I’ve been hiking Dinosaur Ridge for years and it’s one of my favorites!
If you call yourself a native/honorary native and you’ve never been to Dinosaur Ridge you must immediately be revoked of your title. Everyone’s been there! If you’re like me, you've gone particularly as a child with your parents and on school field trips. It’s super close to Denver, in the Morrison/Redrocks area and it involves freaking dinosaurs. There’s no excuse.
If you aren’t familiar with Dinosaur Ridge, it’s where you can find fossils and footprints from Dinosaurs on the side of a mountain that was once, millions of years ago, a shoreline. As a child, this place will blow your mind… Or if you’re like me and you never really grew up and you still enjoy a good dino, it still blows your mind.
Since I did go there so often as a child it began to lose it’s charm as you can really only look at the same fossils so many times. Lucky for me a few years back I discovered Dakota Ridge Trail that runs across the peak of the mountain. It’s restored my love for Dinosaur Ridge.
Usually I gauge how much I like a trail based on the views it offers and the landscaping surrounding it (I love me some forest.) Although this hike’s landscape and views are fine, it’s not the reason I love it. My love is for the trail you are hiking on itself. For starters, YOU ARE LITTERALLY TAKING STEPS WHERE DINOSAURS ALSO TOOK STEPS. And if that doesn’t excite you, I don’t even want to know you.
Second it’s one of the most interesting trails I’ve been on. Most of it is just your run of the mill inclined, thin, dirt trail and then you’ll reach the occasional sheet of rock, geological, cluster F-ery and you think to yourself, “am I expected to hike up this nonsense oorrrr…?” And you are in fact, expected to.
I swear It’s far easier than it sounds and looks in these photos so please don’t get scared off if you aren’t very experience. Hell I had basically zero experience when I first did this hike and I was just fine. Just have shoes with good traction, faith in yourself and it’ll be a breeze. * Disclaimer: Only you know what you can handle. If you go there use your judgment. If it looks like something you can't handle don't go on it anyway cause "that chick with a blog told me I can do it." *
I promise you’ll love these rock trails, and so will your dog. When Laverne first saw them she looked back at me and gave me a face that said, “You’re hilarious.” But once she saw me start walking up them she quickly got the hang of it.
By the end of the hike she was haulin’ booty up them when we came across one, faster than I could keep up in fact. I think she liked the challenge of feeling like an adventurous little mountain goat.
Something to keep in mind, if your dog struggles with hardwood floors (I’ve known many who do) the slick rocks might be an issue for them. As for you, this is a textbook example of why hiking boots that go over your ankles may be a good idea. Especially if you have weak ankles, it could be very easy to roll an ankle on this sort of terrain.
As a hike in general I’d probably give it a moderate difficulty rating. The incline and length (it took us about 2 hours from the car start to end) is enough to get that heart rate going, those beads of sweat rollin’, and’ll get you nice and tired by the end of the adventure. But it’s not hard enough you feel your lungs may actually burst.
Laverne was definitely draggin’ by the end of our journey. We took several water breaks for her, I also like to pour some water on her thick, dark fur periodically on hikes like this so she doesn't overheat. It’s a great option for those of you who need to burn fuel off your high-energy dog. Petie did not join us, I knew I’d either end up carrying her or she’d simply meet her demise.
The random areas of pure rock trail you have to hurdle makes the hike lean more towards the difficult end of moderate but I still wouldn’t quite consider it difficult since those rock areas are very brief.
The hike does not loop, it’s a straight line across the top of the ridge so you either have to turn back the way you came or you can descend and walk back to your car from the frontage road. That’s my one complaint about this hike, I wish there were trails or paved paths for pedestrians that lead back to the parking lots. The frontage road is wide enough, there is a shoulder, and the cars are generally courteous but I’d still feel more comfortable if there was an actual path, especially when I have my dog with me.
There are multiple parking lots and trail heads but I personally park on the east side along W Alameda (you’ll see other cars), walk up the road along the actual Dinosaur Ridge with the fossils then start on the trail head you’ll see on the right (west) side of the road. Then I hike up to the fork in the road seen here. It'll take you at least an hour before you get to this point.
From what I’ve notice and heard, not too many people know about the hike portion of Dinosaur Ridge, they know of the fossil portion and as a result that part can sometimes be busier, but not so much the hiking trail. On a weekday you’ll see maybe two other hikers and a biker.
Yeah. I said it. Bikers. You saw the photos of the rock nonsense. I never understood how one has the ability to ride this rocky as hell terrain. I applaud you crazy, rock stars who do.
On a weekend you’ll probably see more like six or seven other people tops. Considering it’s proximity to Denver I’m surprised it’s not a busier trail.
Like I said before this hike will always be one of my favorites. It’s close by, fun, different, and adventurous.
Heres the link to their site!
16831 W Alameda Pkwy
Morrison, CO 80465