Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a United States National Park in the south central region of Colorado. It is known for a large abundance of Eocene Epoch fossils, ranging from imprints of twigs and seeds in shale to massive ancient fossilized Sequoia tree stumps which can be more than 40 feet in diameter. Unlike many national parks, Florissant Fossil Beds operates on standard business hours, 8AM to 6PM in the Summer months, 9AM to 5PM in the Fall, Winter, and Springs months.
"Florissant" is French for "flowering" or "flourishing".
Flora and fauna
Take US Highway 24 west from Colorado Springs for 30 miles to the small town of Florissant, then turn south on Teller County Road 1 for 2 miles. The road runs through the middle of the park.
- Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS) Located 46 miles away in Colorado Springs.
Each person is required to pay a $3 fee, good for 7 days. A Local Passport may be purchased for $15, good for the whole year.
There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument:
- The $80 interagency pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) provides free entry at national parks and national wildlife refuges. This pass also covers standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. Military personnel can obtain a free annual pass in person at a federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
- U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can obtain a senior pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site for $10, or through the mail for $20; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
- U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can obtain an access pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site at no charge, or through the mail for $10; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
In 2015 the National Park Service will offer nine days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 19 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), February 14-16 (Presidents Day weekend), April 18-19 (National Park Week's opening weekend), August 25 (National Park Service's 99th birthday), September 26 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).
Most of the park is accessible by well maintained trails.
- Visitor Center. Inside are shelves with real fossils on display. A short orientation film entitled "Shadows of the Past" is played often.
- Amphitheater. Where most of the ranger talks are given, a trio of petrified stumps and one lone stump are on display.
- Hornbek Homestead. Five buildings are inpeccably preserved, the result of hard work by Adeline Hornbek, one of the many women who took advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862.
There are 15 miles of hiking trails in the park.
- Petrified Forest Loop. This easy 1 mile loop leads through the ancient bed of Lake Florissant. Multiple petrified stumps are on the side of the trail, including the most famous, the Big Stump (38 feet around). A 0.1 mile side trip leads to the Scudder excavation pit, where paleontologists are extracting fossils from the exposed shale to this day.
- Ponderosa Loop. Wheelchair accessible 0.5 mile trail leading through the modern forest, passing by many culturally modified trees (bark removed by Native Americans for food).
- Ranger Programs. Depending on the time of year (Summer being the busiest time) and staffing, ranger talks are given on the history of the area, as well as guided nature walks around the park.
- Junior Ranger Program. Children ages 6-11 can complete a Junior Ranger booklet and receive either a badge or patch as a reward. The booklet has many activities about the park and its history. Although mostly for children, any age can complete the program.
The visitor center has the usual history books, games, clothes, children's activities, among other things.
There are 3 picnic areas in the park: one near the visitor center; the Barksdale Picnic Area off of Lower Twin Rock Road; and at the Hornbek Homestead.
Several vending machines near the visitor center offer a variety of soft drinks.
There in only one non-affiliated place to sleep in the park, and no places in the town of Florissant.
- Christ Haven Lodge. Located inside the park.
Continuing south 18 miles on County Road 1 will lead to the city of Cripple Creek, a popular town rich with gold mining history and gambling casinos.
|Routes through Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument|
|Minturn ← Buena Vista ←||W E||→ Manitou Springs → Colorado Springs|