Along with these guides and the sites listed below, the free Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app — a stand-alone interactive map guide to most local, state, and federal trails across the state — is a handy app for visitors and locals alike.
Hogbacks Open Space Interpretive Trail — On western edge of Cañon City, this trail focuses on the Greenhorn Limestone hogback lying in between Dakota Sandstone Hogback and Ft. Hays Hogback. The Western Interior Seaway (WIS) occupied this land some 90 million years ago, leaving behind a treasure trove of fossils and stratigraphy. Interpretive signs introduce the geology and paleontology of the hogbacks — the result of a year-long project involving the Cañon Exploratory Middle School, BLM, USGS, City of Cañon City, Stones ‘n Bones, and the Western Interior Paleontological Society.
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience — Located seven miles west of Cañon City this world-class museum features almost 20,000 square feet of interpretive displays. Twenty-eight life-sized fossil casts of dinosaurs were provided by Mike Triebold of Woodland Park’s Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center. Outdoors on 39 acres of piñon and juniper are found animatronic dinosaurs along a wild dinosaur hiking trail where a maternal Triceratops tries to herd her three curious juveniles, along with a Velociraptor, Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Iguanadon, Dilophosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, and other dinosaurs.
Indian Springs Trace Fossil NNL — The best (Ordovician) trace fossil site in North America, it was discovered on a working ranch by owner Bennie Thorson in the 1960s. Featured are preserved fossil footprints along with amazing details of resting spots, a flick of a fin in the sand, the impression of hair on a leg, a stinger on a tail, and the drag of a belly — all captured when a mudslide covered the 450 million year old estuary.
Garden Park Fossil Area NNL — Known for Jurassic dinosaur excavations, important discoveries of dinosaur eggs and tracks, and as one of the three sites of the infamous Bone Wars. Six miles north of Cañon City.
Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center — Showcases Fremont County’s geology and paleontology history with many local fossils on display. Includes historic Dall DeWeese fireplace featuring petrified wood, dinosaur bones, minerals, and a stalactite.
Skyline Drive — Scenic three-mile drive just west of Cañon City featuring a trackway of Ankylosaur (armored dinosaur) footprints in what was a muddy marshland 105 million years ago, along the razorback ridge of Cretaceous Dakota Hogback formation. The tracks were discovered in 1999 by the trained eye of William Kurtz, a University of Colorado paleontology student, while walking along Skyline Drive.
Pueblo Community College-Fremont (PCC-F) Campus Geology Time Trail — This trail is one part of the PCC-F Crossroads Through Time Heritage Park and is the perfect location to view geologic strata from the 1.7 Ba Precambrian granites that the Royal Gorge carves through to the mid-Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone along with specimens of Dotsero basalt, travertine, Oligocene rhyolite spherules and obsidian, Dakota Sandstone, Crestone conglomerate, Lykins stromatolite, Pikes Peak granite, Cambrian McClure Mountain syenite, Morton gneiss, all arranged in a geologic timeline.
Fremont County Administration Building, 615 Macon Avenue, Cañon City — The walls are constructed of locally-quarried and polished Pennsylvanian Fountain Formation conglomerate some 300 million years old, containing many fossil crinoids which have been highlighted in frames with explanatory signs. This display raised community awareness of the remarkable beauty and ancient fossil creatures that are liberally scattered around the county. Dr. Gary Webster of Washington State University, who did his graduate thesis in Fremont County, identified the crinoids as Atokan-Desmoinesian Age (307-315 myo).
The Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River – Not to be missed, just a couple of miles from Cañon City, there are many sights and activities available to get to know this major 1,200-foot-deep geological feature, carved by the Arkansas River into the uplifted Precambrian granites that make up the core of the Rocky Mountains.
One last note is for folks in the Fremont County area: help support the Stones ‘n Bones community group who are doing a rockin’ job bringing geological science to many local schools and other groups through their Fossil Boot Camp program. Kudos to them for this impactful citizen-science effort! And a special thanks to Cindy Smith (of Stones ‘n Bones) who shared much of the information here with us.
[Ed: Over the years, the CGS has mapped several quadrangles as well as undertaken other field research projects in the Fremont County area or that reflect on the geology of the region — see the citation tab below for a full list of those publications.]
Morgan, M. L., Christopher J. Carroll, and Joanna Wright. “FT-00-03 A Dash with the Dinosaurs – A Mountain Bike Trek to the Purgatoire River Dinosaur Trackway and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Impact Layer of Southeastern Colorado:” Colorado Geological Survey, Division of Minerals and Geology, Department of Natural Resources, October 2000.
Sares, Matthew A., and J. Andrew Gleason. “FT-00-02 Geology, Water Quality, and Avalanche Hazards of the Ouray - Silverton Area, Southwest Colorado: Earth Science Week Field Trip, October 9, 2000.” Colorado Geological Survey, Division of Minerals and Geology, Department of Natural Resources, October 9, 2000.