Willow Creek Hoodoo Trail

Call them tent rocks, hoodoos or Ma’Tapiiks (Blackfoot), these interesting rocks pepper sections of the badlands of Alberta. The photo above is from the hoodoos found in East Coulee just outside Drumheller.

Blackfoot legend refers to the Ma’Tapiiks as people. In ancient times, the Blackfoot struggled with uncertainty and anger. Those who chose to move away from the teachings of the Creator were turned into Ma’Tapiiks and never heard from again.

Geographically, it took 70-million years to make these sand and clay rocks. The unique top layer (the cap) contains calcite cement, which is why it is more resistant to erosion than the pillar. If you look hard enough, you might find sea fossils embedded in the surrounding rock from when Alberta was covered by the Bearpaw Sea.

For those particularly agile and brave, you can climb to the top and walk along the looming bluffs to admire the unique landscape that is the Drumheller Valley. The climb isn’t too daunting because I did it with a coffee in one hand and camera in another… it just took me a lot longer than a super nimble 5-year old climbing machine.

If you look closely at the photos above, the black line in the rock is a coal layer (what the Native Americans called fire rock) and is the reason many towns cropped up in the Drumheller area.

Because these coal seams are above ground, are flat, and sub-bituminous (no methane gas), mining in the Drumheller Valley was less dangerous than many other coal mines in Canada.


–> GPS Coordinates: 51.380286,-112.534858
–> Google Map: Uniquely Alberta Google Map
–> Cost: Free
–> Season: All year round.

Kid Rating: 4 out of 5 because it had secret passageways in the rocks and it was fun to climb. I’m a good climber.

Adult Rating: 3 out of 5 because it was interesting and visually spectacular. It was sad to see the amount of degradation that has happened to the rock in the past few decades. The best part was the climb to the bluff and view of the valley.

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