Where Dinosaurs Roamed

It’s hard to imagine that at one time lush forests were found for miles in all directions in Tuba City, located in Northern Arizona outside of Flagstaff. All that remains today is the brilliant red-and-pink sands of the Painted Desert, pieces of petrified wood and wind-carved sandstone boulders that look as if an artist had piled them on top of each other for effect.  And, of course, hundreds of fossilized three-toed imprints of the dinosaurs that roamed this area.

dinosaur tracks, archeology, dinosaurs

Known today as the Tuba City Dinosaur Track Site it is one of the more famous well-known dinosaur trackways in the Southwest.  Discovered around the beginning of the 20th century, it’s a fantastic off the road site that offers a unique window into the past.

The tracks were formed in the early Jurassic period, about 202 to 200 million years ago by several different types of dinosaurs, all of them carnivores. Based on the age of the rocks and the fossils of these dinosaurs, it’s likely that these animals were Coelophysis kayentakatae and Dilophosaurus wetherilli.

Located on the Navajo reservation five miles west of Tuba City, not far from the Grand Canyon, the hike is fairly easy and mostly flat and winds around several stone spires and past hundreds of tracks. But, beware the attraction is not flashy. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the single handmade sign directing you off Highway 160 isn’t likely to catch your attention. Out in the middle of the desert, you drive down about 100 yards to a dusty parking lot, where a representative of the Navajo lands (remember, you’re on their property) will greet you and provide you with a guided tour.

It’s important to note that this is a free attraction, but to be fair you should tip your guide, anywhere from as little as $2 per person to as much as $10 per person. It is best to negotiate the fee or donation up front.

These guides range from Northern Arizona University (NAU) college students to local children. That being said you may want to lend a skeptical ear to their teachings.  Some have the training and some just don’t.

Regardless of the knowledge of the guides, the hike itself is beautiful, with awesome views of Hamblin Ridge and Tuba Butte.  And when you discover petrified dino poop, a perfect attraction for the 6- to 12-year-old boys in your group, you’ll know that this was the perfect pit stop where only few can say that they walked among giants.


From Flagstaff take US 89 north, then turn right on US 160 toward Tuba City. The village of Moen-avi, and the Dinosaur Tracks site, are about a mile on the left. This is five miles west of Tuba City on US 160. Don’t confuse Moen-avi with the town of Moenkopi, which is near Tuba City and on the south side of US 160.

Photo from Wikipedia

Tags: archeology, dinosaur tracks, dinosaurs, hiking, outdoor recreation, Painted Desert

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