Paleontologist and National Geographic Explorer Bolortsetseg Minjin has spent a lifetime investigating Mongolia’s remote Gobi Desert, looking for signs of dinosaurs. Relying on her training and passion for ancient history, Minjin has developed a keen sense of where fossils might appear. Here are a few of her favorite fossil-focused spots, with Mongolia topping the list. “I would love to see more people come and enjoy my country,” she says.
Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Roam places where the ferocious Velociraptor, star of Jurassic Park, hunted and raised young. If you’re patient (and lucky), you might come across bones of a two-ton Pinacosaurus or the remnants of eggs laid by a plant-eating Protoceratops. Take a group tour such as National Geographic’s “Discover Mongolia,” which features a day trip to the Flaming Cliffs paleontology site, a protected part of a park that Minjin helped create. Count on sunny, windy conditions, and keep an eye out for the occasional herd of Mongolian gazelle.
At Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, book a guided trip to the bone beds, where you can learn how to identify dinosaur fossils. Plan ahead, Minjin says, because tours fill up fast. And stay in the area for three days, so you can canoe the Red Deer River and visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, a two-hour drive northwest. There you’ll meet the astonishingly well-preserved, 110 million-year-old nodosaur, an armored herbivore.
Colorado and Utah, U.S.
Dinosaur National Monument is a quick trip back to the Jurassic period. Fossils include those of the spiky-tailed Stegosaurus, carnivorous Allosaurus, and long-necked Camarasaurus. Don’t miss the park’s Quarry Exhibit Hall, built “off the cliff where dinosaur bones are sticking out,” says Minjin. Spend the night at one of six campgrounds, and book a rafting trip on the Colorado River.