Deep in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta lies the historical Atlas Coal Mine! A coal mine that dates back to the early 1900s when coal mining was one of the most important sources of energy for home heating, cooking, and electrical generation. 

While we loved exploring all the fun things and activities to do in Drumheller and trying out the many different restaurants, we also really enjoyed learning about the history of Drumheller!

The coal mining industry was the very foundation of Drumheller back in 1911 when the first coal shipment left the town (back then it wasn’t even a village).

So Atlas Coal Mine felt like the perfect place to visit to learn more about the mining industry as well as the history of Drumheller!

If you want to know what played a big part in bringing people over to the Badlands in the early 1900s, this is the place to visit. While the history of the coal mines isn’t that old in comparison, it’s still so different to how we live today!

During your visit, you’ll learn everything imaginable about the days of mining coal here at Atlas Coal Mine and the other 123 coal mines that operated in the area! 

Disclosure: This post has been created in collaboration with Travel Drumheller. Everything in this post is based on our personal opinions and experiences. This post also contains affiliate links which means if you decide to use the links and make a valid purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What to expect at Atlas Coal Mine 

Atlas Coal Mine sign at the entrance

Atlas Coal Mine is an inactive coal mine that operated from 1936-1984 and it actually has the country’s last standing wooden coal tipple (you’ll learn more about that on the tour).

We learnt so much on the tour and we’re sure you’ll learn a bunch of random and fun facts you didn’t know before. One of the biggest takeaways for us was the cost of rent compared to the cost of living. You should ask about this if you go!

Our guide Charlie was very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions the group had! We’re sure all the other guides are great too. So feel free to ask away if you go on one of the three guided tours.

In this post, we will dive into a bit of the history behind the Atlas Coal Mine, the different guided tours (including which one we did), and how much time we spent there.

How much time should you spend at Atlas Coal Mine?

We showed up right when they opened at 10 am and walked around for a bit. Having time to Explore one of the little houses that had an exhibition with one of the former workers, read some of the different signs, took a few photos, and then we went on a guided tour.

We did the Mine Portal Hike Tour that went from 10:30 am until 12:00 pm. More on this tour below.

After the tour was done we spent another good 30 minutes just walking around the premises and exploring all the different buildings and reading about them.

There is a wealth of information with posters and signs all around the self-guided part of Atlas Coal Mine.

In total, if you want to do the Mine Portal Hike, hang out, and explore the walkable area around Atlas Coal Mine we’d recommend a good 2.5 hours to see and take everything in. 

It works perfectly because after that you’re probably going to be hungry and can make your way to The Sunny Spot for a delicious lunch and afternoon activities. It’s super convenient because it’s on the way back to Drumheller!

Different types of tours at Atlas Coal Mine

The three guided tours you can do at Atlas Coal Mine

As we mentioned before, there are 3 different types of guided tours you can go on. 

Firstly, you’ll need to pay the General Site Admission to enter Atlas Coal Mine. In 2023, the price is $14 for an Adult and $11 for Youth and Seniors.

The Site Admission will grant you general access to the National Historic Site of Atlas Coal Mine Canada but not to the guided tours.

To enjoy one of the guided tours you will have to pay the additional fee that’s connected to that specific tour. You can see the prices in the picture above.

Atlas currently offers three different guided tours: A train ride, a tour of the plant, and a “hike” of the mine’s underground and upper site spaces.

 General Site Admission (self-guided tour)

The general site admission price is $14 for an adult and $11 for youth and seniors. You’ll need to pay for this whether or not you go on a guided tour.

If you want to see the coal mine at your own pace, you can simply just purchase the general site admission and do a little self-guided tour.

There are plenty of informative signs, posters, and photos to give you an idea of what life was like at Atlas Coal Mine back when the mine was operating from 1936 to 1984.

With a bit of imagination, you can probably picture what life was like walking across the Red Deer River in the freezing cold winter months to go to work and into the mine!

Note: If you want to do one of the three guided tours you need to also pay for the General Site Admission for Atlas Coal Mine.

Atlas Train Ride (25 minutes)

The locomotive, Linda, with visitors on board

This is the guided tour you’ll want to do if you have some little ones and if you just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy a ride in a 90-year-old locomotive called Linda! 

We usually love just walking around and doing things on our own. But here at Atlas, it was really nice having a guide who knows the history and who could share some awesome stories of life back in the day at the coal mines.

The train ride is the shortest guided tour but it’s a fun way to see the surface portions of Atlas Coal Mine!

This tour costs an additional $7.75 on top of your general admission fee. 

Processing Plant Tour (45 minutes)

Canada’s last standing wooden tipple

We briefly mentioned that Atlas has the last standing wooden tipple in Canada. On this tour, you get to explore this unique processing plant. 

You’ll get the chance to walk the gantry which is a gradual 125 feet ascent up to the top of the tipple. All while listening to and hearing stories about the young boys and men who used to work up here. 

If you’re afraid of heights it might not be the best tour for you but we felt safe the whole time we were there. The whole place seems very well maintained for safety so it’s nothing to really worry about!

This tour costs an additional $14.75 on top of your general admission fee.

Mine Portal Hike (1.5 hours)

Dom walking up the stairs on the Mine Portal Hike

We did the Mine Portal Hike and the word hike is a bit of a stretch! There is a bit of hiking involved walking up some man-made stairs but it really isn’t that far distance-wise. Just a bit of elevation!

The tour is super interesting, though! One of the interpreters will take you to a few different rooms and share stories about what it was like working at the mines.

We started at the wash house where we saw the shower room, and then we continued to the lamp house. You get your own hardhat and head torch so that you can see once you’re up inside the mine entrance. 

Then we continued up into the tipple, “hiked” up the stairs to the blacksmith’s workshop, and then into one of the mines. As the mine is almost completely blocked off, you can only enter the entrance but this will give you a good idea of what the mine looked like when it was operating.

The Mine Portal Hike tour is as close as you can get to the full experience of what it was like back in the day here at Atlas Coal Mine. 

This tour costs an additional $16.75 on top of your general admission fee. 

Other things to see at Atlas Coal Mine

Walking to one of the mine entrances

Check out the Rail Berm Trail

Since you’ve made it all the way here and paid the general admission fee it’s worth checking out everything you can while you’re at Atlas Coal Mine 

The Rail Berm Trail is a short little 5-minute trail that you can walk on that offers some awesome views of the coulees – and you get a cool view looking back at Atlas Coal Mine

Check out the machine yard

An old train cart

It’s so fascinating to see the old machinery and equipment that was used at the coal mines. None of it’s operating anymore but you can use your imagination for what it was used for in the past. 

If you’re lucky you may see an older gentleman working around the machine yard and that is Bob! 

Bob has been working at Atlas Coal Mine since he was a little kid. He still has memories and stories of when the mine was open and functioning.

I don’t know how long he’s been around but it’s been at least 60+ years. Feel free to ask one of the guides about Bob if you go on one of the three tours. Or chat him up yourself if you see him!

Grey House and Lamp House exhibits

These are a few of the permanent exhibits that are located on the premises that have some super interesting information about people who worked at Atlas.

You can find everything from how much the employees made monthly to how they would send letters back to their families.

We even learnt that during WW2 when men would get conscripted to the Army many of the coal miners would get sent back to the coal mine since it was such an important industry – and coal was in high demand during the war!

It doesn’t take long to explore each exhibit but it’s worth checking them out!

When is the best time to visit Atlas Coal Mine?

It’s best to visit Drumheller during the warmer months so you can enjoy being outside and in the sun while you walk around Atlas and read about the coal mines.

Any time between late May and October should hopefully have good enough weather to enjoy Atlas Coal Mine! 

You can also look at the weather next to Atlas Coal Mine here. It’ll give you a good idea of what to expect on your day trip out to the coal mine.

As for the time of day, it’s nice to be at Atlas Coal Mine at 10:00 am right when they open. You will avoid the busiest hours and you’ll also get to explore and walk around the area before the sun is at its peak. 

You can time it quite well with lunch too! If you do one of the tours shortly after they open and spend some time going through the exhibits, you can be back in Drumheller (or wherever you plan to have lunch) by 12:30 – 1 pm. 

An old truck at the Atlas Mine

If you’re staying the night in Drumheller or nearby, we recommend starting your morning in this order to make the most of your day:

1. Stop by, hike, and admire the Drumheller Hoodoos Trail

This can be done in 15-30 minutes depending on how many photos you take. It gets crazy busy in the afternoon so visiting in the morning is usually better.

The Hoodoos are located on the way to Atlas Coal Mine if you’re coming from Drumheller.

2. Visit Atlas Coal Mine

Grab a general admission pass, and book one of the guided tours if you want to learn more about the area and the mine.

3. Stop by The Sunny Spot

Have a delicious lunch on the way back to Drumheller at this cute little spot next to the highway. Their taco salad is amazing! They also have mini golf and a corn maze if you’re looking to have some fun outdoors.

Where to stay near Atlas Coal Mine

Bridgeview Hideaway glamping yurt in Rosedale

There are quite a few good options for accommodation and hotels in Drumheller and close to Atlas Coal Mine.

Below we have included a campground, a glamping experience, and a hotel all within a reasonable distance from the mine.

Bridgeview Hideaway near Drumheller

We stayed in one of Bridgeview Hideaway‘s yurts for 3 nights while we explored Drumheller and absolutely loved it! They also have space for RVs and tents and the surroundings are gorgeous.

Hoodoo Resort RV and Campground

Hoodoo Resort RV and Campground here has everything you need to enjoy your stay with plenty of green space to explore. 

Ramada by Wyndham Drumheller

If you’re not into camping or glamping and just looking for a nice comfortable place to stay in Drumheller, Ramada is perfect for a few nights! 

Check out Ramada’s prices and availability here.

How to get to Atlas Coal Mine

From Drumheller to Atlas Coal Mine

Anywhere from Calgary to Atlas Coal Mine

From Edmonton to Atlas Coal Mine

Other related questions about the Atlas Coal Mine

How much does it cost to go to Atlas Coal Mine?

General site admission costs $14 for an adult and $11 for youth and seniors.

The general admission is great if you want to see the coal mine at your own pace and explore the site on a self-guided tour!

If you choose to go on a guided tour (which we highly recommend), you will still need the general site admission on top of what you pay for the guided tour.

When did Atlas Coal Mine Close?

Atlas Coal Mine officially closed in 1984 and reopened as a historic site 3 years later in 1987.

The mine operated for 48 years from 1936 to 1984 and its coal was transported and used all over Canada!

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Recap of exploring Atlas Coal Mine near Drumheller

Jo on the Mine Portal Hike

This is one of the most historic and unique experiences you can do near Drumheller.

We really enjoyed the Mine Portal Hike because we got to learn about the mine and hear stories about what life was like back in the day here at Atlas. 

The area is also super unique with the Red Deer River running nearby and also the beautiful coulee landscape all around you. 

We highly suggest coming here if you make a trip to Drumheller along with stopping by Horseshoe Canyon to hike the loop trail there. 

If you have questions about the different tours at Atlas Coal Mine, how to get there, where to stay in Drumheller, or anything else feel free to reach out to us! 

You can DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below.

Drumheller is such an undiscovered city in Alberta and the Badlands area is stunning!

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