Back with a new installment of Travel Local.
Today's location is the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
Worth visiting? Yes.
Worth visiting more than once? Once is probably good.
Worth it for non-locals too? Yes.
Fees? $3-$5 for those 16 and older.
Pets? Leave the pups at home. They're not allowed.
Musical inspiration for the trek? Old Seasons, New Day, album by Switchfoot's Jon Foreman. (Free on NoiseTrade right now.)
The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument sits about 35 miles west of Colorado Springs. Established in 1969, the property has been a site for scientific research since the 1870s and excavations for fossils continue today. You won't find dinosaur fossils, but you will see massive petrified redwood tree stumps on the grounds and tiny fossils from plants, spiders, insects, fish and seeds — and even fish vomit (the kids will love that!) — in the visitor center. In the late 1800s, researcher Samuel Scudder discovered that Florissant had more fossil butterflies than any place else in the world.
A one-mile hike will take you through open fields and past a handful of different redwood stumps, including the one pictured above. It's an easy rolling hike, but for those with mobility concerns, various stumps can be found right outside the visitor center.
One of the more interesting aspects at the Monument is the Fossil Learning Lab, housed in a nearby yurt. A park ranger manages the space, and will help you use microscopes and magnifying glasses to discover new fossils in shale from the area. (Our ranger was super chatty so don't hesitate to ask lots of questions if you have them.) Samples of different types of fossils set around the yurt help hunters identify what they find. The yurt's hours are random, so call before you go to make sure it will be open when you're planning to visit.
Other site activities include indoor historical exhibits, 1878 historic homestead grounds to visit (currently populated by a family of bunnies), and ranger treks — including free wildflower walks and twice-weekly yoga hikes.
I give the Paint Mines one and a half thumbs up, so my recommendation is to get out and travel local!