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Find Fossils at Indian Gardens Paleo Dig in Payson Az

Find Fossils at Indian Gardens Paleo Dig in Payson Az

If you have a budding geologist, archaeologist, or paleontologist this is the spot for you.There are so many learning opportunities in Payson Arizona. One of our favorite places we continue to visit is the Indian Gardens Paleo dig in Payson AZ. It is free and affords your budding paleontologist the opportunity to dig and find real fossils. Please keep in mind the more people visit the less fossils there are to find so only take a few and leave some to be found. 


Address: Just past mile marker 267 off East Bound Highway 260.  The Paleo dig site in Payson Arizona is accessible only from east-bound Highway 260 , just past mile marker 267. There is a green sign marking the turn off but full disclaimer it comes up on you quick. Our first 2 visits we missed it and had to turn around.Here is a map as it comes up pretty quick. From the parking lot the collecting site is direct to the south, on the other side of a wire fence.  Keep a look out for snakes as I legit stepped on a baby one the last time we visited. Heart-stopping moment as I’m terrified of snakes.

Hours: 24/7

Cost: Free

Additional Info:  There are no restrooms or food nearby so make sure to stop before heading up the 260 towards the dig.

The Paleo Dig Site

After going through the gate, you will see an exposed rock outcrop to your right approximately 25-30 feet tall. This is the main collecting area of the paleo dig that most focus on. It requires some digging and scrambling up a pretty steep slope.This seems to be the area where most of the larger brachiopods can be found.  My husband and son found some nice specimens there.

 Below the outcrop face, there are some piles of rubble. They found a few specimens there as well and it was a good spot for my 4-year-old as it was a bit less treacherous.

A great spot was just as you go in from the gate directly to the right is a little hill area. We found quite a few small items there. Pretty much every rock you picked up had a specimen in it. A couple digging there also found a bone while we were there and my husband found some rose quartz.


Additional Things To Do

After collecting some specimens we decided to take a hike in the surrounding woods of the paleo dig site.  There are plenty of  places to explore around the paleo site but keep in mind there are not any designated trails. Some spots were a bit thick with trees and my youngest got stuck in a pricker bush. If you plan to hike long pants and closed toed shoes are a must.  We also had lunch at the site. There are no bathoom facilities so we brought wipes and water to wash our hands before we ate.

The Paleo dig site in Payson Arizona is one of our favorite things to do with kids. And yes you find actual fossils.  Further up the road from there is the Tonto Fish Hatchery. We like to stop at both when we drive up North. Are there any little known spots in AZ that you visit?

For another great place to visit up North check out Montezuma’s Castle

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