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Fangs and Fossils: Plan An Epic Journey on Montana’s Dinosaur Trail

Imagine a world where colossal creatures roamed freely, their footprints etching history into the earth beneath them, and their fierce roars echoing through vast valleys. Montana, known for its vast landscapes and Big Sky, offers more than just scenic beauty—it’s a portal to these prehistoric times. The Montana Dinosaur Trail loops around the state, highlighting 14 museums showcasing the prehistoric past and tracing the tracks of your favorite dinosaurs, including the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex!

We’ve found ourselves crisscrossing and exploring this trail over the last few years, learning more amazing things every time. From razor-sharp fangs to well-preserved fossils, we bet you’ll want to start planning your own epic journey along Montana’s Dinosaur Trail.

Old Trail Museum | Montana Dinosaur Trail

What Is the Montana Dinosaur Trail?

The Montana Dinosaur Trail is a statewide trail including 14 destinations. Each one highlights the state’s prehistoric history of that particular region. Montana has been home to dinosaur fossils and crucial discoveries by paleontologists over the years. The Montana Dinosaur Trail transports visitors to the era when dinosaurs roamed Big Sky Country.

How Long Is the Dinosaur Trail?

The 14 Montana Dinosaur Trail locations range from Bynum in the west, Bozeman in the south, Glendive in the east, to Chinook in the north. These locations provide visitors with a better understanding of prehistoric times and how these creatures lived through exhibits, programs, and tours.

The loop is actually over 2,000 miles long. Facilities on the western side of Montana include the Montana Dinosaur Center in Bynum and the Old Trail Museum in Choteau. The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman and the Upper Musselshell Museum in Harlowton are in the central-southern region of the state.

In the north, there’s the Rudyard Depot Museum in Rudyard, the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum in Havre, the Blaine County Museum in Chinook, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, and the Phillips County Museum in Malta.

The Fort Peck Interpretive Center in Fort Peck, the Garfield County Museum in Jordan, the Frontier Gateway Museum and the Makoshika State Park in Glendive, and the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka are on the state’s eastern side.

Montana Dinosaur Trail map
The Montana Dinosaur Trail is a unique way to explore the state.
Source: www.mtdinotrail.org

What Activities Are Along the Dinosaur Trail?

As you travel the Montana Dinosaur Trail, you’ll find various programs at each location, including active dig sites! There are exhibits with paleontology displays, interpretations, replicas of dinosaur skeletons, actual dinosaur skeletons, and other fossils in Montana.

Some facilities also provide regular programming or guided tours. For example, Makoshika is Montana’s largest state park. More activities happen during the year, like Montana Shakespeare in the Park, Friday night campfire programs, and the Buzzard Day Festival.

Finally, some museums along the Montana Dinosaur Trail are field dig sites. The Carter County Museum in Ekalaka, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, and the Montana Dinosaur Center in Bynum are affiliated with organizations that conduct paleontology field digs. You must visit these sites with extra caution so as not to disrupt the careful and exciting work going on.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to add Glacier National Park to your Montana trip! While there, spend the night at one of these 6 Best Whitefish Montana RV Parks.

tom with t rex skull
Check out the impressive paleontology displays, interpretations, replicas of dinosaur skeletons, actual dinosaur skeletons, and other fossils that the Montana Dinosaur Trail has to offer.

What Is the Montana Dinosaur Trail Prehistoric Passport?

The Dinosaur Trail in Montana has a Prehistoric Passport program. The passport is a fun tool to help you track where you’ve visited and learn more about the dinosaur displays, exhibits, and activities at each of the trail’s 14 facilities. The Prehistoric Passport contains fun facts, a section for field notes, and space for official stamps that verify your visit at each location.

After you’ve completed the trail and collected all 14 “Dino Icon” stamps, you’ll receive a gold seal and a Montana Dinosaur Trail Prehistoric Passport t-shirt. If you can’t complete the trail at one, it’s okay! You have five years from the date of purchase to complete the trail and earn the rewards. You can purchase a passport at any of the 14 facilities for $7.00.

How Long Does It Take to Complete the Trail?

If you do want to plan a trip to visit every location along the Montana Dinosaur Trail, it will take about a week. However, this depends on how long you want to stay in each place. Even though there are 14 facilities, there are only 12 communities since Malta and Glendive each have two museums. You can start in any location since there’s no set route.

glendive dinosaur and fossil museum
Don’t forget to get your Prehistoric Passport to track all the museums you explore along the Montana Dinosaur Trail.

What Is the Top Dinosaur Museum Along the Trail?

Bozeman, Montana is not only home to the most popular museum on the trail, the Museum of the Rockies, but it’s also famous for its outdoor recreation. You could spend a week in Bozeman enjoying the beautiful scenery and kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking, and horseback riding.

The Museum of the Rockies is TripAdvisor’s #1 attraction in the city and is a Smithsonian Affiliate. While some exhibits change, the diverse displays showcase artifacts from all over the world. One of the primary exhibits is “Dinosaurs Under The Big Sky” in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex. You’ll also see Big Mike, a life-size bronze sculpture of a T-Rex.

You can also enjoy a planetarium show, educational program, lecture, or charitable benefit event. During the outdoor season, you can experience the Living History Farm, which transports visitors to an 1890s Montana homestead.

If you start the Montana Dinosaur Trail at Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies, we suggest you visit the Upper Musselshell Museum in Harlowton next. It’s less than two hours northeast of Bozeman.

Dinosaur fossils
Travel back in time and learn more about the dinosaurs that once wandered through Montana.

Are There Other States With Similar Dinosaur Trails?

Although no other state has a dinosaur trail like Montana, there are other regions where people have found many fossils. Twenty-two sites under the protection and management of the National Park Service have yielded dinosaur body fossils or trace fossils. Most have been along the Colorado Plateau.

Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado National Monument, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Zion National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Pipe Spring National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument are all national parks where people have discovered dinosaur fossils along the Colorado Plateau.

Pro Tip: Fossil fans will want to know Is Dinosaur National Monument Worth the Trip? Find out!

Montana Dinosaur Center | Montana Dinosaur Trail

Is the Montana Dinosaur Trail Worth Visiting?

We definitely think the Montana Dinosaur Trail is worth visiting. We’ve crossed its path many times now, and no matter how many times we see a T.rex skull, we’re surprised and amazed every time. Montana is special in how many fossils and skeletons have been preserved over millennia, making it a truly wonderous place to step back in time and imagine what it was like when these giants roamed the Earth.

The Montana Dinosaur Trail is a family-friendly, hands-on experience. It’s also a unique way to explore Big Sky Country. You don’t have to be overly interested in dinosaurs to appreciate the exhibits and curations. You can take as much time as you like to learn about these fascinating creatures. But if you have a dinosaur lover in your family, this is a trail you can’t miss!

Would you like to travel to the 14 facilities along the Montana Dinosaur Trail? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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