Round Trip Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 5980 - 6196 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: 16831 W. Alameda Pkwy
Fee: Self guided hike - free/Shuttle tour $6/person
Attractions: Dinosaur tracks and fossils
Dinosaur Ridge is located along a closed off stretch of W. Alameda Parkway near Morrison, Colorado. Visitors to the site can expect to see dinosaur tracks, bones and fossils as well as several interesting geological features. The National Park Service has designated the site as a National Natural Landmark. One of the main highlights is a track site that has more than 300 dinosaur footprints. Dinosaur Ridge can be explored on foot as a self guided hike or on a bus where a guided shuttle tour from the Visitor Center will ferry you from stop to stop at the current rate of $6/person.
For the guided tour navigate to 16831 W. Alameda Pkwy. If you plan to hike the trail you can drive a little further and park alongside the roadway near the point where the road is gated off. You can also park on the west side of the ridge where W. Alameda intersects with Highway 93 between Interstate 70 and Red Rocks Park.
The entire length of the trail is paved. Pedestrians are instructed to use the west side of the road for both coming and going. Bicycles are given the entire outside lane to use in both directions and tour vehicles are given the inside lane.
Interpretive signs along the trail point out interesting facts about the geology and environment.
With the aid of one of the signs it is possible to identify tracks that were left by crocodiles. Crocodiles have been around for about 200 million years and have outlived the dinosaurs by 65 million years and counting. Talk about staying power!
Another spot points out impressions, or casts, in the sandstone that were made by branches. After visiting here you can learn to spot similar occurrences while hiking in other places.
The big attraction at Dinosaur Ridge is of course the track site. Plans are in the works to build a canopy over the site to better protect it from the elements.
At the track site there are the impressions of dinosaur footprints of various types and sizes going in every whichway. The fact that they are tilted up at an angle makes them even easier to see than if they were on a level plane. It is like the perfect display case.
After seeing and learning about the tracks here at Dinosaur Ridge you will be able to spot them easier when hiking elsewhere. We have posted many dinosaur track sites that are in Colorado, Utah and Arizona on this website. We regularly come across complete and partial tracks all on our own in places that aren't official sites.
After viewing the dinosaur tracks continue up the road to see a few other interesting things as well as a few more tracks and dinosaur bones on the other side of the hill.
At the crest of the hill you can see a large ball of sandstone called a concretion imbedded in the cliff as well as a layer of volcanic ash sandwiched in time between other layers of rock. While looking at the different rock layers you can see when the environment was such that wind blown sand provided the materials for a particular layer when at another time it was sediments that were deposited while the land was underwater. Imagine being here when volcanic activity left the thick layer of ash that we see today. My how the Denver area has changed in the past and is still changing ever so slowly at present.
At times it is nice to be able to see dinosaur bones in situ rather than having all been dug up and carted off to a museum. There are quite a few different fossilized bones to view on the west side of Dakota Ridge.
This bulge in the rock is the indentation of a dinosaur footprint as seen from below.
At the intersection of W. Alameda and Highway 93 is another trailhead where there is quite a bit more parking. While on our visit we saw many people that were beginning at this trailhead but not proceeding beyond the top of the hill so they were missing out on the track site altogether. The only restrooms in the area are across Highway 93 at the Red Rocks trailheads, the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center and a porta-potty near the top of the hill by the Dakota Ridge trail. Dinosaur Ridge and the Triceratops trail in Golden are great natural places to explore and learn a little something about dinosaurs. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.