The world’s longest track of dinosaur footprints has been hidden in Colorado’s mountains. Now, it’s public land

The U.S. Forest Service recently purchased several parcels of land from the Charles family in Ouray that contains 134 fossilized dinosaur footprints, the longest continuous trackway in the world.

The family used to hike through the area without knowing the true identity of the oddly shaped craters, which collected water that their dogs would gleefully drink.

The pothole-like indentations make a continuous trail, several hundred feet long, created by a single long-necked sauropod dinosaur that died millions of years ago.

Mike Boruta -
The world's largest continuous track of dinosaur footprints is tucked away in the mountains in Ouray County. On April 10, 2024, the U.S. Forest Service purchased land that contains the track and a trail leading to the site, making it accessible to the public for the first time.

Anita McDonald grew up thinking of the land as the spot her dad, Jack Charles, had hoped to strike it rich prospecting for gold. Instead, the property became a place where she and her four siblings spent their summers. Now, it’s preserved publicly for generations to come. 

“Dad would be real pleased that it’s going to be protected,” McDonald told the Ouray County Plaindealer. 

What her family didn’t know was that in the 1960s, a group of local teens had stumbled upon the tracks and thought that maybe they could have been made by dinosaurs. One of those boys grew up to be geologist and famed trail runner Rick Trujillo, who alerted the Charles family to the find in 2021. 

The next year, the family approached the Forest Service about acquiring the land. 

On April 10, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest purchased 27 acres, which include what’s known as the West Gold Hill Dinosaur Track site and a trail that gives the public access to the site. 

The Forest Service’s Jim Pitts said the purchase highlights the agency’s dedication to conservation.

"By preserving these fossilized imprints, we are not only safeguarding a valuable scientific resource but also creating an incredible opportunity for the public to connect with the distant past, inspiring curiosity, education, and stewardship,” he said.

The public can reach the site via the steep and rugged Silvershield Trail, which is only open to foot traffic and horse travel. The trailhead and parking are accessed from County Road 17 near Ouray, with limited parking in a residential neighborhood.