Magazine article Sunset

Jurassic Footprints

Magazine article Sunset

Jurassic Footprints

Article excerpt

Hike, bike, or four-wheel to canyonlands dinosaur tracks

This time of year, it seems spring will never come to the high country. Restless Coloradans can, however, escape the tedium of mud season with a long day trip to Pickctwire Canyonlands, 142 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. Spring has already arrived here, and you can hike, mountain bike, or take your four-wheel-drive vehicle on a guided tour-all to see North America's largest collection of dinosaur tracks.

You can access the Picketwire from an 8 ¾-mile trail following the Purgatoire River, which, over the cons, has carved the canyon from the surrounding high, arid rolling plains. Even if you don't own a four-wheel-drive for the Saturday tours, the 10 ½-mile round trip to the dinosaur trackway is a good outing for hikers and bikers.

The trail starts in an area dotted with juniper trees and sagebrush, then plunges 500 feet through rocky bluffs to a wide river bottom festooned with spring wildflowers. After 3 ¾ miles, you'll spot ruins of a Spanish mission-a settlement built in the 187Os where 11 families lived-with an adobe chapel surrounded by headstones. Near the mission, delve deeper into the canyon's human history by searching for 5,000-year-old Native American rock art on cliffs. …

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