A few weeks ago, I decided to step out of Saskatchewan and explore Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 because of all of the cool fossils that have been found there.
I packed up my dogs and my vehicle and we were on our way. After hours of driving on prairie roads, we finally got our first glimpse of the badlands. It’s a breathtaking change of landscape that feels almost surreal. Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park was full when I had made my reservation a few weeks earlier, so I settled for Tillebrook Provincial Park, which is only about 30 mins away.
I believe the Tillebrook park is designed more as a ‘stop along the way’ for through travelers than it is somewhere you’d seek out as a destination, but the campsites are well-maintained and it felt like a family friendly atmosphere. There are lilac trees planted all around the campgrounds that were in bloom that I really enjoyed. The dogs and I enjoyed a campfire before settling in to sleep for the night. We were up early the next morning, partially because we were excited to check out Dinosaur Provincial Park and also because June wanted to be let out to pee.
As we arrived to the park entrance, the rain clouds were rolling in. We decide to head right to the trails to get some exploring in before it started raining. I marveled at the warning sign cautioning hikers about scorpions, black widows, and rattlesnakes, as they aren’t critters I usually have to consider when hiking in Canada.
The park offers plenty of smaller trails that venture through the badlands in a neat little loop so guests can drive around and hike them all. They also have two stations with fossils still in the ground that you can check out, too cool!
The cloudy day was probably in our favor, I can imagine the hiking trails get pretty warm in the full sun. We made our way up the trail and I was immediately amazed by the rock formations.
It felt like we had stepped off of the prairie grass and on to the moon. June is my ‘photo op’ dog, and I can unhook her leash to take a picture without her heading for the hills (I’m looking at you, Piper). So she happily posed for me in exchange for some treats.
We decided to make our way up a steep section of loose rock where I could see other hikers standing at a lookout point. It is not the first time, nor the last time, that I have made the mistake of hiking up a section with dogs without fully thinking about how we would get back down.
The lookout at the top provided a gorgeous view of the landscape, and a birds eye view of the campground below. It was at this moment that I realized that it was going to be tricky to get down with two eager dogs pulling on their leashes.
We slowly began making our way down, just as a group of kids from the campground below were coming up. On a quiet trail, I might consider letting June and maybe even Piper off leash to make it down a steep section, but there was no chance I was going to try it today with kids trying to climb up. When it got so steep that I was starting to slip, we resorted to the classic, and a little humbling, scooch-down-on your-butt technique.
It may look a little silly while you’re doing it, but it gets results, and soon we were back on flatter ground. For a dog living in Canada, Piper sure has a knack for finding cacti with her feet. Fortunately, this time it was a near miss. The last time she trampled through a cactus was in Douglas Provincial Park and I ended up with spiky little pieces of cacti all of myself while I picked them off of her. We step very carefully now.
We continued around the loop and stopped to check out the fossil stations, What a cool thing to see! There are guided tours through the park that I believe can take you to even more fossils, but they weren’t dog friendly so I will have to try it another day.
The rain had been threatening us all morning and was finally starting to make it’s appearance. I decided that this would be a great time for lunch before we packed up to head home. The Cretaceous Café in the park has all sorts of delicious looking food and dinosaur themed souvenirs.
I chose the special, Korean Beef Galbi, and it was delicious. I drove up to the upper parking lot to have lunch with a view and watch the rain clouds roll in.
After a wonderful morning of exploration it was time to leave the dinosaurs behind and head home. This is absolutely a park I will visit again and I fee like I only scratched the surface of the adventures to be had there.