TRIP IDEA

Great Plains Fossil Road Trip

Multiple Parks

a human hand holds a fossil skull with saber teeth in front of a badlands butte.
Duration Multiple Days
Topic(s) Animals, Bison, Fossils and Paleontology, Geology, Grasslands, Native American Heritage, Night Sky, Astronomy, Rock Landscapes and Features, Buttes, Scenic Views, Trails, Endangered, Wilderness, Ancient Seas, Foothills, Plains and Valleys, Birds, Climate Change, Mineral Deposits
Activities Guided Tours, Junior Ranger Program, Hiking, Self-Guided Tours - Walking, Museum Exhibits
Type Kid Friendly, Educational, Road Trip, Group Friendly
Parks Badlands National Park, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Scotts Bluff National Monument

With a Ranger
  • Badlands National Park

    Visit the Fossil Preparation Lab

    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Museum Exhibits
    • Pets: Yes with Restrictions
    • Season: Summer
    • Time of Day: Day
    a woman in a white lab coat works on an enormous fossil skull.

    Visit the Fossil Preparation Lab in Badlands National Park, where visitors have the opportunity to engage with paleontologists working on Badlands fossils!

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  • Badlands National Park

    Badlands Ranger Programs

    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Guided Tours
    • Pets: Yes with Restrictions
    • Duration: 20–60 Minutes
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day, Night
    a ranger points at a geologic column on a piece of paper in front of a badlands butte.

    Many different programs are led by rangers at Badlands National Park. Learn more about wildlife, geology, paleontology, and more by stopping at a ranger program during your visit! Visit this page to find program descriptions, locations, and typical times.

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Hiking Trails
  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

    Daemonelix Trail

    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Hiking
    • Pets: Yes
    • Location: Daemonelix Trailhead
    • Duration: 30–60 Minutes
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day, Dawn, Dusk
    Looking down on trail from an overlook.

    Hike a one-mile trail back in time to the day of the paleocaster, a dry land beaver, and paleosoils, fossilized dirt from the time this landscape was formed. Look out over the vast, open table lands that define the high plaines east of the Rocky Mountains.

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  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

    Fossil Hills Trail

    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Hiking
    • Pets: Yes
    • Location: Fossil Hills Trailhead
    • Duration: 45–120 Minutes
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day, Dawn, Dusk
    The sun illuminates the fossil hills with a dark, stormy sky in the background.

    Hike to University (left) and Carnegie Hills. The 2.7-mile Fossil Hills Trail allows visitors to walk up to and see the famed early 1900s quarries. From these quarries, paleontologists recovered some of the world's best preserved and most complete fossilized Menoceras, Moropus, and Dinohyus skeletons.

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  • Scotts Bluff National Monument

    Saddle Rock Trail Geology Hiking Tour

    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Self-Guided Tours - Walking
    • Pets: Yes
    • Location: North Overlook Trailhead
    • Duration: 60–90 Minutes
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day
    A park ranger points to a cliff face while a crowd of people gathers around.

    This 1.6 mile hike on the Saddle Rock Trail features 435 feet of elevation change. Participants will have an opportunity to observe and learn about some unique geological features and the processes that created the landscape of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

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    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Hiking
    • Pets: Yes
    • Location: Oglala National Grassland
    • Duration: 1–3 Hours
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day, Dawn, Dusk
    hard sandstones layer with soft clays to produce buttes with large toadstool rock formations.

    Explore the rocks, fossils, and fossil trackways of Toadstool Geologic Park in Nebraska! Interpretive guides available at the trailhead supply all the information you need for this hike through fossil history.

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For Kids
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Junior Ranger Program
    • Age: 5–12 years old
    • Pets: Yes
    • Duration: 20–60 Minutes
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Any Time
    cartoon rangers and children explore a field of fossils.

    Calling fossil-lovers of all ages! If you love paleontology and the National Park Service units that preserve them, become a Junior Paleontologist! Complete an activity booklet, learning all about fossils and having some fun along the way, to earn your Junior Paleontologist badge.

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Last updated: October 28, 2020