Clayton Lake Dinosaur Tracks

Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5151 - 5185 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Clayton Lake State Park
Fee: $5/vehicle
Attractions: Dinosaur tracks

Located in the Clayton Lake State Park, near Clayton, New Mexico, is a Dinosaur Trackway Site consisting of more than 500 individual tracks from at least four different types of both plant-eating and meat-eating dinosaurs that were left along the sandy shores of an ancient seaway more than 100 million years ago. The tracks were exposed after the construction of the dam and operation of the spillway for Clayton Lake. While the dam was constructed in 1955 it wasn't until the lake overflowed into the spillway in 1982 that the last few inches of cover were washed away and the tracks were finally revealed.

Clayton Lake State Park is about 29 miles south of the Colorado-New Mexico border and about 16 miles west of the New Mexico-Texas border. For the best directions enter Clayton Lake State Park into your driving app. Otherwise find your way to Clayton, New Mexico and follow the signs for the lake that is about 11.5 miles north of town.

After entering the park follow the signs to the trailhead where you will find a restroom and plenty of parking. There is a $5/vehicle Day Use fee. If you are camping the day use fee is included in the cost of the campsites which run from $8/night for a primitive site and $14/night for a site with full hookups.

The hard packed trail gains slightly in elevation until it reaches the dam which it crosses to reach the track site.

A sheltered observation area with numerous kiosks sits at the end of the dam overlooking the spillway. The trail appears to be accessible up to this point but a series of stairs that lead down to the tracks prohibit further progression for wheelchairs.

The interpretive signs provide all the useful information that is necessary to get the most out of your visit.

At the bottom of the stairs a boardwalk provides an easy place from which to see the various tracks. There are even a few more interpretive signs at several stations along the way. We suppose that if the lake were to fill once again and spillover that at some point they might have to close the trail temporarily.

Most of the tracks look similar to what you would see if you yourself were to step in some soft wet sand. The impression might be rounded even when it was first created and certainly even more as the water flowed back and forth over it.

I few of the tracks. like this one from a three toed plant eating dinosaur, have enough detail to show the fine structure of the bottom of the foot.

Trackways are formed wherever three or more consecutive prints from the same dinosaur are found.

Sorry, but whenever I see one like this all I can think about is an over grown turkey.

One other interesting find is a groove left from the tail of a dinosaur. One of the kiosks mentions that they appeared to use their tails for stability in the slippery mud.

All of the campsites at the Clayton Lake State Park have to be reserved and paid for online. There is a QR code on each post that you can scan to check the availability and complete a reservation on site but it would still be wiser to do that on their website beforehand from a place with a good network or dependable cellphone connection. Clayton Lake is well out of the way for someone like us who are from western Colorado but to help make it more worth while you can also stop at Capulin Volcano National Monument while enroute. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.