With my forehead pressed to the glass I look down. Way, way down. We’re almost 305 m (1,000 ft) in the air. Below, central Alberta’s sweeping prairie abruptly drops off, giving way to a deep chasm filled with charcoal gray and green eroded hills known as mesas and buttes. To say that Horseshoe Canyon is dramatic would be an understatement.
It’s surreal to think that just this morning I hiked along the canyon floor, lightly tracing my fingers across the exposed geological layers, which date back more than 70 million years. The bird’s eye view from the helicopter offers a completely different perspective on the otherworldly landscape and topography that Drumheller and the Canadian Badlands is famous for. It’s almost impossible to believe that we’re only 120 km (75 mi) northeast of Calgary.
Picture Perfect Window Seats for All
Our Mountain View Helicopter scenic tour travels the entire length of the 230 m (755 ft) deep Horseshoe Canyon. As it’s my first chopper ride, I nabbed the seat beside our captain. My husband Curt sits directly behind me snapping hundreds of photos. We have the three-passenger helicopter to ourselves and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Everyone who flies has a window with perfect visibility to capture the breathtaking scene.
In just under 15-minutes we take in spectacular views of the Red Deer River Valley, Midland Provincial Park, the internationally acclaimed Royal Tyrell Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils, and Horsethief Canyon where more than a hundred years ago outlaws hid stolen livestock.
Play amidst the Hoodoos
Once our feet firmly were firmly planted on the ground again, we picked up the Hoodoos Trail (Hwy 10) and drove about 15 minutes east of Drumheller. Here we gazed in awe at the strangely shaped sandstone and limestone pillars known as hoodoos, created by thousands of years of erosion. On our next visit we’ll play amidst them at the Dinosaur Trail Golf and Country Club. The course’s back nine was designed and built around protected dinosaur bonebeds. I’ve heard from friends that the panorama of striped hills and unusual rock formations makes for a unique and spatially challenging game.
Sadly, there’s no time for nine or 18 holes today, because we’ve scored tickets to the hottest show in town – the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. Every July, on the outskirts of Drumheller, the Rosebud Theatre recreates “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The production is set in a sprawling natural outdoor amphitheatre looking very much like it could be ancient Jerusalem. The three-hour tale of the life of Jesus features a cast of hundreds of actors and musicians. It sells out quickly so be sure to book in well in advance.
From dramatic scenery to dramatic performances, Alberta’s mysterious badlands promise to exceed expectations.