Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Written by on September 28, 2015 in CO Outdoor Adventures - 1 Comment

Just west of Pikes Peak is a beautiful valley — a valley in which one of the richest fossil deposits in the world can be found, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Over 50,000 specimens have been discovered, representing 1,700 species of animals and plants, including 14 foot wide petrified redwood stumps. In fact, the world’s only known petrified trio of redwood trees is found in this valley. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument reveals the story of a prehistoric Colorado formed about 34 million years ago during the late Eocene Epoch.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Today, this area is covered with grassy meadows and forest, but 34 million years ago, Lake Florissant stood on the spot. On its banks, giant redwoods, cedars and pines soared to the sky. Countless species of prehistoric insects and animals swarmed along the shores, while ancient fish species swam in the lake. Then a nearby volcano erupted, covering everything with hundreds of feet of ash, and killing most of the life. The ash settled to the bottom of the lake, creating a layer of sediments that perfectly preserved and fossilized thousands of plants and animals.

At the visitor center, located in the center of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, exhibits take you through the history and formation of the Fossil Beds. Throughout the year there are a variety of self-guided hikes and over 14 miles of hiking trails that allow you see first-hand numerous fossil specimens. Judge James Castello was the first of the settlers to come to this beautiful valley. He named it Florissant (both after his hometown of Florissant, Missouri, but also because, in French, the name means flowering, flourishing and blooming. In early to mid summer, the mountain meadows certainly live up to those grand names, with wildflowers putting on a beautiful seasonal show. Which makes summer the best time of all to hike in the park — not only are you treated to the sight of fossilized plants, but get to witness the beauty of living ones as well.

During the winter months, the hiking trails and meadows of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument become great places to snowshoe and cross-country ski, although you will have to rent equipment elsewhere or bring your own.

The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument also offers an active paleontology program. The Fossil Excavation Program is a series of demonstrations, ranger-guided programs, teacher training and curriculum, podcasts, and exhibits that will help you understand the exciting scientific exploration that continues at Florissant Fossil Beds. You can download the Florissant Fossil Beds Field Seminars online brochure for a list of classes, then fill out and mail the registration form. You can also pre-register by phone. Call (719) 748-3253 ask for extension 109 and leave a message.

Camping is available nearby at the following locations:
Mueller State Park (719) 687-2366
Pike National Forest (719) 636-1602
Eleven Mile State Park (719) 748-3401
Eleven Mile Canyon, Round Mountain, and Happy Meadows Campgrounds (USFS) (719) 836 – 2031

For details on lodging, dining and shopping, you can contact the following local community Chamber of Commerce groups:

Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce (719) 687 – 9885
Cripple Creek Chamber of Commerce (719) 689 – 2169
Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (877) 745-3773

Other attractions in the area include:
Top 10 Things to do in Colorado Springs
Garden of Gods

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
PO Box 185
Florissant, CO 80816
Phone: 719-748-3253

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