Formed by the meltwaters of the last Ice Age, the Red Deer River valley cuts a deep gash through the prairie – about 240km northwest of Medicine Hat and 140km east of Calgary – creating a surreal landscape of bare, sunbaked hills and eerie lunar flats dotted with sagebrush and scrubby, tufted grass. On their own, the Alberta Badlands justify a visit, but what makes them an essential detour is the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, one of North America’s greatest natural history museums, located 8km outside Drumheller, a dreary but obvious base. You’ll need your own transport to explore and get to Dinosaur Provincial Park, home to the Tyrrell Museum Field Station and the source of many of its fossils.

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