At least once a year, we drive to Dallas for one reason or another. We typically head north via Highway 281 and pass through Glen Rose, Texas. Each time, we see the giant signs for the dinosaur exhibits and talk about taking the boys there someday. Keep reading to hear about our adventures with a three and 5-year-old at Dinosaur Valley State Park (and Dinosaur World!) in Glen Rose, Texas.
Glen Rose is considered the “Dinosaur Capital of Texas.” It’s about an hour’s drive from the Dallas Forth Worth metroplex or 3-4 hours if you are coming from the San Antonio or Austin area. Click here to map your trip.
If you are coming from South Texas, I highly recommend driving up highway 281. The scenery is gorgeous, and there’s a Dairy Queen in each small town you pass if you crave a blizzard or have little ones who need to pee.
Where The Dinosaur Roam
When I started planning our trip, I quickly learned there are two dinosaur-related attractions in the area. One is Dinosaur World and features 100s of faux lifesize dinosaurs in a “prehistoric playground.” Just down the road is Dinosaur Valley State Park. It’s a gorgeous park where you can camp, hike, picnic, mountain bike, and, most importantly, get up close and personal with ancient dinosaur tracks fossilized in the bed of the Paluxy River.
Other attractions worth mentioning include Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Cedar Loop Wildlife Trails, Action State Historic Site, Camanche Park Visitors Center, Historic Town Square, Barnard’s Mill and Art Museum and the Somervell County Museum. We ran out of time and didn’t make it there. But, feel free to check it out as you are planning your family fun in Glen Rose, Texas.
Where to Stay
Glen Rose is a small community, so you don’t have a ton of options. But there certainly are several hotels and rentals from which to choose. We stayed at the Best Western and got an extra-large suite, so we’d all be comfortable. The rooms were clean, and the location close to all things dinosaur. For dinner, we grabbed take out pizza from Mr. Jim’s.
After checking into the hotel Saturday afternoon, we headed to Dinosaur World. Dinosaur World is located just before Dinosaur Valley State Park off Park Road 59 and is open 9 am to 6 pm daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas day. The park is pet-friendly and allows outside food. They don’t have much by way of food or drink. So, make sure you bring in your snacks. You can also have pizza delivered if needed.
When you arrive, you will enter through the gift shop where you can purchase tickets. Click here for ticket prices. Active military and children under 3 receive free admission. General Admission tickets give you access to the 100 or so life-size dinosaurs around the theme park, interactive boneyard, the giant skeletal playground, and the Prehistoric Museum. For an extra couple of bucks, you can add the Fossil Dig and the Dino Gem Excavation. Our kiddos loved that, and I’ll tell you about it below.
Land Before Time
After we convinced the boys to leave the gift shop, promising a souvenir if they were “good,” we entered the park. Our first stop was unexpected. There is a fantastic playground there, and our boys loved it. They played for hours, and we made a stop there before and after walking amongst the dinosaurs.
Situated just outside the playground is the area where they do the fossil dig. It runs on a schedule, so make sure not to miss it if you buy tickets. The dig features a large sand trough filled with fossils. Both our little guys loved discovering fossil treasures and had a hard time picking the three they would take home.
After that, we headed onto the trail to see the dinosaurs. Here’s what I loved. They looked so real! They were colorful and lifelike, tall and some ominous! Each group of dinosaurs was complete with info about where they lived, what they ate, etc. We loved guessing who were meat-eaters and who were plant-eaters. The trail is a loop and features a picturesque pond with koi fish near the end.
We peaked into the museum, but the boys wanted to hit the playground again! Once they were thoroughly tired, we walked through the prehistoric museum and then on to the gift shop. The souvenirs are pretty impressive, and they have tons of dinosaur toys and books. They also have a souvenir penny press if you are into that kind of thing. We love those penny machines and are even nerdy enough to own a penny passport.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
The next morning, we made our way to Dinosaur Valley State Park. After paying admission ($7), we received a park map and info. If you are going to see dinosaur tracks, make sure to ask which spots are best for that day. Depending on the time of year and the river height, some prints aren’t always visible.
There are four open dinosaur track sites, and you will see two different types of dinosaur prints. One is Sauropods (large, elephant-like), and the other is theropods (smaller 3-toed pattern). We saw track site areas 1 and 2 during our visit.
Track Site Area 2
I recommend this as your first stop while you get acclimated to the park. There is a convenient parking lot very close. We parked and then walked to the adjacent trail. To access the track site, you will have to cross the river. There are rock stepping stones in place, and it isn’t as scary as it looks! Our three and 5-year-old did it no problem as did members of a tour group made up of varying ages.
Once you get across the river, you will see both types of tracks in the river bed. They are in groupings, and you can move up or down the river to see different sets. We were happy with the sauropod prints right there, so headed back across the river after a few minutes and some pictures. We ran into a tour group, so we got to hear about the dinosaurs and the site from the park rangers with them.
Track Site Area 1
This area is directly south along the river bed, and the tracks are most visible during the summer when water levels are low. You can hike it if you are wearing proper shoes and willing to climb over and through the boulders. Since we had little ones, we drove to the next parking area by car and then walked down to the site.
If you park and walk down, look for the campsite signs. You’ll walk down the hill and take a right at the horse area. When you reach the river bed, you’ll need to hike down to the river to see the tracks. You’ll have to traverse some rocks, but our boys didn’t have any trouble with a little help from us.
There was a large theropod print right at the river’s edge a few inches under the water. We took a few pictures and admired the river, then hiked back up to the car. We didn’t visit track sites 4 or 5. Both are accessible via the hiking trail.
We came for the dinosaurs. But, before you visit the park, make sure to check out all the attractions. You can camp, picnic, hike, mountain bike, swim, fish and paddle in the river, watch for wildlife, look for a geocache, ride your horse or take a guided horseback ride, and grab souvenirs at the gift shop.
We’ll Be Back!
All and all, we had a great time at both Dinosaur World and Dinosaur Valley State Park. We’ll be back as the boys get older. Next time, we’ll visit during the summer so we can enjoy the river and see more dinosaur tracks.
Are you thinking about visiting the dinosaurs in Glen Rose, Texas? Make sure to reach out if you have any questions or want help planning your trip.