Places to see real dinosaur tracks, fossils and skeletons

Tuba City Dinosaur TracksThere are some great spots in the Southwest where you can find actual dinosaur tracks and other places where you can see skeletons and learn more about these creatures that roamed the earth, and then mysteriously disappeared, about 65 million years ago. Dinosaur hunters can see their tracks and their fossilized skeletons. Here are some great places for dinosaur aficionados.

Tuba City Arizona Dinosaur Tracks
Tuba City is located within the Painted Desert on the western side of the Navajo Nation. The town is situated on U.S. Route 160, near the junction with Arizona State Route 264. Tuba City is located about 50 miles from the eastern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. The dinosaur tracks can be found 6 miles east of highway 89 on highway 160. You’ll see a large sign on the south side of the highway that says “Dinosaur Tracks.” Turn north up the short gravel road and you will encounter some stands and usually a willing guide or two.

Since the weather and water/mud patterns may change and uncover the dinosaur tracks, having a guide is a good idea. You can walk out over the hardened mud flats and see three-toed dinosaur tracks. Some have indicated that these tracks belonged to the  Dilophosaurus , a two-legged carnivore measuring up to 20 feet long. If you saw the movie, Jurassic Park, you might remember this fellow.

As you look out over the desert toward the mesas, it is not hard to picture the huge animals running across the land. You are permitted to walk the area in search of more prints. Be sure and tip your guide. This is a major part of their livelihood.

Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona
The Petrified Forest National Park was once a lush forest with animals ranging from small invertebrates to dinosaurs living there. Scientists are still working the area and finding fossils. When you see the grassy, bare, high-desert plains of the Petrified Forest, it will be hard to imagine that it was once a forest.

At the Rainbow Forest Museum you can see a display showing dinosaur skeletons. More information on dinosaurs in Petrified Forest National Park

Ghost Ranch – Abiquiu, New Mexico
Named for amateur paleontologist, Ruth Hall, the Ghost Ranch museum is known worldwide among paleontologists as the location of the articulated fossils of the Coelophysis, as well as having one of the richest quarries ofGhost Ranch Museum the Triassic era, which began 220 million years ago.

Scientists are still unearthing fossils and you can see blocks of clay soil inside the museum and watch the scientists brush away the earth to reveal fossilized dinosaur skeletons.

Ghost Ranch is located in northern New Mexico and is the site made famous by painter Georgia O’Keeffe. More on the Ruth Hall Paleontology Museum.

Ghost Ranch MuseumNew Mexico Museum of Natural History – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Meet New Mexico’s giant dinosaurs, walk through a volcano or explore the solar system. The Museum’s exhibits offer all this and more! The museum’s newest permanent exhibit, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, is the only Triassic hall in North America. The museum has special events and education focusing on dinosaurs. Did you know that New Mexico has a State Fossil? It is the Coelophysis.

Dinosaur National Monument- Colorado and Utah
As of October 2011, visitors will be able to see dinosaur bones on display in Dinosaur National Monument.

It is important to know that the monument is over 210,000 acres in size, but the construction zone/dinosaur fossil area encompasses less than 100 acres, located on the west side of the park in Utah. 99% of the park contains no dinosaur fossil exhibits. The rest of the park is famous for sweeping scenery, rushing rivers, dramatic canyons, and a rich cultural history.

The Quarry Exhibit Hall was closed six years ago due to structural damage caused by expansive soils. When the rehabilitation project is completed this fall, over 1500 prepared dinosaur bones will once again see the light of day. The bones are currently protected inside a massive plywood box that is not open to tours. (source: Dinosaur National Monument)

The Best Dinosaur Experiences
I have enjoyed learning about dinosaurs in two fairly remote places. The first is the Tuba City Dinosaur Tracks site on the Navajo Nation. It is enjoyable to find a rather isolated place and then see first-hand the huge footprints of these ancient animals.

The second is watching paleontologists work on huge cubes of clay unearthing dinosaur fossil skeletons little by little. The Ghost Ranch Museum is small, out in the northern New Mexico countryside, but full of interesting information and relics. The area is beautiful and worth a visit in itself.

More Information
All About Dinosaurs
More Places to Learn about Dinosaurs in Arizona
Dinosaurs found in Texas
More Dinosaur Fossil Sites

Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose