Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, WY | photo by Rebecca Stewart
Backyard Exploration Series: Hit the Dino Trail
November 28, 2022
by Kelly McCandless
Billings is such an incredible place to live. We get the benefit of expansive prairies and truly big skies meeting up with mountain peaks and river valleys. Our community is nestled between modern experiences, amenities, and historic icons everywhere you look. Taking the time to explore your own backyard will yield a tremendous amount of treasure in the form of lasting memories, educational experiences, and, hopefully, a growing appreciation for all of Montana.
I’m back with another stop on the Backyard Exploration Series: the Dino Trail! Just because the snow has started to fly does not mean you can’t continue to explore, and the Dino Trail is an excellent option. You can start with indoor options now and plan to extend the fun and learning in the spring or summer when the ground thaws.
So what is the Dino Trail? Well, the northern part of the country is a hotbed of ancient fossils and evidence of prehistoric life. Montana is well-known among dino-enthusiasts for T-Rex fossils, and much more, that have been discovered here. In fact, there’s an entire website dedicated to the Montana Dinosaur Trail: www.mtdinotrail.org.
This website is a treasure trove of information allowing you to plan a variety of trips across the state. Here are a few of the top indoor options to put on your list:
Carter County Museum in Ekalaka: Ekalaka is the center of all the dino activity in Montana and this museum was the first to display fossils found in the state. The area is home to tons of archeological explorations where the fossils on display came from. And, they host the annual Dino Shindig each July. The event features scientists speaking about their work exploring the area. Open year ‘round.
Frontier Gateway Museum in Glendive: Here you’ll find a full-size cast of Margie the Struthiomimus found near Glendive in the early 1990s. You’ll also get to explore many other dinosaur, aquatic, and plant fossils! It is closed for the season, but plan to visit it AND Makoshika State Park in the spring or summer.
Fort Peck Interpretive Center in Fort Peck: This Center boasts one of the most complete T-Rex skeletons ever found! Multiple exhibits await inside the unassuming building, including under-the-sea creature fossils and much more. Open by appointment through the winter.
Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman: A visit to the Museum of the Rockies is a must for many reasons, not the least of which includes the dinosaurs. There are more T Rex’s here than in any other museum in the world, along with many unique dinos. Add in all the other incredible things to see and do here and you’ll want to make a day (at least!) of it! Open year ‘round.
The Prehistoric Passport is a super fun way to explore all the different stops along the trail. According to the website, “The passport describes the extraordinary dinosaur displays, exhibits and activities found at each of the trail’s 14 facilities in 12 Montana communities. Each passport includes Fun Fossil Facts, a section for field notes and space for the official “Dino Icon” stamps that verify the passport owner has visited each trail facility.” You can get your own here.
Want to stay close to home and learn about the dinosaurs in Montana? No problem! The mtdinotrail.org website contains an exceptional collection of facts, an awesome “Dinopedia,” and YouTube videos to learn all about them. A perfect winter activity!
No matter the weather, it’s always a good time to get out and explore your own backyard. Plan a visit to some of the exceptional museums and explore the charming small towns they’re in. Then, when the weather is nice again, book a dino dig for yourself and your family! There are tons of great options; just search “Dinosaur Digs Montana” and find the one that’s right for you!
Kelly McCandless is a Billings native who loves a well-planned adventure, being outdoors when the weather is nice, historic fiction and hot coffee. She’s passionate about writing, cooking, education, travel and doing all of these things with her husband Ryan and their two incredible daughters