Great US Destinations for Fossil Lovers

Who doesn’t love a dinosaur? At some time, most of us went through the phase of our early life reading whatever we could find on the terrible lizards of the past and being fascinated by their size, variety, and depictions in movies like Jurassic Park and King Kong. At some point in your explorations into the world of extinct reptiles, you may have even owned a few fossils, the remains of the bones and shells of creatures large and small that lived millions of years in the past. Some of us never lose our love of dinosaurs and fossils. Did you know there are areas you can visit today and still see fossils embedded in the rock and rubble? Taking the kids to one of these unique locations is a great way to excite their imagination and perhaps even wake up your inner child!

  • Petrified Forest National Park - Arizona

    Petrified Forest National Park - Arizona

    When most think of fossils, they think of dinosaurs. Yet, the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona is a prime example of wood buried by sediment and volcanic ash later in the Triassic Period (252-201 million years ago). While the downed trees surrounded these layers, the wood cells were slowly replaced with stone. You can drive yourself through the national park or take guided tours led by rangers.

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  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument - Nebraska

    Agate Fossil Beds National Monument - Nebraska

    Located near Harrison, Nebraska, the Agate Fossil Beds have some of the most well-preserved bone fossils of mammals. These fossils are from the Miocene Epoch (19-21 million years ago). The mammals found in this park are comprised of animals that replaced the dinosaurs. A few trails are available to hike, the Fossil Hills and Daemonelix Trail, and there are plenty of fossils to see on display in the visitor center.

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  • Badlands National Park – South Dakota

    Badlands National Park – South Dakota

    Referred to as the Land of Stone and Light, the Badlands in South Dakota is full of a treasure trove of fossil beds. The park covers 244,000 acres and is a mixed-grass prairie where ancient mammals roamed the wide expanse. Fossils of horses, the saber-toothed cat, rhino, among others, are found here. The modern wildlife will make for good viewing as well - with bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and the mighty bison still roaming the area.

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  • Dinosaur National Monument - Colorado and Utah

    Dinosaur National Monument - Colorado and Utah

    Dinosaur National Monument sits in the territories of Utah and Colorado. The 1,500 bones of dinosaurs on display include some of the more well-known animals from the Jurassic Period (200 million to 146 million years ago). These include the stegosaurus, allosaurus, and diplodocus. Visitors to the park can see dinosaur remains embedded in the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Campsites are available, and the Exhibit Hall is a chance to see and touch these preserved examples of Earth’s past.

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  • Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument - Idaho

    Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument - Idaho

    Fans of paleontology will find plenty to love in the history and science of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. In the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument area, the Hagerman Horse, equus simplicidens, is found. Believed to be the ancestor of the modern horse we know today, it has become an important part of the link in the evolution of the species. Hagerman is not only the largest deposit of Hagerman horse fossils in North America but also the richest known deposit of the late Pliocene era, 3.5 million years ago. The fossils found here include Camelops, an extinct North American camel. Mastodons, saber-toothed cats, and early canine fossils are found here as well.

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  • John Day Fossil Beds National Monument - Oregon

    John Day Fossil Beds National Monument - Oregon

    John Day Fossil Beds, in central Oregon, protects the colorful layers of stone that show almost 40 million years of plant and animal evolution between the Eocene period, 45 million years ago, and the late Miocene, about 5 million years ago. Paleontologists have found the fossils of mastodons, camels, rhinoceroses, and the ancestors of dogs, lions, bears, and horses. There are three main areas to explore, including the eroded claystone Sheep Rock Unit, the towering cliffs of Clarno Unit, and the multicolored Painted Hills Unit. Each layer shows the history and ages of the planet in plain view.

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  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Texas

    Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Texas

    Now located in an area with desert and dunes, mountains, and canyons, this park is surprisingly known as having one of the finest deposits of marine fossils. Known as a Permian fossil reef (298 million to 251 million years ago), it lays out the timeline of when this area was submerged and the animal and plant species that once thrived there. With plenty of trails, it also has the four highest peaks in Texas.

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  • Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry - Utah

    Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry - Utah

    Definitely in the top fossil viewing parks in the world, this quarry represents the most concentrated find of Jurassic-era dinosaur bones to date. Paleontologists have recovered over 12,000 bones, which belong to 74 individual dinosaurs - so far. A curiosity persists about why a little more than 75% of these bones belong to carnivores, specifically allosaurus fragilis. Located in Utah, the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is perfect for learning more about this mystery.

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  • Devonian Fossil Gorge - Iowa

    Devonian Fossil Gorge - Iowa

    Once an ocean floor 375 million years ago, the fossils in Devonian Fossil Gorge were discovered after massive floods in 1993—at Coralville Lake, Iowa. Additional marine fossils were found during flooding in 2008. Both of these floods wore away the fragile limestone, showing evidence of life almost 200 million years before dinosaurs existed. Marine coral fossils, sea lilies, and dunkleosteous, a fish coated in armor 33 feet long, weighing four tons, have been found.

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  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument - Colorado

    Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument - Colorado

    In central Colorado sits the Florissant Fossil Beds, a park with sequoia and redwood tree fossils of great diameter—some up to 14 feet wide. These trees, with stone now replacing the wood cells, towered just before the expansion of the Antarctic sheet (Ice Age). Fossils of insects and plants also fill out the almost 1,700 species that once lived in the valley during the late Eocene era (54 million years to 33 million years ago).

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