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The fossils here were created by the constant eruption of volcanoes which created mudflows and ash storms, which in turn petrified plants and animals. Among the most diverse and rich fossil beds in the world, they tell the story of a warmer Colorado than we know today. For example, redwood and avocado trees thrived here, as did the tsetse fly, now found only in Africa. Begin your adventure at the Visitor Center for exhibits, fossil displays and short film and then head outside.
Two short, easy self-guided trails, Ponderosa Loop (wheelchair accessible) and the Petrified Forest Loop, provide an opportunity to experience the forest and wildflowers of today as well as petrified redwood tree stumps. The Petrified Forest Loop also passes Scudder Excavation Pit where you can learn from rangers and paleontologists how excavations are conducted and how fossils are found. The 2.3-mile Sawmill Trail explores the wondrous forests of pine, spruce and fir, streams and offers the chance to spot elk, Richardson’s ground squirrels and rabbits. The Monument has an active archaeology program with demonstrations and classes to learn more about the fascinating geology and prehistoric past.
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