Fossil Hunting

Fossil hunting is a great family activity.  I believe it is educational and a wonderful way to get some exercise.  I have been fossil hunting since I was a child and my Gran taught me to look for fossils in the shale rock that is common in our area.

Gran had a collection of fossils that she gave to me when I became a teacher.  I always loved teaching about fossils and showing my grandmother’s collection.  

Fossil Hunting is Fun and Educational

I didn’t begin fossil hunting in earnest until my own children were older.  I honestly just thought of it one day when planning an outing with Gran, my teenage son, and my young niece and nephew.  We only found one fossil that day, but it renewed my interest in this activity.

Now, I enjoy introducing our grandchildren to fossil hunting.  Where we live, there are dozens of places where roads have been cut through the mountains.  We almost always find fossils in the shale rock that falls from these cuts.  My two older grandsons, ages four and five, are really beginning to understand what we are looking for.  

I have found some wonderful sites online that explore the formation of fossils.  I have also seen many books on the subject.  So, fossil hunting can lead to exploring the subject further or it can be the culmination of a study of fossils. Honestly, my family just does it for fun.


I have some tips before you head out!  Wear good shoes.  We usually forget this tip, but bring a backpack in case you find a few fossils to collect.  Go before snakes and poison ivy are out or after they are safely out of the way for winter.  I don’t like to worry about the kids stumbling upon either.  It is more fun when you don’t have to be as cautious.  I find it is easier to spot the rocks that fossils might be hiding in before there are lots of plants budding out as well.  

I know this isn’t good for fossil preservation, but it is neat to put a coat of varnish or polyurethane on a few of your finds. They make very interesting pieces of art, or paperweights. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend doing this to an unusual or rare find.

Where to Look

We like to find a cut through in the mountains such as along a rural road where there isn’t much traffic to worry about.  When we see lots of smooth, flat rocks that have layers falling down the hillside, we stop and have a look. We have also had luck finding fossils below rocky outcrops.  We just have to be careful about being underneath loose rocks that might fall.

Get out there and hunt some fossils while enjoying our beautiful world!  I think it is a great activity to get moving with or without the kiddos.  

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