Take a road trip to prehistoric sites that are 'dino-mite'!
Today, Colorado may be teeming with animals of the human variety, but long, long ago, this was the dinosaurs' turf. Sturdy stegosauruses, triceratops, and other dinosaur behemoths roamed the state from corner to corner. We are still finding fossils across the state today, from a 60-million-year-old crocodile fossil to a fossil of a horned dinosaur in Highlands Ranch! The coolest part is, today, we can trace their path throughout the state, sometimes literally. Take a day trip or plan a vacation around our prehistoric predecessors by visiting our list of amazing sites and museums.
Dinosaur National Monument, Northwest Colorado/Utah border
A world of wonder awaits at this amazing site. The main visitor center, known as the Dinosaur Quarry, houses fossils from the world-famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry. The quarry is literally a cliff wall with approximately 1,500 embedded dinosaur bones. You can also take a hike on one of the self-guided trails for an outdoor adventure. You may run into fossils and petroglyphs from ancient civilizations. There's also rafting, stargazing, and so much more to do at the park. It's certainly something for all ages.
Courtesy of Dinosaur National Monument.
Dinosaur Ridge, Morrison
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. You can take a self-guided tour of exposed fossils, dinosaur tracks, and excavation sites. Exhibits and guided tours are also available for a fee. More information.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Florissant
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. The Florissant Fossil Beds (check out our in-depth look at this stunning monument) are one of the richest fossil deposits in the world, representing about 1,700 different species of trees, insects, fish, plants, and other animals. 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. You can see fossils, petrified wood, and just some straight-up beautiful scenery on the 14-mile trail system at this wonderful site. More information.
A petrified wood stump at the Florissant Fossil Beds. Courtesy of NPS.gov.
Garden Park Fossil Area, Canon City
Take a drive to an active, natural research area that has yielded fossils for more than 130 years! You can stroll along trails and check out interpretative displays that tell you about fossil finds made in the area. It also happens to sit along the Gold Belt Back Country Scenic Byway, so you can take a trip into some of the state's mining history, as well. More information.
Picketwire Canyonlands, La Junta
Where can you stand in a three-toed impression left in the bedrock by a brontosaurus around 150 million years ago? Picketwire Canyon Lands, which happens to be North America's largest track site! Over 1,900 prints in 130 separate trackways extend across a quarter mile of bedrock along the banks of the Purgatoire River on this site. It also offers a starting point to access other paleontological sites. You can take a hike or bike ride to see these amazing prints; just be aware it is about 11 miles roundtrip (though mostly on flat land). There is also a guided auto tour available. More information.
Dinosaur tracks at Picketwire Canyon. Courtesy of the Sierra Club.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Highlight: There are many prehistoric displays to see at the museum, including the Prehistoric Journey exhibit, which features an interactive dino-brawl between a stegosaurus and a diplodocus, as well as fossils, many from the above-listed sites! More information.
Dinosaur Journey Museum, Fruita
Highlight: Real dinosaur bones, as well as hands-on experiences with robotic displays of stegosaurus, triceratops, or T-rex.
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience
Highlights: All ages will be thrilled with the state-of-the-art, 16,200-square-foot building that houses a world-class collection of interactive displays, full-scale dinosaur fossil casts, real dinosaur fossils, entertaining guided tours, and outdoor animatronic dinosaur exhibits. And since you are there, why not check out all of the other Royal Gorge activities that we recommend! More information.
Courtesy of Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience (Facebook).
Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Woodland Park
Highlights: All things dinosaur and more are on display for you to enjoy! The resource center has much on display, including fossils of the late Cretaceous Period. More information.
Are there other sites and museums we should add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!