Dinosaurs in Denver: Exploring Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge, located about 25 minutes southwest of downtown Denver, will captivate the dino lovers in your household.  When we first moved here, everyone kept telling us to head to Dinosaur Ridge.  The kids will love it, they claimed, but we just never got around to it.

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My sister and her family were visiting for a week and we needed to get all five of the kids (and the adults!) out of the house.  Unfortunately the weather wasn’t really conducive to a winter hike because many of the trails were still iced over or too muddy.  It was kind of windy and a bit cold so we wanted something short.  We knew that Dinosaur Ridge would be perfect.

Because we had never been to Dinosaur Ridge, we started our adventure at the gift shop.  This is where we learned how to get to the Dinosaur Ridge trail.  There is a small indoor exhibit hall, the Trek through Time. Because it was late in the day, we decided to skip this and just walk the trail.  The exhibit hall can be visited for $2 a person.

Dinosaur Ridge can be explored on guided or self-guided tours.  If you aren’t up for walking, there is a shuttle bus available on a first come, first served basis.  The fee for the shuttle is $5 per person ages 4 and older.  If you choose to walk the trail, it ends up being about two miles round trip.  This walk/hike is not a loop but is a semi-circle.  You will be walking uphill for about half of the trip and then downhill.  On the way back, you will do the same.  The path is paved.

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Along the trail, you will spot the dinosaur track site.  The track site was discovered accidentally while they were constructing the West Alameda Parkway in 1937.  Over 300 tracks have been identified and they are colored in with charcoal so that they are easier to identify from the trail.

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Once you make it to the top of the hill,  you will see the hogbacks, which are long hills or mountains with steep sides.  Some of the hogbacks can be hiked.

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You can also see the Red Rocks Amphitheater as you head down the other side towards the Dinosaur Ridge Bone Quarry.

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This site is where the world’s first stegosaurus was discovered.  When you reach the bone quarry, it is time to turn around and make the walk back to your car.

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All of the kids were a little underwhelmed by the site.  It was interesting and they really liked seeing what they did but both of the older kids thought there would be more dinosaur bones and tracks.  We skipped the exhibit hall so this might have helped them think they got a lot out of the trip.  

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The adults really enjoyed the walk because it offered some great views and got everybody out of the house.

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Things to Know Before You Go:

Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings.  This path is used by bikers, the shuttle, and walkers.  Be sure to stay on the correct side and pay attention to the traffic around you.

The parking lot at the exhibit hall and gift shop is locked at closing.  We arrived later in the afternoon so although you can walk to the trail from the exhibit hall, we decided to move our car so we didn’t feel rushed to get back to the parking lot before the gate was locked.

Bring a bottle of water with you or have one waiting in the car.

Be prepared for the weather.  The weather was not terrible when we left the house but the sun was setting and the wind had picked up by the time we were finishing up.  Even if it is summertime, throw a lightweight jacket in the car because the weather can change in an instant.

Comments

  1. 1

    Hello:

    Wow! This sounds like a really cool place. We do not get many dinosaur remains in the Pacific Northwest. Our youngest would absolutely love this place. He is a lover of all animals, living or extinct. I would not even know what to look for. Some of the fossils look like just plain rock to me. Thanks!

  2. 2

    My boys would have loved this when they were younger. Like most little boys, they were obsessed with everything dinosaur. What a cool destination.

  3. 3

    I love Dinosaur Ridge! I’ve done the hike and the guided tour. With our kids, they seemed to get a lot more out of it when we did the tour. The guides are all really well informed and added fun tidbits of information the kids found interesting. If you go in the summer – beware of rattle snakes.