FLORISSANT — In our exclusive series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems, and well-known spots.
Our adventure this week takes us to Teller County to see an incredible and diverse collection of ancient fossils at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The park, with its enormous petrified tree stumps, achieved its national monument status under the U.S. park system in 1969.
"It was set aside to protect one of the richest fossil deposits in the world and it's the closest national park unit to Colorado Springs," said Ranger Jeff Wolin.
Wolin tells us that tens of millions of years ago, redwood trees could be found growing in Colorado.
That is until a volcanic eruption near Guffey changed everything.
"It sent a series of mudflows and debris flows that helped preserve all the fossils here," said Wolin.
This includes the park's famous redwood tree stumps.
Today, Wolin has said that they know of about 30 petrified trees here.
The largest ones can be found in an outdoor exhibit just steps from the Visitor Center.
Some measure as large as 14 feet in diameter.
"To see the size of these trees all in one place is pretty rare," said Wolin.
Just a short walk from the outdoor exhibit, you'll find a living tree growing out of a petrified tree stump.
It's a highlight on the Ponderosa Loop, one of three self-guided trails at the park.
It's the shortest one too at just under a half a mile, and it's wheelchair accessible.
But there's more...
If you're a seasoned hiker, there are 14 miles of trails to explore within the 6,000 acre park.
Most of the longer trails extend out north from the Visitor's Center.
There's nine total, with lots of variety and some great views too!
Much like at other parks, you can pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Book during any visit to the Florissant Fossil Beds. All ages are welcome to participate in this activity.
"There are games in here like crossword puzzles and matching and drawing, and after you do a certain amount of activities, it'll tell you, you'll earn a Junior Ranger badge," said Wolin.
Whether you come for a hike or to see the petrified tree stumps, this place is sure to leave a lasting impression on you and your family.
In addition to the fossils and hiking trails, the park partners with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society to offer a monthly stargazing program.
For more information about the Night Sky program and the Florissant Fossil Beds, visit www.nps.gove/flfo/index.htm.