Alberta is SO diverse. Its landscape ranges from high mountain peaks to foothills, open prairies, lakes, wetlands, rivers, forested areas, badlands and glaciers. Bordered between British Columbia to the West, Saskatchewan to the East, Northwest Territories to its North, and Montana to its South, we are what they like to call a ‘landlocked’ province. With a population of approximately 4.10 million people, the population density is quite small, with six people per square kilometer or 15 per square mile. There certainly is lots of room to breathe in Alberta, with its wide open spaces and opportunity for adventure. If you are into history, there are a large number of historic sites you could visit as well.
Needless to say, there’s a little something for everyone… minus the ocean aspect (though we do have some good-sized lakes!)
The majority of people who travel to Alberta usually hit the mountains, as we are known for our unbelievably beautiful mountain ranges and towns like as Banff and Jasper. But here is SO much more to Alberta’s beauty; even I often fail to explore and enjoy the diversity. I have been trying harder to step outside my regular routine and enjoy everything else our province has to offer, whether it’s exploring the badlands, spending more time out at my family’s lake cabin, or simply taking in the beauty of the prairies when driving through. For people who come from metropolises where buildings are stacked one on top of each other, or simply loud and busy areas, the prairies and open space provide a great sense of space. Being able to see for kilometres is not a common thing for all people.
This past weekend I decided that instead of heading to the mountains to camp - where I usually go - I decided to explore Alberta’s Badlands. I headed towards Drumheller, which is only 1.5 hours from my hometown, taking in the beauty of the open fields along the way. From the Canola fields, to the horse pastures, dairy farms, windmills and more, it was refreshing. I stopped at Dry Island Buffalo Jump along the way.
I then continued to Drumheller. The Royal Tyrell Museum, located right in town, is a HUGE tourist and field trip attraction. Since 1985 it’s presented people with the incredible evolution of dinosaurs through its collection of skeletons and fossils. The badlands are a very popular place for those who enjoy evolution and history, offering a lot of history and learning opportunities in both areas. Some of the most significant fossil discoveries have been made in Dinosaur Provincial Park and surrounding badland areas. There’s also the hoodoos (pictured below on the left), a suspension bridge, the world’s largest dinosaur, coal mine sites, horseback riding, heli tours, canyons to visit and hike through, and a number of other museums. Campgrounds are plentiful in the area as well, so you can stay for a few days if you wish!
One of my FAVOURITE places to visit in the badlands in Horsethief Canyon. If you have the opportunity to visit for sunset or sunrise, even better. I took time to explore it during the day, before heading to set up camp and then came back to enjoy it for sunset. It is just breathtaking and a great change from the mountains, where I am used to spending the majority of my time. You can hike down into it if you wish - just make sure you have proper footwear to do so!
I camped at a little campground a couple minutes down the road from Horsethief Canyon called Bleriot Ferry Campground. You have to take a little ferry across the river to get to it, and it’s open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily free of charge. It can also be accessed from back roads if you miss the ferry (though more time consuming to get to), and runs on a first–come, first-served basis. I set up camp right close to the river, a 30 second walk through the trees, and enjoyed views of the badlandsI took a hammock with me as well, which was nice to set up in the evening – especially since there are fire pits to enjoy, if you wish!
I wanted to be sure to include a pre-planning checklist when headed out camping. Many people I have talked to get overwhelmed when thinking about planning for a camping trip, or an adventure, and I was also that way at the beginning. It’s often hard to know where you should go, what you should bring, and how to be fully prepared. I can also say that it’s from all my mistakes, and trial and error, that I have really learned what I do and don’t need to pack before I go. It may be different from person to person as well, as some of us don’t mind being a little more relaxed and “go with the flow,” whereas others like to plan and have everything set in stone before heading out. Here’s a quick pre-planning checklist I would advise for those just starting out:
- Get the dates on your calendar. Plan ahead and book a date(s) that works for a camping trip. Once it’s on the calendar you can start planning around that.
- Invite friends or family. I don’t mind heading out camping solo, or with Timber (my pup), though it’s always more fun with other people around - so planning ahead and chatting with others could make for a more enjoyable outing.
- Do your ‘fun’ research. Look into the area you want to go to. For campgrounds, check whether they are first-come, first-served or able to be reserved in advance, along with ratings and photos that may be available. With children, you may want a playground or pool close by. Check out some activities in the area, including hikes, tourist attractions, viewpoints, places you want to stop along the way, etc. that may be of interest. Write those down.
- Check the forecast. As the date approaches, be sure to keep an eye on the forecast, as things can change quickly - especially in Alberta. Be prepared with proper gear, like extra layers, rain gear, extra blankets, etc., and a backup plan if necessary. If it is going to be hot, also be prepared with sunscreen, hats, bathing suit, towels, sunglasses, extra water, etc. and everything necessary to stay comfortable and avoid heat stroke.
- Safety first. If you are going to be out of service let someone know where you are going to be going and for how long, just for safety reasons. Many campgrounds have no cell reception.
- Prepare your food. One of the best parts about camping is the food! Write up a list as to what you plan to have for your meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Then head to the grocery story and gather your goodies. Prepare what you can at home before you go. Prepare the veggies, cut your meats, and organize things meal by meal to make it a bit less overwhelming when you get to your location. Also, be sure to bring whatever condiments it is you wish to have with your meals!
- Prep your gear. There are some GREAT, thorough checklists online you can access as well for all the little things you may want to consider bringing with you (first aid kit, matches, bug spray, wood, axe and more). I always keep things organised in Rubbermaid bins in my garage at home, making it easy to just grab and throw it in my vehicle when I am heading out on a trip.
Below is a basic gear list for some larger items I would suggest bringing:
Tent - The Coleman Prairie Trail Cabin - 8 Person Tent is GREAT for families and friends, with it being 6’5 and very spacious inside. The room divider that’s provided also allows for privacy and makes two rooms instantly, along with the wheeled carrying bag making it super easy to pack up and wheel away when all’s said and done. It’s also easy to set up with its pre-attached poles!
Airbed - The Coleman SupportRest Elite PillowStop Double High AirBed provides a very comfortable sleep. For those who enjoy their bed at home and seem to have a hard time when tenting or sleeping outdoors on the ground, the raised sides help keep pillows in place and the height takes away any feeling of rocks or uneven surfaces. The 120V pump also allows for easy inflation.
Cooler - The Coleman 62QT wheeled Xtreme Cooler works well for larger families when out camping. The large wheels allow for easy transport to and from the vehicle. The beverage holders on the lid are also super helpful, when at the beach, at your campsite or any picnic area. You can easily keep food cold, as it stores ice up to five days!
Seating – With their built-in mesh cup holder and carrying bags, the Coleman XL Broadband lawnchairs are great for camping. They also come in various colours for the whole family. There’s nothing quite like coming back to camp and sitting around a fire or having dinner in a nice comfy chair, or bringing it with you to the park, beach, etc.
Stove - The Coleman HyperFlame FyreSargaent Stove I can’t say enough about this stove. It’s SO easy to store, with it being lightweight, and it’s easy to cook for large numbers of people on. The Electronic Ignition makes it simple, along with the ability to change from a stove top to grilling surfaces easily on either side.
Lantern – Whether you’re playing a card or board game, having a snack, or just chatting, the Coleman Divide and Twist Lantern is great for use at night when you are all hanging out around camp.
Hot Water Heater - The Coleman H2Oasis Hot Water on Demand Portable Water Heater can be a luxury when out camping, especially when you are used to having hot water at home. It’s perfect for showering or washing when camping, fishing, or doing any other outdoor activities, as it has a multi-position shower head and includes a five gallon collapsible water carrier. You can easily charge it from your car power outlet.