Have a free day to explore?
Have a free day to explore? Medicine Hat is close to so many nearby attractions that make a great road trip for the day. We have created three possible itineraries to fill your day with adventure. Whether you’re by yourself, a group of friends, or for the whole family, these locations are sure to be boredom busters!
1. Head Towards the Hills
A popular day trip for locals and visitors alike is to Elkwater, in the Cypress Hills. Don’t miss the treasures along the way, like the Prairie Memories Museum in Irvine.
A must-see attraction for anyone interested in rural history, this museum portrays various aspects of pioneer life. They have many artifacts and buildings including an old schoolhouse, church and lumber store. Be sure to check out Irvine’s 20 Milepost Days held annually during September’s long weekend. This event features all kinds of events, including a parade, rodeo, gymkhana, bench show and much more.
In Elkwater, there are many options for activities such as renting paddle boards, hiking the trails, riding horses, relaxing on the beach or minigolf. If your group is looking for a bite to eat, Camp Cookhouse is always a great stop. Don’t forget to bring your bike to ride the Cypress Hills Mountain Bike Trails!
Stick around after the sun goes down, the Cypress Hills are a Dark Sky Preserve. Due to its high elevation and lack of urban light pollution, Cypress Hills was the first designated Dark Sky Preserve in Alberta. Every August the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada holds a Summer Star Party, on the Saskatchewan side of this Interprovincial Park, that's considered to be one of the largest stargazing events in the country. The park also offers a variety of camping options, so cozy up by the campfire and gaze at the starlit sky. If the conditions are right, you may even see the Northern Lights.
2. Explore the Badlands
Head west on Highway 3 to find some of the most breathtaking natural views in the area. Start off your adventure at Red Rock Coulee.
Red Rock Coulee Natural Area is 324 hectares (800 acres) of badlands, hard sandstone capped hoodoos and large, round, red boulders. Formed in prehistoric seas as layers of sand calcite and iron oxide collected around a nucleus formed by shells, leaves, or bones. These concretions grew larger as the circulating waters deposited more layers. The reddish colour comes from iron oxide. At 2.5 metres (8 feet) in diameter, they are among the largest in the world. Along with the exposed rocks, you will also find prairie inhabitants such as deer, coyotes, rabbits, rattlesnakes and nighthawks.
Once you have had a chance to explore your first stop, continue on towards Etzikom for the Etzikom Museum and Historic Windmill Centre.
The Centre features outdoor restored examples of windmills encompassing over 200 years of Canadian wind power (particularly water pumpers). Indoors at the Museum are many hands-on displays in time-period settings, featuring early pioneer life, native artifacts, fossils, petroglyphs, homesteader tools and a historic church.
Next up, hop over to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park to view some of the coolest hoodoos and natural formations in Southern Alberta. The unusual landforms of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai'pi resulted from the dynamic interaction of geology, climate and time. The sedimentary rocks exposed in the Milk River valley were formed 85 million years ago at the edge of a great inland sea. Huge volumes of meltwater began eroding the soft sandstone after the last ice age. This is how the coulees and hoodoos you see today were formed. The unique habitat created is suitable to many diverse species not typically found in surrounding areas.
On the way home, head north and go through Bow Island, where you can visit Pinto Mcbean, the 15-foot-tall mascot of the bean capital of the West, and grab a bite to eat. We recommend The Rolling Pin Bakery and Cafe, a local favourite serving up some of the best lunch in the region.
3. Walk with the Dinosaurs
Discover and experience a unique landscape of haunting formations and rich fossil resources at Dinosaur Provincial Park. You will be amazed when the gently rolling prairie grass
lands suddenly drop off, plunging the visitor into a remarkable world of hoodoos, pinnacles, coulees and buttes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site situated along the Red Deer River just
Just 90 minutes west of Medicine Hat, the Park is the largest area of badlands in Canada and one of the richest sites in the world for late Cretaceous fossils.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss Lake Newell, considered one of Alberta’s best kept secrets! Lake Newell, located 14 kilometres south of the City of Brooks in the Newell region, is one of southern Alberta's largest and warmest human-made lakes. The clear warm waters are perfect for canoeing, sailing, fishing, swimming, motorized water sports and more. Visitors can camp at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park, which is situated right on Lake Newell, or stay in one of the many options within the City of Brooks. Extend your stay and enjoy some of the nearby attractions, including the Brooks Aqueduct and the world-famous Dinosaur Provincial Park. Lake Newell is also home to Lake Newell resort, which includes a marina and boat launch facilities.
On the way home, try out the #1 restaurant in Brooks according to TripAdvisor, Indian PanFlame. If Indian food isn’t your thing, Brooks has many local restaurants that are worth the visit.