Things To Do

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs, is a paleontologist’s wonderland, an ancient sea bed where thousands of plant and insect fossils have been found and petrified trees, remnants of another age, can be seen. This one-mile trail takes visitors through the park’s main highlight, the petrified trees-some of the trees are 14 feet wide. It begins at the Visitors Center and makes an easy loop around. Take some time to study these ancient trees, which were once better preserved but were picked apart by souvenir hunters before this became a National Monument.

There’s a phrase in journalism known as the “ride-along curse.” Essentially, it means when a reporter rides along with the police or fire department for a story, nothing interesting will happen. It applies to outdoors journalists too. A few years ago, I went on one of the autumn ranger-led elk hikes, when visitors are taken to see and hear the male elks bugling. We heard a single bugle in the distance, but otherwise, over the course of two hours of wandering on this trail, neither saw nor heard another. It was still better than a day in the office.

Pro Tips

  • The rolling hills make for an easy hike, so why not add some distance by also hiking the Boulder Creek or Sawmill trails? Numerous loops are possible.
  • It’s hard to appreciate this place’s significance, and how the findings here have assisted scientists, without a stop in the brand new Visitors Center.
  • Bring some cash, as admission to the National Monument is $5/person.
  • Visit in fall when the aspens are aglow and, at dawn and dusk, you just may hear the eerie bugling from the large elk herd that lives in the park.
  • Recommended season(s): Year-round.

    –R. Scott Rappold


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