Where is Dinosaur State Park
Located in the state’s central region, Dinosaur State Park resides entirely within the state of Connecticut. The state park is famous for protecting one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the United States. Dinosaur State Park also contains an arboretum, miles of hiking and walking trails, and a museum gift shop. The closest town to Dinosaur State Park is Rocky Hill, Connecticut. The state park is located 90 miles and about an hour and a half drive west of Providence, Rhode Island, 30 miles and a thirty-minute drive north of New Haven, and 11 miles and about a fifteen to twenty-minute drive south of Hartford. Dinosaur State Park also lies near several other outdoor recreation areas. These recreation areas include River Highlands State Park, Salmon River State Forest, and Hurd State Park.
How Large is Dinosaur State Park
Dinosaur State Park covers a total area of around 80 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of open lawns and acres of sparse woodlands. The woodlands in the state park are largely made up of trees local to the area. However, the park’s arboretum contains species from across the United States including pine, sequoia, magnolia, and several other species. The geodesic dome that contains and protects around 500 dinosaur tracks found in the park, spans an area of over 55,000 square feet. Most of the dinosaur tracks found in the park are from the Jurassic period and are over 220 million years old. The tracks found in Dinosaur State Park range from 10 to 16 inches in length.
Dinosaur State Park Weather
The weather at Dinosaur State Park varies frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 55- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 15- and 45-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Dinosaur State Park receives around 70 days of rain per year. These 70 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 45 inches. Dinosaur State Park also experiences snowfall throughout every year. Snowfall in the park is normally heaviest in the winter months of December, January, and February. The park’s yearly snowfall totals average around 19 inches per year.
When did Dinosaur State Park Become a State Park
Dinosaur State Park first became a state park in 1968. The dinosaur tracks found in Dinosaur State Park were uncovered two years earlier in 1966. The same year the park was created, the dinosaur trackway was listed as a Registered National Landmark. Before the tracks at Dinosaur State Park were found, the area was supposed to provide a home for a new state office building. A bulldozer operator working on the project first noticed the tracks and brought them to the state’s attention.
Things to do in Dinosaur State Park
Dinosaur State Park offers visitors the ability to step back and time and walk among dinosaurs. Visitors of all ages will enjoy exploring the park’s dinosaur trackway and arboretum. The most popular adventures and experiences found in Dinosaur State Park are listed below:
Explore the Exhibit Center
The exhibit center at Dinosaur State Park is the best place for eager visitors to start their park adventure. The center houses a variety of exhibits and displays that educate and discuss a variety of topics surrounding the dinosaurs that once roamed the surrounding area. Knowledgeable park staff also work in the visitor center to help answer visitor questions about the dinosaurs, the park, or their visit. The exhibit center contains various fossils and other relics from the surrounding area that visitors can view and learn about.
Participate in an Interpretive Program
After exploring the exhibit center, visitors still interested to learn more about the park and the dinosaurs that used to call the area home should participate in one of the park’s interpretive programs. These programs feature a variety of topics and activities including nature walks, dinosaur studies, and a look at the park’s history and story. All of the programs offered at Dinosaur State Park are led by park staff or knowledgeable volunteers. The program schedule varies from week to week but is normally posted around the park and on the park’s website.
Hike the Nature Trails
Dinosaur State Park contains about two miles of nature trails that meander through woodlands composed of birch, oaks, and maples. These trails offer visitors the ability to imagine how different the surrounding area looks now compared to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. In the spring a variety of wildflowers bloom in the park and can be seen from the nature trails. No bikes or pets are allowed on the nature trails at Dinosaur State Park.
Explore the Arboretum
The arboretum at Dinosaur State Park contains more than 200 varieties of various tree species. Species included in the arboretum include local trees such as oaks, maples, and birch, but also more exotic species like magnolias, sequoias, and others. The arboretum offers visitors to explore various types of vegetation that would have likely been similar to the vegetation found in the area while the dinosaurs roamed.
Take a Picnic
Visitors tired after a long morning of exploring the park or those who simply want some time to relax should enjoy a picnic in Dinosaur State Park. The park contains several areas perfect for a picnic. Visitors should look to bring along a cooler packed with their lunch and drinks.
Mine for Gems & Fossils
Seasonally at Dinosaur State Park, visitors will have the opportunity to mine for gems and fossils by buying bags of mining rough from the park’s bookstore. These bags then can be mined. Staff working in the park can help identify fossils and gems that visitors find after mining the content of their bags.
Birding at Dinosaur State Park
Dinosaur State Park provides a home to a variety of avian species throughout the year. Most of these species migrate in and out of the area. These species include woodland songbirds, shore birds, and the occasional bird of prey. More information regarding bird species found in the park can be obtained from the park’s exhibit center.
When to Visit Dinosaur State Park
Dinosaur State Park is open year-round, and visitors can plan a trip to the park throughout the entire year. However, the best time to visit the park is in the spring or summer. During these months, warm temperatures and longer hours of daylight allow visitors to experience all the park has to offer. On the same day, visitors can explore the exhibit center, hike the nature trails, take a picnic, and walk through the arboretum. Occasionally in late fall or the winter, snowfall occurring in the park can cause park facilities and roads to close for a day or two.
Visitors looking to plan a trip to Dinosaur State Park will want to keep a few items in mind while packing. The following list includes several essential items visitors won't want to forget.
Water & Snacks
Water and snacks are two essential items every visitor should make sure they bring along with to Dinosaur State Park. The average person should pack one to two liters for every hour they plan to spend recreating in the sun.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Every visit to Dinosaur State Park involves a long day of walking. All of the park’s various attractions are spread across the grounds. A comfortable pair of walking shoes should be worn by all visitors arriving at Dinosaur State Park.
Avian Field Guides & Binoculars
Visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the flocks of avian species that call Dinosaur State Park home will want to bring along a Connecticut or North America specific field guide. Birders will also want to remember to bring along their binoculars in order to spot species nesting throughout the trees of the park’s arboretum.
Layers of Clothing
Wearing layers of clothing to Dinosaur State Park is the best way to combat fluctuating temperatures. These layers can be removed or added at will as the temperatures in the park increase and decrease. In the late fall and winter, temperatures in the park can especially require visitors to pack a jacket or sweater.
Where to Stay Near Dinosaur State Park
Dinosaur State Park does not offer visitors any overnight lodging. However, visitors can find various hotels in nearby Rocky Hill or Middletown. Visitors looking to stay in a larger nearby city can make the drive to either Hartford, New Haven, or Providence, Rhode Island.
Food Near Dinosaur State Park
The closest food to Dinosaur State Park is located in Rocky Hill. The city contains a host of restaurants and a few grocery stores that visitors can visit to grab a meal or stock up on supplies. Visitors looking for a larger culinary scene will want to make the drive to Hartford, New Haven, or Providence, Rhode Island. Hartford and New Haven are considerably closer.
Airports Near Dinosaur State Park
The closest international airport to Dinosaur State Park is located in Hartford. The Bradley International Airport is 25 miles and about a 30-minute drive away from the park. The next closest international airport to Dinosaur State Park is located in Boston, Massachusetts, and is 111miles and about a one hour and forty-five-minute drive north of the park.