Walking in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs at Dinosaur Valley State Park
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Last month, Cameron and I jumped at the ideal combination of beautiful weather and a free Sunday and went exploring. Dinosaur Valley had been on my North Texas bucket list ever since my first solo camping trip back in 2017. I’d packed my pack and narrowed my options down to either Lake Mineral Wells State Park or Dinosaur Valley State Park, both of which met my requirement of having hike-in primitive camping options. When I found out Dinosaur Valley was completely booked, I headed out to Mineral Wells and filed Dinosaur Valley away under “popular, should check out sometime.”
Well, I finally checked it out, and my only regret is not giving myself more time to do so. Dinosaur Valley State Park is located near Glen Rose in North Texas. Driving distance is about one hour and 45 minutes from central Dallas, one hour from Fort Worth. The Paluxy River Valley provides a beautiful landscape for this park, but the main attraction for many visitors is the handful of well preserved, easily visible, even touch-and-feelable dinosaur tracks.
The first sauropod trackway discovered in the world was found here in the Paluxy riverbed by locals (then re-discovered and verified by paleontologists) in the early 20th century. Today, visitors can wade through the river and along the banks and limestone cliff ledges at multiple points throughout the park to see these 113-million-year-old footprints. I even put both my feet inside one large theropod track. Pretty hard to wrap your mind around, but pretty freaking exciting, even for a full-grown homo sapiens such as myself.
The park features over 20 miles on 12 distinct trails ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. All but three of the trails are open to bikers, and except for two hiking-only trails, all are open to equestrian use. We parked at the main dinosaur track site, crossed the river (fun, varies in difficulty depending on where you cross, as is the case with rivers), took the Cedar Brake Outer Loop up the hill, turned north and took the Limestone Ledge trail to the Overlook Trail. What we hiked was well kept, relatively wide trail with enough rocks and roots to keep it interesting.
After a beautiful walk up to the scenic Paluxy River overlook, we headed down the Overlook Trail and explored back into the woods along the canyon of a little creek where we stumbled upon a turkey vulture incubating her eggs under a ledge. I thought this seemed odd, like something went wrong and she had to find a hasty last-ditch location to plop down and lay her eggs, but a quick Google search proved me wrong. According to HawkMountain.org, “Turkey Vultures do not build nests, but rather lay their eggs in dark recesses in ledges, caves, crevices, and hollow logs, as well as on the ground.” They are also apparently monogamous, the male and female sharing the bulk of parenting duties, including incubation. The more you know.
After observing her from a respectful distance for a few minutes, we left the turkey vulture’s zone and wandered back into the woods to find a nice spot to set up our hammock and gulp down some good ole Harry Potter on audiobook. I could have spent several more hours exploring the back trails, swimming in the river, and trying to wrap my mind around how old this place is, but eventually we had to head back down, cross the river, and drive back to Dallas. Through one of the gnarly afternoon thunderstorms that have become an almost weekly occurrence, might I add.
You will love this space. It’s well worth the drive out, and there is so much to do that you can have a blast in just a few hours or really relax and enjoy yourself over a full day or weekend.
Dinosaur Valley State Park is:
Easy to get to
Perfect for day & overnight trips
Great for kids & families
Really great for dinosaur nerds
An escape from the city
Interactive & educational
The park has everything you could want for a day trip or weekend adventure:
Primitive, car, & RV camping
Swimming, floating, & fishing
Fire rings in permitted areas
Restrooms with showers
Free educational programs
A gift shop with drinks, snacks, & merchandise
A nearby town with restaurants, grocery & convenient stores
Hiking, biking, & equestrian trails
If you head out to Dinosaur Valley State Park, let us know in the comments what you do there and what you think about it! Enjoy the photos below from our trip, all shot by Cameron Mosier.