Prehistoric adventure awaits in Glen Rose

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By Rachel Madison

GLEN ROSE — One thing I learned quickly when I became a mom was that I was also going to become an expert on whatever my kids were into. There was the Curious George phase, followed by the trains and trucks phase, and then, of course, the dinosaur phase. That phase started about three years ago and is still going strong with my kids, which is why I knew we had to take a day trip to Glen Rose to see Dinosaur Valley State Park.

This day trip is a win-win for me and my husband, because we got to do what we like—breathe in fresh air and hike—and the kids got to do what they like—see real dinosaur tracks and pretend like they were in Jurassic Park.

Getting there, like it is with most road trips, was half the fun. On the two-hour drive to Glen Rose up US Hwy 183 and then over to US Hwy 281, there’s a lot to be said about the lush, hilly scenery. Along the way are several small towns that ooze the Texas charm this state is so famous for. We made a few stops along the way for gas, snacks and the occasional bathroom break (thanks to two small children in the car), but the stops were well worth it.

When we got hungry, we stopped for lunch in the small town of Hamilton. We found ourselves at Dutchman’s Hidden Valley, which turned out to be much more than just a pitstop. The building, which looks small from the outside, is filled with room after room of Texas-style antiques and décor. And you can’t step into one room from the next without taking in the tantalizing smells of homemade fudge, chocolates, taffy, brittle and other confections. There’s one room where you can even watch the candy makers at work, and another where you—or your children in my case—can drool over the dozens of different chocolates showcased in the glass displays.

Toward the back of the building is the restaurant, where German food is king. I recommend the Wurst Plate—which is anything but the worst. It comes with two different styles of German sausages, house made breads and cheese, German potato salad and sauerkraut. It’s enough for two people. If you want dessert and the candy isn’t tempting enough, try one of their homemade peanut butter cookies, which is made with peanut butter they’ve ground themselves.

After we sufficiently filled our bellies, we continued on our way to Glen Rose, and passed through many more small towns. One small town, Hico, had one of the most picturesque downtown districts I’ve ever seen. If you’ve got time to stop and peruse, then do it. From a Billy the Kid Museum to the Hico Mercantile, which highlights wares from various locals, there’s a little something for everyone in the family to get excited about. Restaurants, a winery and even a hotel round out the historic downtown.

After our leisurely drive, we finally arrived at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose. It cost us $7 per person to get in, but our kids, since they’re under the age of 13, got in free. Once we were in, we drove around most of the park to check out the campsites, various hiking trails and enjoy the scenery.

Once we got the lay of the land, we decided to go for a hike and look for dinosaur tracks. It didn’t take long before we stumbled upon the Main Track Site in the Paluxy River, which winds through the park. We saw footprints from both Sauropods and Theropods in the clear waters. The water was shallow enough that even my two-year old could navigate it with rain boots. We then explored the area around the Ballroom Site, which has theropod, sauropod and metatarsal tracks.

I understand that the dinosaur tracks are not always visible because they are usually underwater, but summer is supposed to be the best time to visit, because the water is low. There are five main track sites around the park; however, one of them is closed to the public because the viewing area is no longer stable. A bit of hiking is required to get to all the different track sites, but it’s easy enough for even a beginner to navigate. We found that at the track sites we visited, park rangers were readily available to answer questions and tell us the history of the dinosaurs that once roamed the park. The kids weren’t as excited about the history lesson, but it made things more interesting for the adults.

In addition to looking for dinosaur tracks and hiking on the 20 miles of trails in the park, families can also picnic, mountain bike, swim, fish, watch for wildlife, geocache, ride horses or visit the park’s interpretive center. Kayaks can also be rented at the park, as well as galoshes to get a closer look at the dinosaur tracks without getting wet. I would recommend coming to the park prepared to get wet, because if you want to get up close and personal with the tracks, it’s going to happen, especially if you have kids.

If Dinosaur Valley isn’t enough for your family to get their prehistoric fill, just down the road from the park is Dinosaur World, which features more than 200 dinosaurs along an outdoor path over the park’s 20 acres. The museum also has replicas and fossils, a dinosaur dig and a playground. Ticket prices at the park range from $9 to $19.

If prehistoric creatures just aren’t your thing, that’s okay, because Glen Rose is also home to a nonprofit wildlife safari. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center has both guided tours and do-it-yourself tours, where you drive your own vehicle. Prices for the tours range from $15.95 to $34.95 depending on age and type of tour.

The center focuses on everything from conservation efforts of endangered species to conducting scientific research, and is home to dozens of animals, like giraffes, zebras and rhinos. In addition to tours, there is also a café, children’s animal center and nature store. Lodging is also available if you want to make it an overnight trip.

Regardless of your interests, there’s plenty to do with your family in Glen Rose and all along the way. Happy summer day tripping!

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