Wandering WY: Fossil Butte National Monument
Wyoming is known for its mountain, its supervolcano, and.... its fossils?! There are stories that fossils in Wyoming have been so abundant that you could walk out on the prairie and stub your toe on a dinosaur. We even have a state dinosaur, the Triceratops!
The evidence of the state's rich fossil record is all over the state. As you drive through the Wind River Canyon you will notice signs that tell you the names of the different formations in the rock and what time period they represent. It really is fascinating!
So it shouldn't be surprising that one of the National Monuments in Wyoming is dedicated to one of the greatest treasure troves of fossils in the country: Fossil Butte National Monument.
What's really cool about this place is the variety of activities you can participate in as a family to learn more about the monument and fossils in Wyoming. The museum, I highly recommend, for your first stop. You'll have to double back for one of the hikes, but I think it's helpful to learn the history of the area and more about what you'll be looking at on the trail before setting off through the sagebrush.
I took one of the shorter hikes up to Fossil Butte called the Historic Quarry Trail. The hike only took me a couple of hours round trip, but it was up hill in places and was completely without shade. Please, bring water and good shoes! Also watch for snakes, I was unwisely hiking alone and jumping at every weird noise because this would be the perfect area for them. The nice part about this trail is that it's broken into chunks so that you'll be able to see something cool about every half mile. From the Butte itself to an abandoned cabin of Fossil Hunter David Haddenham where he lived every summer nearly half a century.
If you're feeling adventurous and came prepared, it is well worth climbing the steep steps up to the historic quarry itself where you'll see the Butte up close and personal.
Back at the trailhead there is a clean outhouse and picnic table, but you don't have to have lunch there. Further up the road past the museum is actually a dedicated picnic area where there are picnic tables, some trees for shade, and a nature trail.
About 20 minutes from the monument is Kemmerer, Wyoming, a tiny town that you might be familiar with. Kemmerer is actually the town where the first J.C. Penney store was founded in 1902 and you can still shop there today!
Did you know about Wyoming's famous fossils? How about the first J.C. Penney store? What is your favorite National Monument to visit?