Sidetracked! Dinosaur Ridge: Morrison, Colorado

Some of the coolest—and most accessible—dinosaur tracks ever

side·track (sīd´trăk): n. 1. A diversion from the main course. 2. A detour taken with children that you would never, ever take without them.

Who and What:
Me, my 8 and 10-year old kids, and the nicest friend I have (and her family).  Dinosaur Ridge, one of the world’s most famous dinosaur localities, and part of the Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark.

When Alameda Parkway was being constructed in 1937 to provide access to Red Rocks Park, workers discovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints.   There’s an interpretive center and gift shop too, but the footprints are the main attraction.

The road up to the prints is closed to the public.  You buy a ticket, and take a shuttle bus to the prints in the company of a guide.

My friend’s husband is a geologist.  Wherever we are, he always has the inside line on cool rocks.  In England, he clued me in to fossil hunting in Lyme Regis.  In New York (not far from the Baseball Hall of Fame), he recommends prospecting for so-called Herkimer diamonds.  In Denver, it’s Dinosaur Ridge.

A special shout out to my friends’ two sons (one of whom was a teenager, but the good kind) who mostly uncomplainingly accompanied us, even though they’d been at least three times already.  Seriously, they are really good kids.  And cute.

The High Point:
A big batch of iguanodon footprints that included adults and juveniles.  The chills that ran down my back as I imagined these three-ton plant eaters shuffling along the same ground I stood on, only 125 million years ago.  There are 300 footprints in all, which is why this area is nicknamed the “Dinosaur Freeway”.

The Low Point:
A sudden thunderstorm complete with lots of very close lightning meant we had to jump back in the shuttle bus (more of a golf cart, really) and race down the hill to safety, cutting our visit short.   We got soaked.  Ah, the Rockies.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re anywhere near Denver with spare time on your hands, this is well worth the detour.

Dinosaur Ridge is open year round and the shuttle bus tours are first come first served.  If weather permits and you’re in the mood for a little hiking, there are self-guided trails too.

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  1. says

    Sorry the tour got cut short by the rain. Sounds like other than getting wet the family had a great time. I guess you are lucky to have your friends husband to tell you about all the great places to visit.

  2. says

    If you ever make it north to Canada, Dinosaur Park in the Canadian Badlands of southeastern Alberta is amazing. There’s a new day-long prospecting for dinosaur fossils program this year and the likelihood of major fossil finds is very real. This Alberta Parks site provides descriptions of all the park offerings.

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