I first heard about the dinosaur track site from a co-worker who mentioned that it would be something Riley would enjoy. As she described her experience at the site, it consisted of a guided tour and 4×4 vehicles. I thought it was a cool idea, but had my hesitations about the tour guide. Tours tend to be expensive and I don’t like depending on others to guide my adventure. Regardless of my hesitations, I knew it would be something Riley would love, so I quickly did a google search and found out something we would all love. There was a hiking trail! The Picketwire Canyon trail could take us straight to the dinosaur tracks and I immediately knew that this hike was going to be awesome.
The drive from Colorado Springs to La Junta is around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Once we reached the town, it was still a bit of a drive to get to the trail head. It was also a little confusing because there weren’t any signs that said something like “trail to dinosaur tracks.” Some info would have been helpful!
Finding our way was a bit confusing, but the biggest mistake we made was taking our sweet time to get there. I must have not been paying attention to the details of the trail, or maybe I was just really excited, but the entire time I kept thinking it was only a 2-3 mile hike from the trailhead to the site. When we reach the trailhead, the sign stated over 5 miles to the track site, and it was already after 2 PM. We stood there for a few minutes discussing whether or not we should go. I was pretty upset with myself for not leaving earlier, but we were already there, so we decided to just go for it and if we didn’t make it, we could always come back!
Along the way, there are other points of interest on the trail such as the petroglyphs on the rocks, an old cemetery, and the Dolores Mission. We were pretty much hauling ass at the beginning of the hike. I was so concerned about the time, I kept picturing ourselves hiking out there in the dark, and it was not a comforting thought. We kept reminding Riley that we might not make it to the dinosaurs and that reminder was not welcomed. He insisted that we keep going because he wasn’t leaving without seeing what we promised him. My heart ached a little thinking of the possibility of breaking a promise. So we continued… and we continued at a very fast pace.
Before we knew it, we had passed the cemetery and the Mission, so we had no choice but to keep pushing forward. The weather was constantly changing. We started the hike with rainfall in the distance, then the beating sun came out, then the clouds returned and gusts of wind were pushing us off our path. I recommend bringing warm clothes, rain gear and a backpack to hold all those clothes to anyone who hikes this trail. I’ve never seen such inconsistency in weather in such a short amount of time.
The last 2 miles felt terrible. I think it may have been because we were moving so fast. We didn’t take any time to stop and take in the sights because we were so focused on our goal and the time constraint. But at last, we made it! And it was glorious! We had the entire place to ourselves, so we quickly sat down and pulled out the camera and food. As we sat and ate, the wind became stronger and colder, and we could see intense rain fall coming in our direction. As happy as we were to make it, we were a little bummed that we couldn’t spend more time to enjoy and explore the entire track site. After resting for 30 minutes, we quickly packed up and headed out to avoid getting rained on.
The hike back was hard. We moved at a much slower pace, but still didn’t have time for breaks since we had to make it before dark. Out of the 11 miles, Riley rode on Clayton’s shoulders for around 3 miles. He did amazing, but he was exhausted. Towards the end, he just couldn’t walk anymore and asked to take off his boots. My poor guy had some intense blisters on his feet which was a bit surprising because he didn’t complain much.
We made it back to the car past 7 PM. We were wiped out and relieved that we had made it back before dark. We were greeted at the car with a beautiful sunset which helped keep our minds off of our aching feet. When we got back to La Junta city limits, we hit up the taco bell drive thru and ordered every vegetarian item they had. We’re not usually big on fast food, but in that moment, it was the most delicious meal!
Overall, a great and tiring adventure. If we decide to make another trip out there, we’ll probably stay at the camp site right before the trailhead. I’d like another chance to take in the sights and explore all 1300 dinosaur prints. Maybe next time we could reenact some parts from Jurassic World. I think Riley would like that.