Fossil Butte is a national park site located near Kemmerer, Wyoming. The entire area was once an ancient lake, and now there are millions of fossils left behind: fish, bugs, and even crocodiles. It’s possible to visit this if you’re driving through Wyoming into Utah or Jackson. It also makes a great day trip from northern Utah – team it up with Pinedale for a great weekend trip!
Here are a few things to do if you visit.
Journey Through Time Exhibit
Once you see the park sign, note the roadside displays as they walk you through the geologic history of the earth for about a mile.
This is probably the very best visual display I’ve ever seen of the earth’s 4.5 billion-year history. Along the road, major geologic events are displayed, happening few and far between.
The display continues as you park and walk into the visitor center. Follow the signs and when you get to the very end, you’ll finally see when humans showed up, just a few inches before the end of the timeline.
It really puts “deep time” into perspective.
The visitor center is the highlight of this park. It has so many fossils of animals, reptiles, bugs, and other creatures that have been found in this valley, which was once an ancient lake. The crocodile was our favorite!
The visitor center is surprisingly modern for a park of this size.
They have a virtual aquarium showing what this lake might have looked like once, with the kinds of fish that would have inhabited it.
We were unable to stay for the ranger program, but this is something we almost always enjoy at national parks. Just ask for the program times when you stop in.
Our kids usually do the Jr Ranger program. This was a fun program because they got to do a scavenger hunt for fossils found in the displays of the museum.
We enjoyed a picnic next to the visitor center with views of the buttes nearby.
The scenery is mostly barren sagebrush, so we didn’t have much desire to do any of the hikes, but I heard the Nature Trail is enjoyable.
Dig for Fossils
Digging for fossils inside the national monument is not allowed, but there are fossils all over the entire valley, much of which is outside the boundaries of the national monument.
There are businesses that will take you on digging adventures and allow you to keep the fossils you find.
We stopped at Ulrich’s Fossil Gallery, located on the road going to Fossil Butte. They have a pile of rocks outside where the kids can dig for free, as well as a gallery of their best fossils found inside. For adults, Ulrich’s offers fossil digging excursions for a fee.
Visit the first JC Penney Store
Kemmerer, Wyoming, is located about 10 minutes from Fossil Butte. The first-ever JC Penney was opened in Kemmerer, and it is still in operation! It’s known as “The Mother Store.”
Getting to Fossil Butte
Fossil Butte is located far away from any major city. It’s about 3 hours from Jackson, 2 hours from Salt Lake City, and an hour off of I-80 from Evanston.
It would be a nice day trip from Utah or a nice stop on a road trip through the area.