In Colorado, we’re familiar with the Gold Rush that shaped our great state in many ways, but how about the Great Dinosaur Rush? In the late 1800s, Colorado was center stage to a ruthless and intense hunt for fossils. The rush was the start of a paleontologic breakthrough with an astounding number of dinosaur discoveries, including the Stegosaurus, the Allosaurus, the first Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth, and many other prehistoric creatures. Recently, a Torosaurus was discovered in Thornton by the Saunders construction crew. The crew quickly realized they had come upon something special, and the 68 million-year-old fossils are now being carefully preserved at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The Thornton Torosaurus is the most complete Torosaurus ever found in the world. Dinosaurs are fascinating, and we have many opportunities to witness their glory all around the state. Here are 10 places to learn, discover and explore dinosaurs and fossils in Colorado.
10 Places to Explore Dinosaurs and Fossils in Colorado
#1 Dinosaur Ridge – Morrison, Colorado
Take a walk along a path that the dinosaurs themselves traveled 100 million years ago at Dinosaur Ridge. This is the very spot where the first stegosaurus was discovered in 1877! The hike, just over two miles, is an easy, paved stroll with over 300 dinosaur tracks on view. In addition to the famous dinosaur tracks, visitors have the chance to see dozens of dinosaur bones from the Jurassic period, still nestled in the layers of sandstone along the trail. The site will have you imagining the Morrison ridge as it was millions of years ago, a coastal beach on the edge of an ancient ocean. Round out your adventure by checking out the Visitor’s Center and Discovery Center to explore Colorado’s changing landscape over the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods with numerous fossil displays, hands-on dinosaur exhibits, kids dig areas and more. Our favorite place to explore dinosaurs and fossils in Colorado. Dinosaur Ridge is located at 16831 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465.
#2 Denver Museum of Nature and Science – Denver, Colorado
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is home to many of Colorado’s prehistoric creatures found in places like Dinosaur Ridge and Garden Park, as well as very recent local dinosaur finds like the Thornton Torosaurus! Visit the Prehistoric Journey exhibit to learn about our planet’s changing climate over billions of years, view fascinating dinosaur bones and fossils, and explore the rise of mammals. Displays include skeletons of the stegosaurus, allosaurus, diplodocus and many more. Observe scientists working on fossils from the recent discovery by construction crews of the Thornton Torosaurus, the first torosaurus ever discovered in Colorado as well as the most complete torosaurus skeleton ever found in the world. Denver Museum of Nature and Science is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205.
#3 Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center – Woodland Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is a kid-friendly museum featuring unique and spectacular dinosaurs including T-Rex, raptors, giant flying and marine reptiles, huge carnivorous fish and life restorations. Visitors can witness an actual fossil preparation laboratory, making casts and preparing fossils for museums around the country. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is located at 201 S Fairview St, Woodland Park, CO 80863.
#4 Dinosaur Journey Museum, Fruita, Colorado
Dinosaur Journey, part of the Museums of Western Colorado, concentrates its exhibits on the geology and paleontology of Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. The museum features interactive exhibits, animatronic dinosaurs, fun events, educational programing, and area dinosaur trails. Dinosaur Journey hosts special exhibitions every summer, running from mid-May to September. Located at 550 Jurassic Ct, Fruita, CO 81521.
#5 University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History – Boulder, Colorado
The University of Colorado Boulder’s Museum of Natural History is home to a variety of prehistoric fossils in its Paleontology Hall. The museum houses 150,000 catalogued specimens from all over the United States and the world, but the fossil vertebrate collection is focused on the Rocky Mountain region. In addition to prehistoric creatures, the museum houses invertebrates and plants, including beautiful pieces of petrified wood. Family friendly and full of interesting exhibits, CU’s Museum of Natural History is one of Boulder’s best free spots for learning and exploring. Admission to the museum is FREE. The museum is open during Monday – Friday 9-5, Saturday 9AM -4PMm Sunday 10AM – 4PM (Closed on all University holidays). The CU Museum of Natural History is located at CU’s Henderson Building, 15th and Broadway, Boulder, CO 80309.
#6 Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, Cañon City, Colorado
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is a family-friendly interactive museum featuring full-scale dinosaur fossil casts, science-focused interactive displays, animatronic dinosaur exhibits, as well as hands-on exhibits with real dinosaur fossils. Kids will enjoy the kids’ dig area, multimedia exhibits, games and outdoor recreational-focused activities including a multi-story ropes course. The Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is located at 44895 W U.S. 50, Cañon City, CO 81212.
#7 Ft. Collins Museum of Discovery – Ft. Collins, Colorado
The Ft. Collins Museum of Discovery features Wildlands & Wildlife, exploring the creatures and lands that existed in Ft. Collins millions of years ago! Prehistoric beasts and flora are accompanied by a complimentary exhibit showing the plants and animals that inhabit Ft. Collins today. Kids will love the fossil wall, as well as the many other exciting STEAM exhibits including: the music and sound lab, the tornado chamber, tot spot and more! The Museum of Discovery is an excellent way to explore dinosaurs and fossils in Colorado. The Ft. Collins Museum of Discovery is located at 408 Mason Ct, Fort Collins, CO 80524.
#8 Morrison Natural History Museum – Morrison, Colorado
Morrison Natural History Museum focuses on the prehistoric days of Morrison, Colorado, featuring rare and unique Jurassic period fossils, dinosaur tracks, and more. Visitors are encouraged to get the most out of the museum by taking a museum tour, offered every hour and included with admission. In addition to Jurassic treasures, the museum houses fossils and casts from the Cretaceous period as well as the Ice Age. Morrison Natural History Museum is open every day, 10 AM – 5 PM, and is located at 501 CO-8, Morrison, CO 80465.
#9 Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Florissant, Colorado
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is home to one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. The name “Florissant” comes from a French word meaning “flowering” or “blooming”, a fitting name for the wildflower-filled, grassy Florissant valley. Amongst the wildflowers, visitors will be wowed by massive petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide. The Visitors Center features thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is open daily from 9 AM – 5 PM (open until 6 PM during the summer) and is located at 15807 County Road 1, Florissant, CO 80816.
#10 Garden Park Fossil Area, Cañon City, Colorado
Garden Park Fossil Area is known as one of the country’s most prolific and historically important dinosaur excavation sites. These fossils are on view in museums all over the country and include complete and nearly complete skeletons of various dinosaurs like the Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Diplodocus. Although this site has been (and continues to be) home to fossil quarries, there are no dinosaur fossils on view. Visitors, however, enjoy hiking and exploring the area for its historical and scientific importance. The area features extensive historical markers as well as an EarthCache so you can take a self-guided tour to learn more about this amazing site. Or, you can take a virtual tour of the quarries here. Visiting Garden Park Fossil Area is FREE and an amazing spot for dinosaurs and fossils in Colorado. Garden Park Fossil Area is located at 3501-3767 Garden Park Rd, Cañon City, CO 81212. For more information on visiting the area, click here.