Distance: 2.54 miles (out-and-back; spurs) Elevation Gain: 442 ft
Max Elevation: 5,963 ft Min. Elevation: 6,366 ft
This past weekend was a very rainy and thunderstorm filled weekend when Thomas’ mother came to visit us. Since she’s an elementary school teacher we thought this was an ideal time to check out Dinosaur Ridge and the Dakota Ridge Hike. The ‘hike’ is on the west side E-470 just off I-70. Because of this it is definitely not an isolated hike where you can get away from the city. Driving in we saw a large sign for Dinosaur Ridge (seen above) and some dinosaur sculptures of a stegosaurus and what be an Eolambia.
The visitor center is very nice and has food and drinks available. There is also a museum, guided bus tours, and a gift shop. The visitor center does offer activities for children and we imagine that kids would have a lot of fun playing around, learning about dinosaurs, and enjoying a snack here. There are maps for sale, but the trail is so simple that we don’t think they are necessary. Also, there is a trailhead sign with a map right outside the visitor center, which you can see below.
The hike itself goes along a paved road, which we didn’t enjoy very much but would be very easy for those who have trouble walking and also children. The road goes along for 2 miles and there is varied traffic. The only motorized traffic is tour buses; and then there are cyclists and the foot traffic. All along this road are signs telling you what you are looking at. In the map above you can see a list of all the notable features on the hike. Below you can see the road we walked on and an example of some of the signage.
After hiking a little ways we came upon one of the larger exhibits along the trail — dinosaur tracks. Walking up we saw a large viewing are and a shelf of exposed rock with numerous dino tracks littered all around. A sign told us that these tracks were left by three creatures: the Eolambia, the Acrocanthosaur, and the Ornithomimid. You can see images of these three dinosaurs below on a sign as well as a description of how these tracks were interpreted by scientists.
Geologically the site was quite interesting and multiple layers of rock could be seen; however, for us, after looking at ripples left in the rock left by an ancient ocean for a minute we were ready to move on. The problem was that the hike itself didn’t have much to offer other than these brief stops, many of them showing how a crevice in the rock was where a branch once was at the bottom of the ocean. You can see the branch impression below as well as the strata of rock below.
Right before the turn we around the ridge we saw what looked like a genuine hiking trail leading up the ridge. We figured out pretty quickly that this must be the Dakota Ridge trail and we decided to follow it a ways. Although the east side of the ridge faces I-70 and E-470 the west side of the ridge faces Red Rocks. After following the path for only a short distance we found an open space where we were afforded a pleasant view of Red Rocks, along with cars lined up to get in. We were very happy not to be in that line of traffic. On the ridge we took the panorama seen below.
Unfortunately the weekend was chalk full of storms and after a brief stint on the Dakota Ridge trail we saw a wall of dark clouds moving in. It had been drizzling all morning anyway and so we decided to call it and head back. Below is a picture of Ms. Checkley coming back down the ridge with the storm clouds behind her.
We had some fun on the hike but felt it was more of a children oriented outing. There are great opportunities to view very geologically interesting features on the ridge and also see some very clear dino tracks, but not much else. Dakota Ridge is a nice hike if you do the whole trail (6 miles) and leads its way across the ridge and into Red Rocks. It could be fun to start in Red Rocks and then hike Dakota Ridge over to Dinosaur Ridge, look around, and head back. But this is absolutely not the hike to do if you are looking for isolation.