With a name like Skyline Drive, you’re sure to find a good view at the top, but on this particular three-mile scenic stretch, you’ll also find an unexpected sight— dinosaur tracks! The entrance to this one-way, one lane road is about three miles west of Cañon City, Colorado, off US Highway 50. Canon City is located about 40 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. The drive takes you several hundred feet up to a ridge that overlooks the city, gorge, and Arkansas River Valley. It’s quiet up top, especially since you’re up and away from the busy highway down below. Although the road is paved, it is narrow with tight turns and a steep decline down the backside. Large motor homes and trailers are not advised.
The dinosaur tracks discovered here were coincidentally found by a paleontology student from The University of Colorado. While taking a Sunday morning drive in December of 1999, William Kurtz was amazed to find dinosaur tracks embedded in the Dakota Sandstone— right above the road and visible, at least to a trained person. When the tracks were made about 110 million years ago, this area was a muddy estuary. The giant prehistoric beasts made the depressions in the mud, and centuries later their prints were tilted during the uplift of the Rocky Mountains. The result is a unique view of preserved dino tracks. Plant fossils and traces of fan worms and clams were also found here.
Skyline Drive is unique for another reason, too— around the turn of the 20th century, convicts chiseled out this ridge road. Inmate labor has always been plentiful here, and today, Cañon City is home to nine state prisons and four federal lock-ups. Most of the twisty road does not have guardrails, so use caution. There are a number of pull offs for safely taking in the scenic views.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com