Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming

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Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

Fossil Butte National Monument is known as a “Konservat-Lagerstätten” among paleontologists because the evidence it presents of prehistoric life, all at one site, is awe-inspiring. The monument provides a unique snapshot of life that was present 50 million years ago on Earth – from one of the earliest horses, Protorohippus venticolus, to tiny insects and small flowers.

While museums in metropolitan areas of the U.S. offer visitors the opportunity to see fossils, the national monument’s visitor center is one of the few areas in the country where amateurs can see more than 400 fossils that tell the story of the Eocene Epoch geological period, up close and at the same place where early paleontologists originally found them.

In summer months, park rangers demonstrate the painstaking process of preparing a fossil from how it was found in nature to become the display pieces seen at museums. Visitors can also listen to ranger talks about the geology at the monument or join in guided hikes to view the National Park Service’s onsite research quarry.

There is also plenty of opportunity to explore trails and view modern wildlife, such as elk, moose, and pronghorn, in the surrounding sagebrush steppe.

The park is open year-round, but access to the entrance road is closed during severe winter storms, and a scenic drive that leads to a picnic area and nature trail is closed from November until late May.

Learn more about the park at