Colorado’s rich fossil presence harkens back to an age when dinosaurs roamed long-gone waterways and the shores of an ancient sea found along what is now the Front Range. Here are a few spots around the Centennial State where visitors can see dinosaur footprints, bones, and historic discovery sites.
1. Picketwire Canyon (La Junta)
Hike 11.2 miles round trip to see the most extensive dinosaur track site in North America. The Comanche National Grasslands in southeastern Colorado are home to a site that’s a stunning vestige of an era that took place 150 million years ago. Starting at the Withers Canyon trailhead , you’ll descend into the canyon – keep a close eye out for ancient rock art and the ruins of an 1800’s settlement. Along the Purgatoire River you’ll find the dinosaur tracks , left by a variety of long-necked herbivores and the T-Rex-esque Allosaurus. Carry plenty of water as the summer months can bring with them extreme temperatures. Don’t feel like hiking? Take the auto tour and get a ride with the only motorized vehicle allowed in the canyon.
2. Skyline Drive (Cañon City)
Found just outside of Cañon City, take a drive on this somewhat harrowing ridgetop one-way road to see cliffside dinosaur tracks. The tracks were left behind more than 100 million years ago by the Ankylosaurus , an armored dinosaur that looked something like a mix of an armadillo and an alligator. Enjoy great views along the drive and make sure you allow roughly an hour for the trip. Nearby, try out the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience for a collection of impressive family-friendly exhibits.
3. Dinosaur Ridge (Morrison)
Found just 20 minutes outside of Denver, walk, bike, or hop on a tour bus to see an impressive display of around 300 dinosaur tracks at Morrison’s Dinosaur Ridge . This must-see spot has been rated as a top dinosaur track site by paleontologists. Highlights include large 3- and 4-toed prints left by the beloved Triceratops, bulging inverted Brontosaurus tracks, and remnants of Jurassic-era bones at the site of the very first stegosaurus discovery.
4. Dinosaur Hill (Fruita)
Stroll along this 1.5-mile loop and see the quarry site where a remarkably complete Apatosaurus skeleton was discovered in 1900 (the skeleton now resides at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History). You’ll find sweeping views of the Colorado river and interpretative signs detailing various other fossil discoveries along the way. If you’re left wanting more, try the .75-mile loop on nearby Rigg’s Hill featuring more historic excavation sites, including one where a 75-foot Brachiosaurus was uncovered in 1900. While you’re in the area, round out your trip be checking out Fruita’s Dinosaur Journey Museum .
5. Dinosaur National Monument (Dinosaur)
Spanning the Utah-Colorado border, this park offers stunning hiking trails, ancient petroglyphs, and an impressive display of some 1,500 dinosaur bones inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall (which is, admittedly, just over the border in Utah). You’re even allowed to touch some of the nearly 150 million-year-old bones! Get your legs moving on the 1.2 mile one-way Fossil Discovery trail , which starts at the visitor center and features several dinosaur bones embedded in the rock.