Nothing like a horrible drought to highlight a Texas state park. When the water at Dinosaur Valley state park dried up dinosaur tracks that are normally hidden became visible and news outlets around the country began to showcase this amazing feat.
Of course, the park rangers knew of the existence of these tracks, and studies, and research had been done on this place for years, but it still created a buzz and people showed up to this park in droves.
With a little bit of rain in the area the tracks fell back under the water, so that was the perfect time to head up and visit. If you’re planning on checking out this park, here are some things to do at Dinosaur Valley State Park.
Adults 13 and older- $7
The elephant, err, dinosaur in the room
This park is of course known for the fantastic dinosaur tracks that are in three main sections of this park. Great care has been taken to make this enjoyable for guests, and the map will give you six main track sites: Main Track Site, RT Bird Site, the Ballroom Site, Ozark site, Denio Site, and the Taylor Site.
Before we get to the tracks a quick note on the dinosaur models you’ll see upon reaching the headquarters.
As magnificent as they may seem, and this is a spoiler alert, neither of the dinosaurs featured in those models are tracks you’ll find at this park. Womp, womp.
In fact, the TRex and Brontosaurses models that you can awe upon were donated to the park after the New York World’s Fair back in 1964.
The Paluxy River is the backdrop for the tracks, and the rocks under it are smooth, so if you plan on venturing into the water make sure you’re wearing proper footwear.
For those really wanting to geek out, Dinosaur Valley state park is also the “first sauropod trackway ever discovered in the world”. These tracks were made over a million years ago, there are multiple examples of different types of tracks here. The Dino Valley interpretive guide has a ton of great info on this.
Dinosaur Valley State Park Camping
Three main types of camping at Dinosaur Valley state park: Campsites with electricity (44 sites, $25/night), The south Primitive walk-in sites (8 sites, $14/nightly), North Primitive hike-in sites (7 sites, $15/nightly). Learn about making camping reservations.
The main difference between the two primitive sites is how long it takes to get to them. The walk-in sites are about 1/3-1/2 miles from the parking lot, whereas the hike-in sites are farther out and require you to wade the river to hike to the site. If the river is too high you will not be able to access these sites, so make sure you check ahead with park rangers for that information.
The north sites will give you an outstanding backcountry feel with each site being spaced a good distance. The south sites are a great way to test out some new gear and offer the closest proximity to the Paluxy river.
There are also two different group sites for either 40 or 20 people.
Dinosaur Valley State Park Hiking
There are 13 trails to hike at Dinosaur Valley state park that offers varying degrees of difficulty and best uses including biking and horseback riding.
The longest trail in the park is going to be the Cedar Brake Outer Loop at 7.5 miles, and the challenging difficulty rating will give you an amazing glimpse of all aspects of this park including point of interest #5, the Paluxy River Scenic Overlook.
If you’re only here for the day there are plenty of trails a mile and under including Rocky Ridge Trail (1.0 mi.), Overlook Trail (0.5 mi.), Monarch Trail (0.5 mi.), Oak Springs Trail (0.3 mi.), and the Discovery Loop Trail which is a perfect introduction of nature and hiking to the kiddos.
If you’re just wanting to splash around in the water there are plenty of side trails and offshoots that will take you down to the water, and also give you some views of the dinosaur tracks.
One favorite spot to head down to the water is in the day-use area where you’ll see the playground.
Find the rentable pavilion towards the back of the picnic area and seek out the two pathways down to the water. Here you’ll see steps that lead you down to an opening along the river bank. Quite a delightful way to spend a hot afternoon.
Plenty of amazing terrain and elevation changes here will give all experience levels a great experience in the outdoors.