When Should You Visit Fossil Rim?
When the time comes to plan your trip to Fossil Rim, it is wise to put yourself in a position for a great experience. Let’s examine this decision from all angles.
“If you ask me what my favorite time is at Fossil Rim, it’s (November) in the fall,” said Executive Director Kelley Snodgrass. “We have colors on the hills and the animals are very active.”
Snodgrass points to October, November, April, and May as particularly excellent months at Fossil Rim, but he is partial to autumn, for sure.
“I think people should consider the migration seasons,” he said. “Whether it’s the monarch butterflies, robins, sandhill cranes, raptors, pelicans – if you pay attention, you can see a lot of different things going on out here.”
From a lodging standpoint, a fall stay could be a great call.
“We aren’t as busy during that time of year, plus the weather is cooler,” said Chief Marketing Officer Warren Lewis. “Our cabins are fully accommodated in terms of heat and air conditioning, so that won’t be a problem if you are considering an overnight stay. Because there will be less traffic in those months, it should be quieter and maybe more romantic for couples who are visiting.”
In addition to some beautiful fall colors across the landscape, a fall visit also means rut season, and thus some sparring among the fallow deer and white-tailed deer, while European red deer will bugle loudly.
In terms of car count for guest vehicles, December-February is the slowest time of year at Fossil Rim.
“There are definitely some days during those months when it is so cold you don’t want to come out here or go outside at all, but it seems that the days adjacent to our cold spells often have beautiful weather once the sun comes back out,” Lewis said. “If you like to go camping, you know that cooler weather is often a better time to be outside. In the winter, keep an eye on the weather forecast and maybe target the days before a Texas Norther comes through, or after it has passed on.”
Snodgrass agrees that no one should write off the winter season at Fossil Rim.
“If you can catch a good weather day in the winter months, you should absolutely consider that,” he said. “A 50-degree day may sound chilly, but not to these animals. You get some sunshine on your back, and it feels pretty good.”
Another reason to keep an eye on the temperature during the winter is the availability of giraffe and rhino sightings.
“The giraffes are usually in their yard if it is 50 degrees or below, although they might be roaming some days when it is 45 and sunny,” Snodgrass said. “Rhinos could also potentially be in their barns on a cold day. We’ll try to have these large species viewable when it’s safe for them. If it is a day when you aren’t sure if it is warm enough for rhinos and giraffes, visiting in the middle of the day gives you the best chance.”
Spring brings two of the busiest months at Fossil Rim most years in terms of car count – March and May. Most of the hustle and bustle in March relates to Spring Break.
“When you consider late March to late May, there will be some days that aren’t especially busy, and the weather is typically nice, as flowers begin to bloom, plus the amount of baby animals ramps up,” Lewis said. “You need to consider rainy days that time of year, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent either, because the animals actually enjoy the rain.”
Snodgrass chimed in on the topic of rain, as well.
“We see weather affect attendance all the time,” he said. “People see that there’s a chance of rain. But, really anytime is a good time to visit. That’s one of the nice things about Fossil Rim – everything changes. The seasons change, the animals move about in the pastures.
“Don’t let rain scare you away. It can still be quite beautiful and the animals stay active. Also, when it is raining in the Fort Worth and Dallas area, you shouldn’t assume it is raining here.”
The bottom line is a rainy day can give you a better chance of seeing a lot of animals when compared to a hot, sunny day.
As referenced earlier, April and May are prime months at Fossil Rim. This is due to the combination of green landscape, the prevalence of baby animals, and pleasant temperatures. June is also a quality month for seeing baby animals, but obviously the temperatures can venture further away from ideal conditions.
For guests interested in endangered Attwater’s prairie chickens, spring is a key season.
“You are likely to hear the males ‘booming’ in late February and March,” said Avian Specialist Cara Burch. “The best time to see activity in our chick building (on a Behind-the-Scenes Tour) is in May and June.”
July is one of the busiest months at Fossil Rim during most years.
“July is usually a top-two busiest month here and probably my least favorite,” Lewis said. “It’s busy because it’s warm and kids are out of school, so my advice is to come early in the morning. Beat the traffic, which means being out in the park before 10 a.m.”
The riskiest time to visit Fossil Rim is on a summer afternoon in the Texas heat.
“Addax, scimitar-horned oryx, and gemsbok are some of the species most likely to still be active on a hot, summer day,” Snodgrass said, considering many species will opt to find the best shade tree in those conditions.
Fossil Rim is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Other than that, the main holidays to keep in mind are Labor Day Weekend, Spring Break, and Memorial Day Weekend.
“The reality is those are times when adults and kids are all available for trips, so expect more crowds during those holidays at Fossil Rim and every destination,” Lewis said. “I find that most people wait until the end of a Spring Break week to visit, but if you come on a Monday or Tuesday during Spring Break, it’s typically not as busy as the Thursday or Friday that week. Maybe some people don’t realize we’re open seven days a week.”
Days Of The Week
The two days for lowest guest traffic are Tuesday and Wednesday, while the two highest days are Saturday and Sunday.
“If it works for your schedule, Monday through Wednesday are clearly the least-busy days at Fossil Rim,” Lewis said.
“Weekdays are a great time to come if possible,” Snodgrass confirmed.
Time Of Day
It is hard to go wrong with a plan to arrive when Fossil Rim opens at 8:30 a.m. It would also be fair to say that a midday visit is best served from November to March, while that time frame becomes progressively more suspect the closer the visit gets to summertime.
“Expecting higher visitor traffic on weekends is all the more reason for you to get here in the morning,” Lewis said. “In the winter, it’s not a bad idea to target the last couple of hours we are open, as well. You need to be mindful of when it will get dark, but that’s another way to avoid traffic in the park.”
Snodgrass made a variety of points regarding the time of day.
“If you visit in the summer, come early or maybe late in the day,” he said. “If you do come in the middle of a summer day, you’ll get to see what animals do when it’s really hot. They will often be in the shade.
“Our 8:30 a.m. opening is typically a good time to come to Fossil Rim. If it is extremely cold, you might wait a little while. When you visit early or late in the day, the sun’s position can make for some striking views with how the light moves through the hills and trees.
“I agree that guests will usually be able to have a good midday visit during November to March. With less daylight during this time, the animals are more active throughout the day. The majority of people from the Metroplex will generally arrive in the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. range, so if you time your visit before 10 or after two, you won’t encounter as much traffic.”
Snodgrass also referenced some of the animal species in regard to time of day.
“Early and late in the day is ideal for seeing Texas native species like jackrabbits, armadillos, and turkeys,” he said. “The wild turkeys at Fossil Rim come and go as they please. You’ll see big groups of hens in the winter.
“In the spring, gobblers will be doing their courtship displays for the females, which is quite a show. When the ground is softer after a rain, you’ll see more armadillos, because it is easier for them to dig for food.”
Fossil Rim’s Reserved Programs Supervisor Andrew Bullard said that 26 jackrabbits were spotted during one particular Discovery After Dark Program and Tour.
The Buffer Pasture, in particular, is best visited early and late in the day.
“Bongo are a great example of a species you are more likely to see out and about early and late in the day,” Snodgrass said. “They are more comfortable coming out of the woods at that time. The same goes for kudu. Part of the reason for moving the road to the middle of the Buffer Pasture was to give the bongo some more privacy in their wooded area.
Make A Weekend Out Of It
Many people make Fossil Rim a daytrip destination, but Lewis sees the opportunity for more.
“I would recommend that people plan to come spend the night either in The Lodge or a cabin at Foothills Safari Camp, and then take the drive through the park the next morning,” he said. “In terms of planning, there are several other things to do in the Glen Rose area. You can play golf, or maybe visit Dinosaur Valley State Park. You can camp at Dinosaur Valley and visit us the next day.
“There are some interesting shops in Downtown Glen Rose, so I’d suggest making a three-day weekend out of it. With a quick search on your smartphone, you’ll be able to find just about anything you want to make your trip great. The bottom line is Fossil Rim and the Glen Rose area can offer you more than a daytrip.”
When planning to visit the area, perhaps check out “Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau” on Facebook or go to https://www.glenrosetexas.org/. Also consider the Local Links page on Fossil Rim’s website: https://fossilrim.org/local-links/.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
However you decide to approach your Fossil Rim visit, Snodgrass just hopes you will stay observant.
“I always advise people to slow down and look,” he said. “An animal does not have to be right there on the road for you to appreciate it. Look where it is; what is it doing? We behave a lot like these animals sometimes, and we can learn from them.
“Bringing binoculars is a great idea. Maybe you see an armadillo, fox, or songbird that you wouldn’t otherwise.”
There are so many ways to experience Fossil Rim. Only a thorough investigation of the options will allow you to fully discover the wonder that awaits.
“Visiting at different times of day and in different seasons is the right answer,” Snodgrass said.
-Tye Chandler, Marketing Associate