Our family spends a lot of time hiking at Dinosaur Provincial Park. It’s a great way for the kids to burn off steam, and I get to exercise my cameras – it’s a win/win! But when the clouds come rolling in and the wet stuff starts to fall, most people pack up and leave this wonderful UNESCO site.
But you don’t have to vamoose just because the weather changed (huh… imagine that – the weather changing on a dime in Southern Alberta!). In fact, this might just be the perfect time for a trip to Dino. Here’s a few reasons why:
1.Fewer visitors – Like I mentioned in the intro, once the clouds start rolling in, many people take that as their cue to leave. These fair-weather tourists will hit the highway immediately, thus meaning fewer people on the trails and in the interpretive centre. 2.The interpretive centre – This place is quite extraordinary. When I first moved to Alberta, such a facility did not exist at Dinosaur Provincial Park. It’s definitely worth a visit, and is a great way to learn more about the area before hitting the trails. AND they have full-size dinosaur skeletal models on display! With an auditorium and artifacts from the last century-plus of the settler and fossil hunter stories, you can easily spend hours in the interpretive centre while the rain falls. 3.Better photo ops – It’s easy science – when the rain falls, it makes things more colourful. The valley comes to life, full of contrasting colours. The park is also home to several unique animals such as bull and rattle snakes, scorpions, black widow spiders, and larger animals like rabbits, and deer. 4.Wildflower season - Now people point to the middle of June as the prime time for wildflowers, and often miss out on the flora of this area. I’ve seen crocuses popping out of the snow in February in the park…actually, it’s a bit of a contest between me and our eight year-old to see who can photograph the first crocus of the year! The crocuses seen to be the harbinger of wildflower season, as after they’ve emerged, the rest tend to follow. Every week or two sees a new variety in bloom – including the cacti. Yes, the cactus plants of Dinosaur Provincial Park produce some incredible flowers through the summer. Other plants that don’t flower can provide an equally incredible experience. The hills and Cottonwood Flats trail have sagebrush in abundance, which produce a wonderful fragrance. Then there are the giant cottonwood trees themselves – ancient sentinels that are hundreds of years old. 5.Lunch time – Another refuge from a sudden downpour is the Cretaceous Café located at the main parking lot in the park. The café serves amazing food (the buffalo burger is my favourite), plus features all the supplies you forgot to pack (bug dope is one I always miss!), and they have showers available for campers.
So the next time you see rain clouds forming above your head at Dinosaur Provincial Park, don’t hit the highway. Just remember the old adage in these parts – “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes or walk five miles.”