Who says you can't learn anything on spring break?
March is right around the corner, and with it comes spring fever and kids about to burst with energy for Spring Break! Whether you live on the Front Range or road-tripping to the area, there's an amazing place that's entertaining and (*gasp*) educational to boot!
Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison is chock full of evidence of the prehistoric inhabitants of the area. Seems dinosaurs loved the Denver area as much as all the people that want to move here! The world's first stegosaurus was found at this site in 1877, and you can take a stroll along the stomping grounds of the prehistoric giants. In fact, over 300 footprints are on hand (or foot?) at the ridge. Most of the tracks are those of duck-billed herbivores and ostrich-like carnivorous dinosaurs, and research has uncovered that they represent only a small part of the extensive track-bearing beds of the Dakota Group, otherwise known as the Dinosaur Highway, which can be traced from Boulder, Colorado, to northern New Mexico.
This National Natural Landmark is located just outside suburban Denver and has been ranked as the top dinosaur track site in the United States, and one of the top such sites in the world. It brings in over 250,000 people every year.
Kids of all ages love dinosaurs! Courtesy of Dinosaur Ridge (Facebook)
You don't want to miss the Dinosaur Ridge Trail, a paved trail open to pedestrians, bicyclists, and hikers, and closed to through traffic (though bus tours are available). It offers more than 15 fossil and geologic sites, each with interpretative information, Another must-do is Triceratops Trail, which offers several track sites, with the highlights of large, three-toed Tyrannosaur track and many four-toed Triceratops tracks. The tracks are different than those at Dinosaur Ridge, and the fossils date back to 68 million years ago.
You can take a self-guided tour of exposed fossils, dinosaur tracks, and excavation sites. Exhibits at the discovery center, including many fossils, and guided tours are also available for a fee. Get more information and plan your trip on the park's website.
Dinosaur Ridge HawkWatch
Now, here's something only available during the spring months, making spring break a perfect time to visit.
From mid-March to mid-May, Dinosaur Ridge is the best place in the world to see Ferruginous Hawks during migration and is one of just two HawkWatch sites in the state. As many as 40 hawks have been counted in one day and 241 in one spring a few years back, according to Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, which staffs volunteers and researchers to observe and track hawks and other bird species.
Who wouldn't want to catch a glimpse of this beautiful creature? Courtesy of allaboutbirds.org
Many of these volunteers, if on hand when you visit, are also happy to help you search the sky above the Dakota Ridge Hogback (Dinosaur Ridge) for hawks, eagles, vultures, and much more. The ridge is right in the migratory path of several bird species, and once you hike to the top, you're in the perfect place to spot some of our state's most majestic raptors and more. You'll want to bring your binoculars and be prepared for a short, steep hike up (it will really help kids burn off some of that spring break energy!) the ridge to the best vantage point.
You can find directions and more information on the site here.
Have you explored the fossils and feathers of Dinosaur Ridge? Let us know some of your must-see spots in the comments below!
Want to check out more dinosaur-infested areas in Colorado? Click here!