Dinosaur Provincial Park

Southern Alberta

In no other place on earth has such a large number of dinosaur bones been found in such a small area – over 40 species and 400 skeletons. Set where The Lost World meets Little House on the Prairie, Dinosaur Provincial Park – a Unesco World Heritage site – comes at you without warning, deep in a chasm that opens before your feet from the grassy plain. A dehydrated fantasy landscape, there are hoodoos, colorful rock formations and dinosaurs aplenty.

The 81-sq-km park begs to be explored, with wildflowers, the odd rattler in the rocks and, if you're lucky, maybe even a T rex. This isn't just a tourist attraction but a hotbed for science: paleontologists have uncovered countless skeletons here, which now reside in many of the finest museums around the globe.

There are five short interpretive hiking trails to choose from and a driving loop runs through part of the park, giving you the chance to see a number of dinosaur skeletons in their death positions. To preserve the fossils, access to 70% of the park is restricted and may be seen only on guided hikes or bus tours (adult/child $20/10), which operate from late May to October. (The hikes and tours are popular, so be sure to reserve a place.)

The park's Dinosaur Visitors Centre is a field station of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and has a small, yet excellent, series of dino displays, as well as exhibits on the realities of paleontology.

In a hollow by a small creek sits the park's Dinosaur Campground. The ample tree cover is a welcome reprieve from the volcanic sun. Laundry facilities and hot showers are available, as are a small shop and cafe. This is a popular place, especially with the RV set, so phone ahead.

Though 75 million years ago dinosaurs cruised around a tropical landscape, it's now a hot and barren place – make sure you dress for the weather, with sunscreen and water at the ready. It's halfway between Calgary and Medicine Hat, and some 48km northeast of Brooks. From Hwy 1, take Secondary Hwy 873 to Hwy 544.