Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument’s claim to fame is its large collection of plant and insect fossils and gigantic petrified redwood stumps in central Colorado. In addition to the petrified inhabitants, the monument is also home to a wide variety of wildflowers and a Colorado homestead preserved from the 1870s. The monument is located off US 24 about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs.
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ILNP Park Review
Our Weather Both times, it was partly cloudy, a little rainy, and very warm.
Overall Impression Florissant Fossil Beds is a nice place to spend a few hours hiking and exploring. If you plan a big trip from New York just to see the Florissant Fossil Beds, you’ll probably be disappointed. While the monument is set in a beautiful area of the Rockies, it lacks the breathtaking beauty of a National Park or many other National Monuments. However, if you’re in the Colorado Springs/Denver area and are looking for a place away from the city to experience some of Colorado’s charming forests and meadows, then the fossil beds are a good place to escape and relax for a few hours. If you’re going to bring kids along, make sure you explain beforehand that “fossil” doesn’t always mean “dinosaur” as there are no dinosaur fossils in the park.
Visiting Plan on 1 hour to 1/2 a day. In one hour, you can see some fossils in the Visitors Center and take the 1 mile Petrified Forest Trail around a large meadow and see several petrified redwood stumps. The hike is easy, and the atmosphere is very relaxed. You may not be awestruck by the fossils or the stumps, but the area is a fine display of Colorado high-plains meadow with tons of wildflowers for you flora buffs.
If you have additional time, there are some fossil displays and lectures by the park rangers. On our second visit, the Fossil Lab near the visitors center was open, and the park ranger let my 6-year-old son pry open a rock to look for fossils (there was a small leaf). If hiking is your thing, there are several miles of trails in the park, all of which are easy or moderate and expose you to forest, meadow and wildlife. The Ponderosa Loop Trail is only 1/2 mile long and makes it easy for anyone to explore the forest for a while. The Hornbek Homestead is a short drive or hike from the Visitors Center. It consists of several buildings (including the original home) which represent the homestead of the Hornbek family who settled the area in the late 1800s. We went on a Saturday, and the homestead was open with a park ranger answering questions (the home is not open all the time), and it was worth seeing.
Florissant Fossil Beds was the first time one of my children has participated in a Junior Ranger Program, and the park rangers did an outstanding job of motivating him to finish his qualification activities. It definitely kept my son more interested in the park (though his nose was in a book for much of the hiking), and he is proud of the badge and patch he earned. We will definitely be seeking more Junior Ranger opportunities at future parks.
Nearby Towns Florissant, Divide, Cripple Creek, Woodland Park, Colorado Springs (Colorado)
Other Nearby Attractions Plenty of camping; Cripple Creek, Colorado – an old mining (now gambling) town and home of the Cripple Creek & Victor narrow gauge railroad. Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park (if your kids really want to see dinosaurs and not plant fossils)
Official NPS Website Florissant Fossil Beds NM
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