The badlands are one of Alberta’s most striking landscapes. Erosion has sculpted the terrain over thousands of years and spending some time to hike in them can an adventure. In a short hike, you can see Alberta’s wildlife, amazing vistas, and fossils from the beasts who lived here millions of years ago.
As beautiful as they are, hiking through the badlands, especially in more remote locations such as Midland or Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Parks, requires preparation and caution. Here are a few tips to ensure that your hike through this remarkable landscape is safe.
The badlands of Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park are remarkable and well worth the effort to see. However, if planning on hiking through any of Alberta’s badlands preparation is needed.
1.) Stay on established trails.
It is possible to get lost in the badlands, especially at the bottom of a coulee. In addition, the steep coulee walls can be difficult or even dangerous to climb. Established trails are generally easier to traverse.
Staying on the trails makes it easier for rescue crews to locate you should you be injured.
2.) Hike with other people or tell someone where you are going.
It’s not just for the company, hiking with a friend can be the difference between life and death.
For example, if you are hurt, a fellow hiker can call for help or perform first aid. Conversation will also help warn animals of your presence.
If you are set on going it alone, make sure to inform someone where you are headed and a time when you will return. Should something happen and you are overdue, search and rescue can be called in if you are in trouble.
3.) Bring a first aid kit.
Band-aids and anti biotic ointments are useful for cuts and scrapes. Bring bug bite ointment if you react badly to bites.
Bring any medication you are taking, even if you do not intend to be out long enough to need to take any. With the possibility of being injured or lost, a hike could become much longer than you anticipate.
Bring a tenser bandage or two for sprains. Triangle bandages can be useful for stabilizing broken bones.
Most importantly, however, know what’s in your kit and what each item in your first aid kit can be used for.
4.) Prepare for the weather.
The sun beats down on the badlands pretty hard and the unwary can end up with some nasty burns. Bring a strong sun lotion for protection. Hats are also useful for keeping to sun off your head.
Alternatively, a thunderstorm can happen quickly and soak the area within minutes. When wet, the badlands become dangerous to traverse.
The badlands are filled with layers of a clay mineral call bentonite. When wet, bentonite becomes extremely slippery (it’s used as an industrial lubricant).
If it has rained during the day or even a heavy rain the night before, it is best to avoid hiking until the area has dried out.
5.) Bring plenty of water.
The amount of water you should bring depends on the weather and how long you will be hiking. However, a good rule of thumb is to bring twice as much as you think you need.
Temperatures in the area can rise above 30 degrees celsius, or even reach the low 40’s. At those temperatures it is easy to become dehydrated and be the victim of heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke.
6.) Bring mosquito repellent.
Mosquitos are always a nuisance and there is the possibility that one may be carrying West Nile Virus. Protect yourself with mosquito repellent.
7.) Wear proper footwear.
A good, sturdy shoe, should be worn when hiking. Shoes can protect your feet from cuts, scrapes, and bites. A shoe with ankle support can help reduce sprains.
Bring shoes that have a lot of grip. Some areas can be steep and, even when dry, some rock layers, such as sandstone, can be slippery.
Do not attempt the badlands in flip-flops, sandals, or casual footwear. Wear hiking shoes or at least a good pair of running shoes.
A little preparation is needed, but truly worth it for hiking in the badlands is a breathtaking experience.