Where The Dinosaurs Roamed
Places to visit to learn about the creatures that once lived in Colorado and Utah
Photos by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
Dinosaurs are all the rage again here in Colorado and not just with ten-year-olds. A recent discovery at a Highlands Ranch construction site, south of Denver, has people talking. Triceratops fossils were found and have been donated to the Denver Museum of Science & Nature for further study.
This find got me thinking about all the places around Colorado that I’ve seen with museums about dinosaurs. As it turns out, there are quite a few places to learn about, walk and stay with dinosaur ghosts.
Of course, the place that comes immediately to mind for many Denverites is Dinosaur Ridge, west of the city. This is where the Front Range of Colorado meets the mountains and a visit to Dinosaur Ridge complete with a guided tour is a great way to learn the dinosaurs that once roamed here. Visitors can even see tracks. In fact, this site boasts more than 300 dinosaur tracks and is the location of the world’s first Stegosaurus discovery.
Stay in Golden, Colorado. Just a few minutes north of Dinosaur Ridge, this charming town is easily accessible from Denver but feels millions of miles away. The Dove Inn provides a lovely escape with modern amenities in a historic home. No detail has been overlooked here.
Dinosaur National Monument, located two hours west of Steamboat Springs, is a must-visit for fans of the Triassic Period. Long, long ago, dinosaurs roamed here and their remains are embedded in the rocks.
This is a wild area and one of my favorite parks in all of Colorado. There are petroglyphs here, rivers and canyons and very few people. If dinosaur evidence is what you are after, it is best to visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall. This is located on the Utah side of the Park but worth the drive for dinosaur nuts.
Stay in Echo Park Campground inside Dinosaur National Monument. This is one of the most beautiful spots in which I’ve ever pitched a tent. If you’d rather stay in a hotel, check out the Holiday Inn Express in Vernal, Utah, also known as Dinosaurland.
On the opposite side of Colorado, at the Comanche National Grasslands, you can actually walk in the steps of dinosaurs. See Traveling Jules do just that on this Colorado video. This is a vast space with few towns and camping would be your best bet in order to stay close to the area.
The Museums of Western Colorado in Fruita offers the Dinosaur Journey, a museum in the heart of dinosaur country. After visiting the museum, take a hike. There are many trails here where the prehistoric world comes alive. Go to VisitGrandJunction.com for more information.
Twenty minutes from Fruita, stay in Grand Junction and drink wine. This region is known as Colorado’s wine-growing country and here, visitors will enjoy touring and even staying at a vineyard.
The Delta County Museum, located one hour south of Grand Junction in the town of Delta, has an exhibit on one of the most significant dinosaur discovery sites in the world. The Dry Mesa Quarry is just 55 acres, but it was a paleontological gold mine in the 1970s. The story is told at this Colorado museum, which exhibits fossils too.
Stay at Gunnison River Farms and enjoy the good life about 15 minutes outside of Delta. Located along the Gunnison River, this luxury property is tops. Your hosts can curate fishing trips and farm-to-table meals. There is even an airfield here for guests who’d like to fly in.
For the ultimate dinosaur fun, drive the 486-mile Dinosaur Diamond Scenic & Historic Byway. This drive covers dinosaur hot spots in both Colorado and Utah, some of them mentioned here.