Colorado is a regular hotbed of dinosaur activity — or at least it was an eon or so ago when dinosaurs existed — which means our state has more unique dinosaur-related activities for kids, families and dino-loving adults than hadrosaurs had teeth. (For the uninitiated, that’s paleontological lingo for a lot. Get with it.) In fact, with all of our well-preserved dino finds, we’re one of the most important locations in the world for paleontology.
Colorado played a major role in the Bone Wars, or Great Dinosaur Rush, of the late 19th century, and new finds are still happening today. Here are 10 of the coolest spots around the state for digging, fossil-peeping, hanging with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and even sleeping in a dinosaur-themed Best Western. So many dinosaur activities, so little time.
Note: Make sure to check for coronavirus closures before taking a trip.
Dinosaur National Monument
There are so many fossils at Dinosaur National Monument that its gateway town is named Dinosaur, which is exactly as the dinosaurs would have wanted it, had they known what towns or national monuments are. The main attraction is the Quarry Exhibit Hall, which houses a wall that contains 1,500 dinosaur bones. Gaze upon the glory that is the remains of deceased Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus and more species of dinosaurs. You can touch some fossils, too, because touching 150-million-year-old creature remains is not at all freaky. 4545 Colorado 40, Dinosaur, 435-781-7700
Trail Through Time
About 26 miles west of Grand Junction sits Mack, and its Trail Through Time hiking trail. The 1.5-mile loop winds its way around an active quarry and stops at 21 interpretative sites, where you’ll learn about the Camarasauruses and Diplodocuses (and see their pretty good-sized fossils in the rocks) that used to stomp and chomp around the area. Note: It gets very hot here in summer, so take lots of water or save your trip for spring or fall. The parking lot is north of Interstate 70, off the Rabbit Valley Road exit.
Garden Park Fossil Area
The Garden Park Fossil Area near Cañon City is a big-time fossil discovery site. Fossils discovered here, which include the first complete Allosaurus skeleton and the first known remains of Ceratosaurus and Diplodocus, are in museums all over the country. Today, you can view the quarries and fossils in the rocks via trails and overlooks. Six miles north of Cañon City along Fremont County Road 9; there will be a sign for the pull-off area.
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience
One of our state’s newer dinosaur adventures, the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience features life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and (why not?) a ropes course. There are two main parts to this Cañon City prehistoric wonderland, an indoors and an outdoors. Indoors, there’s a 10,000-square-foot museum, interactive kids’ exhibit and paleo lab where fossils from the nearby Garden Park Fossil Area are being restored. Outdoors, there’s that ropes course (again, why not?), kids’ dig pit and dinosaur wild walk, where 16 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs make you feel like you’re inside Jurassic Park, without all the deaths. 44895 W. U.S. 50, Cañon City, 719-275-2726
Picket Wire Canyonlands
Picket Wire Canyonlands outside of La Junta is the largest dinosaur trackway in North America. The site has more than 1,900 150-million-year-old Apatosaurus and Allosaurus footprints, which is pretty darn cool. You can see them by taking an 11.2-mile (round-trip) hike from the Withers Canyon Trailhead or by taking a guided auto tour (you need your own truck or SUV). It gets hot in summer, so May, June, September and October are the best months to visit.
Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center
Woodland Park’s Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center has lots for kids to do, from feeling dinosaur poop (you know you’re curious) to making their own magnetic dino creations to watching real life paleo technicians and scientists hard at work in the Paleo Lab. And then of course there are all the dinosaur skulls and skeletons to gawk at, including the Denversaurus, which sounds made up but apparently isn’t. 201 S. Fairview St., Woodland Park, 719-686-1820
Denver’s Dino Hotel
For a close-to-home staycation, there’s a dinosaur-themed Best Western in Lakewood. Kids will love the Stegosaurus statue out front (named Stanley, because of course you’ll want to greet him by name), dino skeletons in the lobby, the Jurassic dig pit and baroque cherub murals throughout (kidding; they’re of dinosaurs, too). Adults will love that the kids are entertained by all the prehistoric décor, and that there’s a hot tub. 3440 S. Vance St., Lakewood, 303-989-5500
To view the dinosaur tracks and fossils at Morrison’s Dinosaur Ridge, you can walk the 1.4-mile one-way paved (and warning: uphill) road, jump on the 45- to 60-minute guided tour bus or take the hop on/hop off shuttle. You’ll want to do one of those things, because getting up close and personal with fossilized Iguanodon footprints is pretty neat. There’s also the indoor Trek Through Time exhibit hall with giant back-lit murals of dinosaurs in their natural habitats, fossils and hands-on stations, as well as kid dig areas where aspiring paleontologists can excavate dino bones and sea-life fossils. 16831 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 303-697-3466
Morrison Natural History Museum
You’ll find dinosaurs at lots of museums around Colorado, and they’re all very awe-inducing, but two are must-visits for the young, short, aspiring paleontologist set. The Morrison Natural History Museum is the most legit, with world-class experts researching and excavating fossils right there in the tiny museum. Curious kids can interact with touchable exhibits, squeal over baby dinosaur tracks, assist in the cleaning of real fossils and stick their heads inside a T-Rex’s mouth with banana-sized fossilized teeth. 501 Colorado 8, Morrison, 303-697-1873
Museums of Western Colorado
The Museums of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey in Fruita (dubbed “the heart of dinosaur country”) is the perfect mix of fun and educational. On Team Fun: robotic reconstructions of dinosaurs, an earthquake simulator, a sandbox for making your own dino tracks and a quarry site where kids can dig for actual Jurassic-era bones. Repping Team Education are 15,000 fossil specimens, a dinosaur library for little readers and a viewable paleontology laboratory. 550 Jurassic Court (Roar!), Fruita, 970-858-7282
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