I have one more day until my Dinosaur Valley State Park hiking adventure begins. One more day until I can feel like Jack and Annie from the first Magic Tree House book. One more day until I can relive kindergarten nights watching (and re-watching) Land Before Time.
One more day until I can finally feel like a kid again.
I’ve always been obsessed with dinosaurs. Growing up, I knew the vaguest of dinosaur names and the vaguest of dinosaur facts. As I got older, the fascination never stopped. To this day, Jack Horner’s novel, How To Build A Dinosaur, is still one of my favourite non-fiction books (P.S. If you have never heard of him, Horner is the scientist who advised Steven Spielberg on the original Jurassic Park film).
So will I be overly excited when I take you on a tour of Dinosaur Valley tomorrow? Yes. Will I at some point squeal like a little girl? Probably. For the latter, I apologize.
General warnings aside, I do want to promise you something before we dig into this post (excuse the terrible puns to come).
Whether you are a first time hiker with a dash of curiosity or a pro-hiker just looking to get outdoors in North Texas, this Dinosaur Valley State Park hiking guide will help you get ready for your day-trip. Are you ready?
Dinosaur Valley State Park Information To Know Before You Put On Your Hiking Boots
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park is a small scenic area set in a quiet corner of Glen Rose, Texas. Smaller than most other popular Texas state parks, Dinosaur Valley covers less than 2.5 square miles in area. But packed within that space are a few short hiking trails, friendly wildlife, and of course, dinosaur tracks.
What To Eat Before Your Hike
Our morning begins thirty miles away in a small country breakfast stop in the neighboring town of Granbury. Cari’s is an old-fashioned diner a short distance from the hub of the city. Homestyle cooking. A cozy atmosphere. Scrumptious pumpkin pancakes. Cari’s rings in the fall feelings all year round.
What To Pack
As we step out of the diner and into our car, we do a quick pre-hike check.
“Is everything in here?” you call out as you shut the door of the trunk.
“Yup,” I quip, glazing over the list in front of me.
- Compass. Check.
- Camera. Check.
- Dried nuts and more water than I’m capable of drinking. Check and check.
- Mosquito repellant. Check.
- Sunscreen. Check.
- Flashlight. Check.
- First Aid Kit. Check.
- Towel. Check.
I know I may be overpacking for a two hour hike but that’s only because I want us to have an enjoyable, bug-free and sweat-free experience.
Where To Stay After Your Hike
Camping at one of the 46 campsites in Dinosaur Valley State Park is definitely an option tonight, but I rather you not see me rage a war against our tent in the midst of pitching it.
So I’m opting for a beachy, breezy calm getaway instead.
The Best Time To Go Hiking In Dinosaur Valley State Park
Besides, this is a short day trip and we’ve selected the best time possible to arrive. We’ve come early, avoiding the rush of families. It’s the start of summer, when the weather isn’t bathing in heat, but the simmer is still there – a certain sizzle that dries the depths of the Paluxy River and allows us to visibly see the dinosaur tracks.
Travel Tip: While the most tracks are visible at the end of summer, late May and early June are really the best times to go hiking in Dinosaur Valley State Park.
A Little Bit About The Dinosaur Valley State Park Hiking Trails
The Paluxy River’s water is a clear, deeply saturated blue that is so naturally beautiful we don’t want to step in it. But we have to – the trail leads that way and begs us to cross. Besides, this is our first chance to see the dinosaur prints.
“Anshula,” you ask, a little nervously. “Why didn’t we pack rainboots?”
There is something calming about the water here. I trust the blue enough to wade in bare feet first (I feel like I’m going to regret this later). A rush of cold wiggles between our toes. Tiny fish circle around our skin then scatter.
See, this walk isn’t too challenging. In fact it’s quite –
Insert drama queen scream here.
Did I mention the rocks are slippery?
Anyways, the trails at Dinosaur Valley State Park are a mix of easy and medium.
We warm up with two short trails – the Blue Hole Trail (to get a little taste of dinosaur tracks) and Oak Springs Trail (to get us into the hiking groove) – before tackling the longest trail in the park. Cedar Brake Outer Loop rounds off at approximately 7.5 miles and takes 4.5 hours to complete. The official trail map estimates 3.5 hours which implies that a) the trail map is intended for Usain Bolt or b) I’m a tortoise. Probably the latter.
While there are many other trails here, Cedar Brake Outer Loop along with the Paluxy River Trail are two of my favorite spots for hiking in Dinosaur Valley State Park.
After all, we get to bask in the glory of dinosaur tracks.
I let my foot hover above one of the tracks. Suddenly, I feel small. Very small.
In fact, this reminds me of the “Jane meets Tarzan” moment, except Tarzan, in this case, is Sasquatch’s primitive cousin.
Finding Tracks While Hiking Dinosaur Valley State Park
My foot is angled above a Sauropod track, one of the two kinds of tracks found in Dinosaur Valley State Park. The Sauropods in the Texas area are Sauroposeidens, which roughly translates to “earthquake god lizards”.
I compare my foot to the cast set in stone. If I curled up into a ball, my whole body could easily fit into the track. “Earthquake god lizards” is beyond an apt description, it’s an understatement.
Before I get too sidetracked (again, I’m so sorry about the puns), I want to mention that most of the trails here have some set of tracks or the other along the way. Don’t feel scared or worried that you won’t find dinosaur tracks. You will.
In fact, there are five official track sites. Though, the must-see sights within them are:
- “The Ballroom” in Track Site 1
- “The Main Site” in Track Site 2
- “The South Ozark Site” in Track Site 2
- “The North Blue Hole” in Track Site 1
Several of the dinosaur tracks in other areas erode quickly, are difficult to identify, or are hard to get to. Both the “Ballroom” and “The Main Site” are fairly easy to access and show off the two kinds of tracks you can find at Dinosaur Valley State Park: Sauropod tracks and Theropod (T-Rex like animals) tracks.
I can almost hear the roar of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.
Yes, I know that isn’t actually what a T-Rex sounds like.
But the beauty of this place lies in imagination. Going on a Dinosaur Valley State Park hiking adventure inspires images of canopy reaching dinosaurs, large and in charge, roaming the land, the ground shaking with every step. After all, isn’t that what books and movies depicting the prehistoric era show us – the grandeur and majesty of a time that we can never return to.
For a moment, we feel like we are actually there amongst the dinosaurs. But when we open our eyes, it’s just us and the Paluxy River.
The water gently washes over history as we try to resurface it.
Did you enjoy this Dinosaur Valley State Park hiking guide? Do you like dinosaurs? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.
Disclosure: My tickets to Dinosaur Valley State Park were kindly paid for by Visit Granbury. Please note, this post is not sponsored by or made in partnership with Visit Granbury and all thoughts and opinions are very much my own.