Florissant Fossil Beds title

Top 10 reasons to enjoy Florissant Fossil Beds

Escape to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Here are 10 great reasons to visit Colorado’s sequoia trees. Sequoias don’t grow in Colorado now. But they once did. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument preserves a forest of petrified sequoia stumps. For the rest of the story, we have to enter geologic time.

Petrified Roxie at Florissant Fossil Beds
Roxie channels Gloria Gaynor: At first she was afraid, she was petrified…

Volcanic tantrum preserves Florissant sequoias

Thirty-four million years ago, sequoia forests blanketed the Florissant area. Then a volcano southwest of Florissant blew its top. Just like Mt. St. Helens, the mountain dumped ash and water flows. This event is called a lahar. The 15-foot deep lahar crashed down the mountain into the Florissant valley. Later lahars built a dam. Inundated by this toxic goo, the trees died. The unburied sections rotted away, but the solidified goo replaced the stumps’ organic material with silica.

Stumped at Florissant Fossil Beds amphitheater
Eric is stumped by the rare trio of fossilized sequoias at the Florissant Fossil Beds’ amphitheater.
The Big Stump
Sawyers tried to chop down The Big Stump, but their blades broke. We think the stump’s face looks aghast at their pathetic attempt to cut him down.

Why you should visit Florissant Fossil Beds

  1. The sequoia trees were huge. Because of their size, the national monument preserves some of the world’s largest petrified tree stumps. Some are 14 feet in diameter.
  2. The volcanos didn’t fossilize only trees. The temper tantrum preserved many lifeforms. Enjoy some of the fossils at the visitors’ center. The insects are especially impressive.
  3. If you love national parks, but you don’t like crowds, Florissant is for you. Compared to Rocky Mountain National Park’s 4 million annual visitors, Florissant is unvisited. The monument receives 70,000 annual visitors.
Florissant Fossil Beds trails
Unwind from life on Florissant Fossil Beds’ 14 miles of trails.
  • Explore Florissant’s 15 miles of uncrowded hiking trails. They are rated easy to moderate, a good introduction to exercise at higher altitudes. We enjoyed the Petrified Forest Loop. The wildflowers were beautiful.
  • Visit Adeline Hornbek’s homestead. Hornbek overcame adversity to become successful. The Homestead Act wasn’t aimed at women, but Hornbek seized her opportunity. (Learn about William Johnson, a black Union soldier who seized his homesteading opportunity.)
  • Nestled by a burbling stream, Barksdale Picnic Area makes a restful picnic stop. The sound is guaranteed to relax those within hearing range.
  • Florissant Fossil Beds amphitheater
    Enjoy Ranger Talks surrounded by shaded fossil stumps.
  • Florissant’s rangers give their presentations surrounded by the fossilized tree stumps. How cool is that?
  • Escape light pollution and learn about the night sky. The monument and the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society cooperate to put on Night Sky Programs. With the mountains between the Front Range and Florissant, the stars come out to play at night. You’ll marvel at the star-spangled sky.
  • Escape the heat. At 8,500 feet, summer comes slowly to the monument and it leaves early.
  • You’re part owner. Since Florissant is part of the National Park System, you have stock in the monument. Come enjoy your property. But, please remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints. Let others experience what you will experience.
  • Be aware

    • Because the monument is at altitude, you must take steps to avoid altitude sickness. Drink plenty of water and pace yourself. However, even though the air’s oxygen content is lower, breathing mountain air will invigorate your senses.
    • The altitude means you have less atmosphere protection from the sun. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
    • Always check the weather before you visit. Mountain weather is highly changeable. Even summer evenings can be cool, so bring a jacket.
    • The monument does not offer food, so be prepared.

    Where to eat and stay

    Check out the RV sites and cabins at Bristlecone Lodge, 510 Highway 67, Woodland Park, 14 miles from the national monument.

    For a mountaintop experience, try eating at The Swiss Chalet, 19263 Highway 24, Woodland Park. Just looking at the menu will make you hungry. The views will refresh your soul. Make reservations.

    How to reach Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

    The monument’s entrance is on Teller County Road 1 and the park offers directions. Follow them because, from experience, your phone may steer you wrong.

    Colorado Springs (COS) is the closest commercial airport. The drive from Colorado Springs will take about an hour.

    More to explore

    Visit more national parks, places in Colorado, and places in the Rocky Mountain Region.

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