Florissant Fossil Beds
National Monument, Colorado
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a wonderland of meadows, mountain vistas, and vibrant wildflowers. But underneath the scenic beauty lies a hidden collection of ancient petrified redwood stumps and specimens of fossilized insects and fauna that are internationally desired by museums and universities. The monument protects and preserves this unusual site for future generations of scientists and tourists alike.
Thirty five million years ago this area was a deep forestland covered with towering redwoods that rivaled those of the present day behemoths found only in California. An erupting volcano spread mudflows through the prehistoric basin burying the trees, damming the valley, and creating a twelve mile long lake. A new ecosystem developed with deciduous trees and unique flora and fauna. Subsequent eruptions draped ash across the land and deposited layers of fine particles into the lake that covered leaves, insects and all forms of microscopic life. They eventually fossilized under the weight of the developing shale layers.
Early in the 1870’s explorers and homesteaders of the area discovered surface deposits of petrified trees. Further excavations uncovered massive stumps up to 38 feet in diameter. Paleontologists discovered unique and exquisitely delicate fossil deposits in 1873. Since then more than 50,000 specimens of fossil plants and insects have been harvested and put on subsequent display at museums around the globe.
Weather and Climate
Summers are generally of short duration with pleasant warm days and cool nights. Freezing temperatures can sometimes occur during summer months. Summer thunderstorms with lightning and hail occur almost daily. Typically they begin mid-day and last through the afternoon. The safest places are within buildings or your automobiles. Sub-zero lows are common in the winter; dress in warm layers to keep dry and to prevent hypothermia. The altitude is 8,500 above sea level so pace yourself in any season, drink a lot of water, and use sunscreen.
Location and Directions
Visitors traveling north/south on I-25: Exit at US 24 West, travel 35 miles to town of Florissant, then follow signs two miles south to the visitor center on Teller County 1. Visitors traveling east/west on US 24: Exit to the town of Florissant, then follow signs two miles south on Teller County 1 to the visitor center. Visitors traveling from the town of Cripple Creek: Follow Teller County Road 1 north for 16 miles.
Operating Hours & Seasons
OPERATING HOURS, SEASONS: May 1 through September 30th, 9AM - 5:30PM. Rest of Year, 9AM - 5:00PM
Open all year-round, 7 days a week, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Days
Rates, Fees, and Camping
- Check park site for Fees
- Camping: Florissant Fossil Beds is a day use park with hiking and picnic tables, but no overnight camping. However, there are many beautiful areas surrounding the park which offer overnight camping.
The Visitor Center houses a small museum that tells the unique story of how the fossils buried in the valley were formed. Books, educational material, and souvenirs are available in the gift shop. Guide books, interpretive brochures, and assorted maps can be found at the information desk. A ranger is always present to give further suggestions as to schedules for programs, hiking opportunities, and other programs.
Hiking and other activities
The Monument has more than 14 miles of trails that meander throughout the park. The Hornbek Homestead and two of the shorter trails touring the fossilized shales and some of the larger petrified tree stumps are wheelchair accessible with a Challenge 1 rating. Other trails explore excavation sites, forests and meadowlands. An interesting piece of history is found in the restored buildings of the Horbek Homestead. The ruggedness of the land gives an appreciation for the settlers who carved successful livings out of the valley. Keep in mind that pets are prohibited in the park.
The nearby town of Florissant, founded in 1870, offers a limited collection of restaurants, service stations, and gift shops. Woodland Park, fifteen miles to the east, is somewhat larger with a wide array of nice eating establishments, shops, and stores for most occasions. It also boasts a stunning library and a new dinosaur museum on the main stretch through town. Colorado Springs, thirty miles east of the Monument is, of course, a full sized community that provides all the needs one might have.
Rules, Regulations, Precautions
- Firearms and hunting are prohibited.
- Pets are prohibited
- Driving off established roads is prohibited.
- You must pack out of the backcountry all trash.
- Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.
- Collecting, destroying, or defacing any cultural feature, mineral, plant, or wildlife is prohibited.
- Deer, squirrels and chipmunks that often appear should never be approached because they can transmit disease.
- Do not feed the animals, they need to eat natural foods.
- Bears have been seen on occasion, so do not leave food sitting open.
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