranch near Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. Canoe rentals include pick up and delivery so you can explore this fabulous park from water as well as on foot. Dry Island is Alberta’s highest buffalo jump and the furthest one north. Be prepared to be blown away by the badlands view as you descend into the Red Deer River valley to where the TL Bar Ranch is located.
1.5 hours east of Calgary: Stay in a ghost town B&B in Dorothy (pop.9), 25 minutes south of Drumheller. If you’re nice, the B&B owner may even offer you a tour of her ghost town made famous by Tom Cochrane’s rock ‘n roll video, Life is a Highway. Nearby are the ghost towns of Wayne and East Coulee. Wayne is where you’ll find the Rosedeer Hotel and the Last Chance Saloon (circa 1913). The Atlas Coal Mine and its creepy wooden tipple are across from East Coulee, a former coal miners’ town.
The welcome sign at TL-BAR Ranch near Trochu in the Canadian Badlands.
1.5 hours east of Dinosaur Provincial Park, 3.5 hours east of Calgary: If hikes with extraordinary vistas are at the top of your trip list, head to Western Uplands Lodge. It sleeps ten comfortably and sits on a 34,000 acre working cattle ranch. The largest space we’ve ever set foot in. The lodge is a refurbished 1903 homesteader cabin wired for wi-fi or try the lodge’s deluxe one-room cabin and its unforgettable view. Enjoy a big cowboy breakfast before heading out to hike. Western Uplands also offers jet boat tours on the Red Deer or South Saskatchewan or if you’re with friends, they’ll plan a big steak dinner for you at the lodge after a day on the trails.
1 hour east of Medicine Hat, 4 hours from Calgary: Cowhand wannabes can join working cowboys as they gather, move, and sort cattle the way it’s always been done at the historic Reesor Ranch in Cypress Hills. This region straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, ab0ut an hour east of Medicine Hat. Choose a barn loft stay, cowboy cabin rental or B&B accommodation in the Reesor Family heritage home.
The one-room cabin at Alberta Western Uplands Lodge has a spectacular badlands view.
In 1903 logs were floated down the Red Deer River to build the homesteader cabin that is today Alberta Western Uplands Lodge.
One of the Historic Reesor Ranch guest rooms. Photo courtesy of Lynne Forrester.
Extra attention to detail in every room at Rocking R Guest Ranch.
An early spring sunset at the Rocking R Guest Ranch near Strathmore in the Canadian Badlands.
Late afternoon light at Historic Reesor Ranch in the Cypress Hills.
One of the suites at Historic Reesor Ranch in Cypress Hills. Photo courtesy of Lynne Forrester.
One of the horses at Rocking R Ranch, a working horse ranch.
Travellers can join Cattle Drive 101 at Reesor Ranch in Cypress Hills.
If you love muscle cars, custom paint jobs, antique cars, motorcycles and trucks, you’ll love the Canadian Badlands. Every road trip we take through this vast tourism region in Southeastern Alberta, we see cool sets of wheels. Show and Shines are also popular. The largest is Three Hills Cruise.
The annual spring spectacle takes place in the Town of Three Hills, an hour and a half from Calgary. Over the years, what began as a Cruise Night has become Western Canada’s Cruise Capital with up to 1500 registered vehicles lining the streets of Three Hills for the weekend event. Whatever’s done up, you’re going to see it at a Three Hills Cruise, especially if the weather is good.
The weekend kicks off with a Friday night Meet and Greet at the local A&W followed by a cruise through town. Then it’s on to Highway 21 for a cruise to the Town of Trochu and back. Saturday features an all-day Show and Shine, Motorcycle Show, FMX Freestyle Motocross Show and Jump, and remote control car racing followed by a Beef on a Bun fundraiser and evening entertainment. Sunday includes Drag (Bracket) Racing Poker Rally and a kid’s play centre.
Cruise events take place every year in Canadian Badland communities like Hanna, Lethbridge and Stettler, to name a few.
For its 100th birthday in 2013, the Town of Drumheller is inviting its 400,000 annual visitors to special Centennial celebrations, family reunions, homecomings, and school reunions.
Named for an early settler, Samuel Drumheller, the community was incorporated as a Village in 1913 and became a City in 1930. After World War I, the development of the coal industry created a boom in the downtown, giving Drumheller the title, “Wonder Town of the West – the Fastest Growing Town in Canada.” For more history, current services and tourism offerings, check the Town of Drumheller website.
In 2006, the Town of Drumheller, considered a primary tourism hub, was a founding member of Canadian Badlands Ltd. The Town has since worked with Canadian Badlands to complete its Tourism Master Plan in 2011 and participated in other regional initiatives such as a Tourism Destination Assessment and the Authentic Tourism Product Development project.
The Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology, operated by the Government of Alberta, exemplifies extraordinary results from community-led initiatives to bolster the local economy after the collapse of its single industry – coal mining. Since opening in 1985, the Royal Tyrell Museum attracts over 400,000 visitors year-round. Read about the development of the Royal Tyrrell Museum and check out this year’s programs for all ages on the Royal Tyrell Museum website.
For information on major attractions and hidden gems, and to personalize your trip, visit the Visitor Information Centre operated by the Drumheller and District Chamber of Commerce at the World’s Largest Dinosaur or visit the official Drumheller visitor website.
The Town of Drumheller offers a variety of accommodations for every preference and budget, from hotels, motels, inns, B & Bs, cabins, guest houses, vacation rentals, to RV resorts and campgrounds. Check out the Where To Stay section of their website.
Three self-guided tour itineraries can be downloaded…
1 – Highlights of the Drumheller Valley, Coal Mines & Dinosaur Finds: the World’s Largest Dinosaur, Royal Tyrell Museum, Horsethief Canyon, the Hoodoos, Atlas Coal Mine, Horseshoe Canyon, and various attractions in Downtown Drumheller, including the Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Reptile World, Badlands Historical Centre, and the Rotary Spray Park.
2 – Exploring the Arts of the Canadian Badlands: Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Kaleidoscope Theatre, Rosebud Theatre, East Coulee Spring Fest, and a number of Art Galleries.
3 – Coal Mines and Dinosaur Finds: Royal Tyrell Museum, Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee School Museum, the Hoodoos, Rosedale Suspension Bridge, Bleriot Ferry, and the World’s Largest Dinosaur.
Visit Drumheller in 2013 to experience the special Centennial Celebrations and annual events:
May 10 – 12
East Coulee Spring Fest hosted by the East Coulee School Museum,
The Town of Drumheller hosts a 100th birthday party at the Badlands Community Facility
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band perform at the Badlands Community Facility
July 10 – 21
Canadian Badlands Passion Play: http://www.canadianpassionplay.com/
Tour of Alberta Pro Cycling Festival Stage 3 from Strathmore finishes in Drumheller
In the southeast corner of Alberta, just outside of Medicine Hat in Cypress County, on Highway 1, north of the South Saskatchewan River, we find the Town of Redcliff – Greenhouse Capital of the Prairies. The town has its history in coal and gas but today it’s all about the plants.
It’s a dusty stretch of highway as we come through in late March, and the transport trucks just keep on getting bigger and bigger, but it’s a great place to grow stuff under glass. There is more sunshine here than any other place in Canada – about 2500 hours per year.
Redcliff used to produce the very collectible Redcliff Pottery. Along with Medalta, the crocks, jugs and bean pots familiar in early Canadian kitchens and pantries came from this place. Today the pottery industry has been replaced by drilling and pipeline services that support the local oil and gas industry.
Tomatoes are king here, as well as market vegetables like cucumbers, peppers and, did I mention tomatoes? We all need ketchup.
Ready to explore the open road this spring? The Canadian Badlands is a massive tourism region in southeastern Alberta and has the perfect weekend road trips for food, music, and young families.
For food- lovers
Head for Medicine Hat where April 13-14 marks the premiere of the Sunshine Skillet, a new chef competition and food fair. Pro and amateur chefs from across southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan will compete for trophies, cash prizes and provincial bragging rights. Get the latest on local food trends, source new producers and growers and sample local fare at the festival’s farmers market-style food fair. Check StayinMedicineHat.com for affordable overnight stays. Check out this Canadian Badlands blog post for more on local food in the Canadian Badlands.
East Coulee Springfest is one of Alberta’s best. Musicians and bands representing folk, rock, blues, jazz, country, roots, alternative and more flock to this grassroots music festival held every May in the tiny hamlet of East Coulee (population: 140), south of Drumheller. Over 100 musicians and 35 bands are expected at this year’s May 11-13 fundraiser for the little town’s East Coulee Schoolhouse Museum. Festivities kick off Friday night with Sneak Peek performances by three great bands at the East Coulee Hotel & Tavern, one of four festival venues.
For young families and history buffs
Head to the May Day Miners Festival in Drumheller Valley, May 1-3, 2013. There will be lots of laughter and even a tear or two shed as the valley pays tribute to thousands of miners and their families who came and worked in the valley when coal was king. Enjoy a night of song at the old Rosedeer Hotel (circa 1913), take a tour of the Atlas Coal Mine and its photogenic wooden tipple, join a valley scavenger hunt for families, win cash prizes and visit the East Coulee Schoolhouse Museum where miners’ kids once went to school. All miners and anyone with a miner in their family tree are encouraged to make a sign with their family name and join the Miners March to the dedication of a new miner memorial.
Another weekend of laughter and tears as we remember Drumheller’s dark and dirty history at the May Day Miners Festival in the Canadian Badlands. Photo courtesy of Lisa Clarke
The Canadian Badlands tourism region encompasses over 90,000 square kilometres of southeastern Alberta stretching east from Calgary to the Saskatchewan border and south to the US border state of Montana. Log onto our website for more on touring routes, places to stay and guided tours.
One of the best things about a road trip is the great food you find on your route. Here are some links to some of our favourite finds in the Canadian Badlands.
The Western Uplands historical log ranch house was built in 1903 and today features satellite TV and internet. Be sure to ask about the steak dinner.
A dandy web site to know about if you’re traveling the southeastern portion of the Canadian Badlands is Savour the Southeast. A local directory on the site links to local meat, fruit and vegetable producers as well as area restaurants that use local ingredients in their cooking. A heritage variety grains producer is listed as well as farms that grow seasonal berry favourites like saskatoons, red currants, cherries, and honeyberries. Greenhouse vegetable growers in Redcliff outside of Medicine Hat are also listed. Redcliff is known as the Greenhouse Capital of the Prairies. For local farmer markets, check the Alberta Farmers Market Association membership list. On it you’ll find dates and times for local markets under “Central” and “Southern” Alberta. We visited Oyen’s Farmers Market last year for fresh fruit and veg to munch on the road.
Stop in for a cup at the Acadia Valley Prairie Elevator Museum and Tea House.
Not only do you get to see what the the inside of a grain elevator looks like, the Prairie Elevator Museum in Acadia Valley, north of Medicine Hat, also serves a delicious lunch with a hot pot of tea in its little tea room. Made from an old German recipe, this kuchen has a sweet crust with fruit slices and fresh custard. YUM!
Try Bernie and the Boys Bistro if you’re looking for a good burger joint in Drumheller. Urbanspoon and other online food review sites have lots of positive reviews for it.
The Friday Fried Chicken Buffet and the homemade sticky buns are legendary at the Hanna Doll Palace & Tearoom. Even local gas guys love the lunches here. Hanna is off of Highway 9, northeast of Drumheller.
I think the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had was from Spragg’s Meat Shop which serves its pulled pork sandwiches at every Canada Day celebration in Rosemary, not far from Dinosaur Provincial Park. If you’re camping or staying in a place with kitchen facilities, try their BBQ meats including home-made sausage.
Next time you are in the Village of Rosemary on Canada Day, keep an eye out for this guy and his portable BBQ
At the Patricia Hotel on the way to Dinosaur Provincial Park, cooking your own steak is a badlands tradition. The hotel saloon sports a massive commercial grill to cook your steak on. Affordable steak dinners come with home-made soup, baked beans and salad. Or head to the 34,000 acre Alberta Western Uplands Ranch, a working beef ranch, about 1.5 hours east of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Stay in a refurbished 1903 homesteaders’ log cabin that sleeps ten comfortably. Book your steak dinner when you book your room. Steak dinners don’t get better than this.
For a classic steak house dinner, try Beafeater’s steak in Medicine Hat. We also liked our steaks at Ric’s Grill which is housed in Lethbridge’s old water tower. On a clear day, it has a view of the Canadian Rockies.
We have yet to try the historic Imperial Hotel’s Steak Pit in Bassano but we’re told the steaks are good. Friends also rave about Premium Sausage in Cypress County and dinners served at the Riverside Golf Course in Milk River.
I like a full breakfast when we’re on the road. We’ve had some good ones at local B&Bs and inns in the Canadian Badlands. In Drumheller, try the MacDougall Lane B&B or the Heartwood Inn & Spa. After a hot day in Dinosaur Provincial Park in July, I sure appreciated the giant tub in our ensuite at the Lakeshore B&B Spa on Lake Newell. Owner Kathy Gettes’ omelets, homemade muffins and good strong java the following morning were also memorable. The place to stay in the “Royal” town of Coronation is the Heart Tea Lunch. We had an excellent hot meal there after a long drive. Robin’s Nest B&B in Castor also serves a very good breakfast.
The Robin’s Nest B&B in the Town of Castor in the Canadian Badlands
As one of only three Canadian communities designated as a National Historic Site, the Village of Stirling is regarded as the best-preserved example of a Mormon agricultural village, based on the Plat of Zion, with hall-mark wide streets and large 2.5 acre farmstead lots with barns. The Village of Stirling is located south-east of Lethbridge in the County of Warner No. 5, on what is becoming known as The Mormon Trail.
The Village of Stirling has worked with Canadian Badlands Ltd. in developing its tourism assets, and used the Community Adjustment Fund program to enhance its Information Kiosk, a year-round resource, and to hire a Tourism Development Officer, Sandra Nelson. The map and self-guided walking tour introduce walkers to the community’s eight historic buildings, as well as church, school, recreation and administration buildings.
The Michelsen Farmstead Provincial Resource invites the public to experience rural settler lifestyles in the early 1900s. Visit the homestead, barn, blacksmith shop, coal shed and granary, and learn about the influence of the Mormons on the development of the region. Web-site coming soon.
At the Galt Historic Railway Park, visitors are invited to “Step back into time when steam was king,” and experience the uncertainty of immigrants in a new land, pioneer life on the prairies, and the challenges of cross-border travel more than 100 years ago. The 1890 Victorian Depot, built by Sir Alexander Galt and his son Elliott, was originally built on the Canada-US border between Coutts, AB and Sweetgrass, Montana. In November, experience a Victorian Prairie Christmas, celebrating the life of Elliott T. Galt.
Building on its historical and tourism assets, Stirling welcomes families to its Centennial Campground and year-round Reunion Centre. Stirling’s annual Settler Days, scheduled for July 19 – 20, 2013, invites families to experience settler life and present-day recreational opportunities.
In 2012, CBL, working with a local leadership group, The Belles of the Badlands, and other partners, organized a Mormon Trail Bus Tour, with participants visiting attractions in the Village of Stirling and the Towns of Raymond, Magrath, and Cardston.
Canadian Badlands Ltd. salutes the partners and sponsors demonstrating the 2013 Conference theme, The Art of Collaboration, by providing support for Conference keynote and workshop presenters, accommodations, meals and refreshments, making the Conference accessible through affordable registration fees:
Partners and Stakeholders:
Alberta Tourism Parks and Recreation
Alberta Community and Co-operative Association
Medicine Hat Accommodation Association
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association
Community Futures within the Canadian Badlands
Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce
Medicine Hat Casino by Vanshaw
Positive Culture Company
CBL shareholder municipalities providing meals and refreshments:
City of Medicine Hat
Town of Redcliff
MD of Acadia No. 34
County of 40 Mile
Town of Bow Island
Village of Foremost
CBL Shareholder municipalities and partners providing workshop panelists:
Kneehill Regional Partnership
City of Brooks, Vulcan County
Newell Regional Economic Development Initiative
For information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact Peggy Birse, email@example.com.
Click here to register for the 2013 Tourism Development Conference
Spring Creek Trail Shelter, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park – Alberta
Date: February 23, 2013
10:00 AM 7.2km Start 10:30 AM 17.5km Start
Cost: By donation
Get the family outside this winter for a fun Cross Country Ski Race in the Cypress Hills! This event includes a 7.5 km family loop and a 17.5 km loop.
For Participants to Register:
All ages welcome! Contact the Visitor Centre at 403-893-3833 or firstname.lastname@example.org Meet other winter enthusiasts! Volunteers are needed at checkpoints, aid stations and with timing. Please contact us at the Visitor Centre! Cross County Skis are available for rent at the Cypress Hills Visitor Centre. For more details call: 403-893-3833 www.cypresshills.com