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Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Guide — Hiking, Stargazing, and More

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
Amar Hussain's image

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

Countries Visited: 44U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a mesmerizing park in the heart of Colorado that features one of the world’s most diverse and richest fossil deposits. This park has so much for visitors to see and do, including hiking trails, night sky events, horseback riding, and extraordinary exhibits.

Each year, approximately 70,000 visitors from around the world come to explore this land filled with beauty and wonder. 

How To Get to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Where Is Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument?

This national monument is centrally located in Florissant, Colorado, in a mountain valley. This park only covers an area of 9 square miles and includes petrified redwood stumps and fossilized plants and insects. The closest major city to this park is Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is approximately 35 miles from the park. 

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Opening Hours and Seasons

This park is open year-round, usually from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are closures throughout the year due to weather concerns, so be sure to check the park’s website in advance for the current conditions. The park also closes each week for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. 

Nearest Airports to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

For visitors who want to fly into the area, the best option for an airport is Colorado Springs Airport (COS). This airport is just 35 miles from the park.

This airport offers a great variety of connecting and nonstop flights to several U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Seattle. Some of the airlines serviced here include American, Avelo, Delta, Southwest, Sun Country, and United. 

From this airport, you are just a hop, skip, and jump from the monument. Car rental kiosks are available for you to arrange transportation for the final leg of your journey. 

Driving To Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

It is a fairly straightforward drive to this national monument. Those from north or south on I-25 will exit at US 24 West. Follow this road for 35 miles until you arrive in Florissant. From this town, there are signs that will lead you to the park’s entrance. 

Taking the Train to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

There is no train service to this national monument. 

Taking the Bus to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

For those who want to let someone else take over the stress of driving, Amtrak offers a bus line that can take you to Colorado Springs. This station is approximately 35 miles from the park. It would be necessary to arrange a rental car or taxi the rest of the way to the monument. 

Getting Around Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

The best way to get around this national monument is a mixture of driving and hiking. There is a parking lot at the visitor center and several trails wind through the monument. The park’s website offers an interactive map and a couple of printable maps to help you plan your adventures. 

What To See and Do in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

This national monument has no shortage of things to see and do. From hiking trails and touring historic homesteads to viewing petrified redwoods and participating in ranger-led programs, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy here.

Hiking Trails

Scenic view Twin Rock
Image Credit: NPS

Hiking enthusiasts are in for a treat at this national monument. There are over 14 miles of hiking trails that wind through this monument. Most of the trails go through hills covered with aspen and Douglas fir trees, wet meadows, and riparian areas.

There are trails that are suitable for guests of all ages. Some of the trails here include the Petrified Forest Loop, Ponderosa Loop, Sawmill Trail, Shootin’ Star Trail, and Boulder Creek Trail.

Bottom Line:

Exploring the park from these trails is the best way to appreciate the landscapes and vistas of the monument.

Historic Hornbek Homestead

In 1870, under the Homestead Act, Adeline Hornbeck moved to this area of Colorado to settle the land with her 4 children. She defied the traditional gender roles of those days and became a prosperous ranch owner.

Today, visitors can go to this historic homestead and learn about life in the late 1800s. Volunteers dress in traditional pioneer clothing and show the tools and routines of those days.

This is a fantastic place to visit to learn more about the early days of this area and get a glimpse of life long ago. There are also gorgeous grassy meadows bursting with colors from the wildflowers that bloom near the homestead. This is a great place to take pictures showcasing this park’s beauty. 

Horseback Riding

There are a few opportunities for horseback riding within the boundaries of this park. Exploring the park on the back of a magnificent horse is truly an enchanting way to take in the gorgeous sights and surroundings.

Should you decide to ride through the park, be sure to read the rules and regulations regarding where horses are permitted and prohibited. The park’s website also provides a map outlining these locations. 

Night Sky Viewing

This national monument is a fantastic place to view the night sky. This park has incredibly dark skies that offer nonpolluted views of the stars, the Milky Way, planets, comets, and more. The park offers a variety of night sky programs that give visitors the opportunity to learn about the sky and celestial objects from a park ranger or guest speaker.

There are also times when telescope viewing is available. One of the best places for night sky viewing is the Hornbeck Homestead area, but there, you will be in luck as long as you have a view of the sky. 

Outdoor Exhibit Area

Petrified Redwood Trees
Image Credit: NPS

The Outdoor Exhibit Area is a fully accessible highlight of the park. It offers up-close views of the petrified redwood trees and includes a trio of stumps. There are several exhibits in this area that teach about geologic history, the types of fossils found here, the Florissant Formation, and why the fossils are such an essential feature of this monument.

The park amphitheater is also in this area, where many ranger-led programs are held. You definitely won’t want to miss the opportunity to see the exhibits in this outstanding part of the park. 

Tours

There are a variety of tours offered at this national monument. Some of the tours are self-guided, while others are led by a knowledgeable park ranger. 

Ranger-led tours are typically held from June to Labor Day. Some of these tours include interpretive talks, guided walks, Fossil Learning Lab, tours of the Hornbek Homestead, and demonstrations at excavation sites. Not only can you learn from park rangers during these tours, but there are often guest speakers like geologists who are eager to share their knowledge with park visitors. 

There are also several self-guided trails you can tour during your visit. These trails are available year-round, and there are 4 different options to choose from: the Petrified Forest Loop, Ponderosa Loop Trail, Geologic Trail, and the Hornbek Homestead Ground Tour.

Bottom Line:

Whether you decide to take a tour on your own or with a park ranger, this is one of the best ways to learn all about Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Visitor Center

The visitor center is a great place to start your adventures at this national monument. Not only can guests get general information about the park here, but there are also opportunities to meet park rangers, learn from the many exhibits on display, watch a park film, and shop at the bookstore.

A Fossil Learning Lab near this facility offers summertime opportunities for families to visit hands-on learning stations and learn about and see how fossils are formed.

This visitor center should be at the top of your itinerary. This is where you will purchase your entrance pass and where all the Florissant Fossil Beds fun begins.

Best Times To Visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

This national monument is an excellent place to visit, no matter when you are able to visit. However, if there are specific events or activities you want to participate in, there are better times than others to visit.

Best Time To Visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument for Ideal Weather

Weather can genuinely make or break a vacation, so planning a trip around the typical weather patterns is wise. The best time to visit this national monument for ideal weather is June. The temperatures range from the upper 30s to the mid-70s, and there are typically only 5 days of rain during this month. 

Best Time To Visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument To Avoid the Crowds

Winter in the Florissant valley
Image Credit: NPS

If you want to visit this park and avoid crowds, planning a trip in November is best. While the park isn’t as busy during this month, there are several factors to keep in mind, one being that the temperatures are pretty chilly at this time of year. Come prepared with plenty of winter gear to stay warm. 

Best Time To Visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument for Ranger Programs

Ranger programs are a fantastic way to learn about this park but they aren’t offered year-round. If you hope to participate in these programs, June is the best month to plan a visit. There are a variety of events that take place each weekend, with several others throughout the week. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Most people don’t associate saving money with traveling, but this is entirely possible with a bit of research and planning. Mid- to late September is the best time to travel to this national monument if you hope to save money. This is when flight rates and accommodation prices are at their lowest, which can save you hundreds of dollars in travel expenses. 

Annual Events in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

The park hosts regular events like night sky programs, geology talks, and interpretive walks, but no annual programs at the moment. These events are great opportunities to learn about the park’s flora and fauna, geology, and history. Keep an eye out for new events that may be added to the calendar.

Where To Stay in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

One of the first orders of business when planning any vacation is deciding where to stay during your trip. There are plenty of options when visiting Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Inside the Park

There aren’t any lodging or camping options within Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. There are many opportunities for lodging and camping within a short drive from the park.

Towns Near Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

There are several towns within 20 miles of the park. During your visit to this national monument, these towns make a great home base. 

Cripple Creek, Colorado

Cripple Creek Colorado
Image Credit: Brad Switzer via Unsplash

Cripple Creek is about 15 miles from this national monument. It has a variety of options for lodging, dining, and recreation and makes a great home away from home when visiting.

Lodging options include luxury hotels, bed and breakfasts, RV parks, and campgrounds. No matter what your preference is for lodging, you can rest assured that this town has an option to suit your needs. 

The dining options here range from hometown diners, cafes, gourmet restaurants, old-fashioned saloons, and authentic cultural restaurants. Whatever you crave, you can find a perfect hunger solution. 

Entertainment and recreation opportunities abound, with tours of old gold mines, performing arts centers, railroads, casinos, and a large assortment of museums. Whether you are a history buff or a gambler, you can find many ways to spend your days in this town.

Bottom Line:

You can’t beat a stay in Cripple Creek. Its proximity to the park and countless options for food, fun, and lodging make it an ideal place to stay when visiting this national monument.

Woodland Park, Colorado

Woodland Park is about 25 miles from Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. This small town is a short drive from Colorado Springs and offers a beautiful option for all you need when vacationing.

This town has several types of accommodations available for tourists. Some of the most popular options include lodges, rustic cabins, budget-friendly motels, and contemporary hotels. Woodland Park has several restaurants, each serving a wide variety of cuisine. From Mexican food to mom-and-pop diners, there’s something for every palate here. 

There’s a lot of fun to be had in this charming town. Many tourists enjoy the outdoor adventure tours, farmer’s markets, parks, and museums in and near this town. There’s something that appeals to every visitor, whether you are a nature enthusiast or an adventurist. 

Woodland Park makes a great base camp when visiting this park. It’s got everything you could need and more for a comfortable and exciting stay. 

Where To Eat in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

There aren’t any dining options within the boundaries of this national monument. Should hunger strike during your park adventures, you will need to drive to one of the nearby towns.

Costello Coffee House

Costello Coffee House is the top-rated restaurant in Florissant and is a 5-minute drive from the park.  In addition to coffee and tea specialties, the restaurant offers breakfast items like quiche and avocado toast and lunch options like gourmet sandwiches, hearty soups, and salads. Customers rave about the chicken salad, breakfast burrito, and chocolate hazelnut chai. 

Not only does Costello’s have an incredible menu, but they also have a patio shaded by aspen trees with cozy chairs and beautiful surroundings. This is a great place to rest and refuel after a day exploring the park. 

Thunderbird Inn

Thunderbird Inn is a popular restaurant just a few minutes from the national monument. It is open daily for lunch, dinner, and late-night drinks. 

Classic American favorites like burgers, chicken fingers, french fries, and onion rings. Some of the most popular dishes include the green chili bacon cheeseburger, buffalo chicken wings, sweet potato fries, and Thunderbird Inn’s famous chili. 

Thunderbird Inn is a great place for a delicious meal and an excellent place for socializing and enjoying live music and a fun atmosphere.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Facts

Florissant Fossil Beds American Flag
Image Credit: NPS

1. A New National Monument

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was established on August 20, 1969, as a way to protect one of the world’s richest fossil deposits. President Richard Nixon signed the bill that established this location as a national monument. 

2. Original People of the Park

The original people living in the park area were the Paleo-Indians, Ute, and Jicarilla Apache. These tribes were hunters and gatherers in the prehistoric days and were able to live on the rich animal and plant life in the region. 

3. An Abundance of Animals

There’s a diverse array of animals that live in this national monument, including mammals, birds, and reptiles. Some of the most intriguing animals that call this park home include birds like the chickadee and Stellar’s jay, elk, terrestrial garter snakes, wapiti, and ground squirrels. 

4. Full of Fossils

This national monument has an impressive assortment of fossils that have been found within its boundaries. The fossils found here include the giant petrified stumps of redwoods and fragile fossils of plants, fish, insects, seeds, cones, and spiders. 

5. International Dark Sky Park

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2021 because of its incredibly dark skies, great viewing opportunities, and lack of light pollution. There are many wonderful locations throughout the park that provide stellar stargazing opportunities.

Final Thoughts

With gorgeous landscapes, petrified redwoods, and historic homesteads, this park is a trove of treasures just waiting for you to explore. From taking in up-close views of stunning petrified redwood stumps and hiking incredible trails to horseback riding and guided tours, there’s something for everyone at this park.

Book your trip to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and see what brings so many guests from around the world to this Colorado park.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument?

The entrance fee to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is $10 per person. Visitors under the age of 16 years may enter free of charge. Guests can purchase entrance passes at the visitor center.

How much time should I plan to visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument?

It is recommended to spend 2 to 4 hours at this national monument. This amount of time allows for exploring the outdoor exhibits, hiking a couple of the trails, and taking in the highlights of the park.

Can I bring my dog to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument?

Pets are permitted in this national monument, but there are several places where they are not allowed. Pets can be in the visitor center parking lot and near the picnic area near the visitor center. While pets are allowed in a few places, the majority of the places within the park do not allow pets.

Is there Wi-Fi available at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument?

Wi-Fi is not available within the boundaries of this national monument.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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