Backyard Bucket List: Drumheller Hoodoos and the Suspension Bridge

A couple of months ago, I posted a comment on Twitter about some of the great natural wonders one can visit when traveling to Alberta.  Among the items listed, I mentioned seeing the hoodoos in the Drumheller Badlands.  A Twitter friend from Germany questioned me about the hoodoos - she thought I had made some sort of strange typo.  I do admit, the word 'hoodoo' is a weird term, but it is a fitting word considering the absurd nature of the formation it describes.  Since summer is almost here, and lots of people are planning road trips and vacations, I'd like to encourage visitors to try checking out the ever-interesting hoodoos of Drumheller!

Before I tell you about how to visit the hoodoos in Drumheller, Alberta, I should probably make sure you all know what a hoodoo is, how it is made, and how they tie into the area known as the Badlands. The Badlands are part of the Drumheller valley, cut deep into the flat prairie horizon by erosion from the Red Deer River, wind, and rain run-off.  This area is classified as dry, reminiscent of an alienesque-desert landscape, but with vibrant colors caused by layers upon layers of sedimentary rock and sand.  It is really a very beautiful region, and worth the visit just to hike around the hills and gulleys.  

Drumheller Alberta, Dinosaur Trail, Horse Thief Canyon
The Drumheller Badlands really aren't so bad - they're beautiful!

The hoodoos of the Drumheller valley are tall rock formations made out of two types of stone (sand and clay) and rest upon a base of shale.  The pillar is made out of a softer sandstone, while the capstone is typically harder and less prone to erosion.  As the effects of wind, frost, rain, and water run-off whittle away the softer stone of the pillar, the capstone erodes far less quickly.  Eventually the pillar becomes quite small, while the capstone remains, balanced precariously on top like a flat tray or hat.  

Hoodoo trail, Alberta hoodoos, natural rock formations
Hoodoos are one of my favorite natural formations in Alberta.

The story goes that early Europeans arriving to the Drumheller Badlands associated these somewhat-creepy looking formations as signs of magic, witchcraft, or 'voodoo', which is how they became known as 'hoodoos'.  Early First Nations groups of the area believed that the rock pillars were petrified giants who came to life at night.  

Drumheller Alberta Canada, Hoodoo Trail, Alberta hoodoos
I pose with a baby hoodoo - I wonder what it will look like in 1000 years?

You can find hoodoos all over the badlands area, but the best place to see them is in the protected area, which has the biggest and most identifiable landmarks.  If you want to visit, you have to drive about 15 minutes (16 kilometers) east outside of Drumheller down Highway 10 (nicknamed Hoodoo Trail).  There is a big parking lot and several gigantic hoodoos right by the road, so you can't miss it.  It is free to visit. However, the hoodoos are very sensitive, and erode quite quickly and easily, so the good people of Alberta beg you to walk only on the designated paths and avoid touching the hoodoos themselves. 

Hoodoo trail, Canada Alberta hoodoos, natural rock formations
My husband and father liked this hoodoo the best!

If you get tired of hiking around the hoodoos, another fun thing to experience in this area is the Rosedale Suspension Bridge, which hangs just above the murky Red Deer River.  If you are driving from Drumheller, you will actually hit the community of Rosedale and the Suspension Bridge before the hoodoos (the hoodoos are 1 km further to the east).  The bridge was used by early miners in the days when Drumheller and area was a coal-producing community.  

Rosedale suspension bridge, Drumheller Alberta, things to do in Alberta
The Rosedale Suspension Bridge - fun for the whole family!

Today the bridge is mainly a free tourist attraction, and it provides access to some great hiking trails throughout the Badlands on the other side.  It is also used by locals and travelers alike for fishing in the Red Deer River.  I like going across it so that I can jump up and down once I get to the middle and make everyone else on the bridge with me wet themselves in fright!  Good times!

Rosedale suspension bridge, Drumheller Alberta, things to do in Alberta
My husband, Mom, and Dad high above the Red Deer River.


  1. wow...never heard of this place before...thanks for the new info...nice pics of the hoodoo :)

    1. Thanks - I'm glad I could bring something new to light! Hopefully you get the chance to visit! :)