Take a Trek into prehistoric Colorado at this unique park.

Just short of two hours from Denver and about an hour west of Colorado Springs is a treasure trove of this state’s amazing past. Prehistoric Colorado was a pretty wild place to be, and you can see it for yourself at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

This unique site holds a truly amazing display of fossils preserved from a different time. Here, you will find one of the richest fossil deposits in the world, representing about 1,700 different species of trees, insects, fish, plants, and other animals.

Petrified wood

A petrified wood stump at the fossil beds. Courtesy of NPS.gov.

“Beneath a grassy mountain valley in central Colorado lies one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Petrified redwood stumps up to 14-feet wide and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado,” says the National Park Service website.

You won’t see any dinosaur fossils at this park, as even at 34 million years old, the fossils found here are too young to have coincided with the big guys, who went extinct 30 million years earlier.

Insect Fossil

Courtesy of NPS.gov.

The park is open year-round and offers a wide variety of activities. It has 14 miles of hiking trails, including several shorter self-guided hiking trails, where you can see massive petrified redwood tree stumps, as well as ponder the wonders the park has kept hidden for eons. The visitor center is your best chance to see many of the fossils up close.

“Most are still buried underground, not visible from the trail, as they are easily destroyed by weathering. Excavated specimens are best seen in the Visitor Center exhibits,” the site advises.

In addition, the site is home to a historic 1878 homestead that visitors can see and learn about, as well as a host of living wildlife, including mountain lions, coyotes, deer, hawks, and much more.
 Florissant fossil beds homestead 

Adeline Hornbek was a single mother in the late 1800s homesteading in this house in the Florissant Valley. Courtesy of NPS.gov.

The visitor’s center is also the place to go for hands-on activities for the young and young at heart. In the summer’s guided tours are provided by rangers, but the center and all self-guided hikes are open any time of the year. The national monument also hosts a wide range of events year-round that definitely give you a chance to interact with the park in a whole new way.

See it in a Different Light

This park offers year-round stargazing events if you are looking to view both what is hidden in the ground and in the skies.

“Florissant Fossil Beds is easily accessible yet far enough away from light pollution to provide dark, star-filled skies. From the park, it is possible to see the Milky Way, other galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, planets, comets, and much more,” says the site. “Each Night Sky Program begins with a 30-minute presentation by a park ranger, to prepare you for the sights you can expect to see that night. Presentation topics are different each time, as the sky is always changing!”

You can learn more about the stargazing events here.  

Have you been to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument? Share your photos with us in the comments.