Dig into the past in the FPA
Overview: The Fruita Paleontological Area is a rich treasure-trove of Late Jurassic fossils hidden among colorful Morrison Formation badlands at the foot of Colorado National Monument and within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. This short trail loops through the FPA; interpretive signs discuss the geology and the fossils found in this protected area.
Warning: There is no water and no shade along this route.
History: In the 1970s, crews of paleontologists from CSU Long Beach and elsewhere came to western Colorado to look in the 152 million-year-old Morrison for fossils. What they found were not the massive remains of sauropods, theropods, stegosaurs, and the other "usual" dinosaurs that dot the prehistoric landscape. Instead the teams found something even more rare and scientifically valuable; small fossils. Tiny fossils of primitive mammals, legged-snakes, dog-sized crocodiles, and even miniature dinosaurs. This treasure trove of fossils became one of the riches fossil localities in the American west. Since its discovery, paleontologists have named several new animals including Fruitadens, Fruitafossor, Fruitachampsa, and Diablophis from this site. The first three honor the nearby town of Fruita, from which the Fruita Paleo Area gets its name. The town of Fruita has also adopted an official dinosaur, Ceratosaurus magnicornis, which was first discovered in the FPA and named in 2000. Remains of this animal are on display in Fruita at the Museums of Western Colorado's Dinosaur Journey museum.
Hike: The hike begins at an informational sign, kiosk, and pit toilet and forms a loop that is roughly 3/4 of a mile around. The informational signs offer both images of the past and geological information to help you understand what it is you are seeing along the way. The trail heads southwest, generally following a wash, until it comes to the base of green-grey hill. Here the trail turns and climbs the ridge to the north. From there the trail follows the ridge line back down to the trailhead. There are many social trails in the area, along with two other official BLM trails through the FPA, but by following the informational signs you will not get off the designated route.
Water Sources: None, bring your own.
Camping: Not allowed within the FPA.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.