Things to Do

Where to Hunt for Fossils Near DC

There are a lot of dinosaurs around DC (and they're not all in Congress).

Photograph courtesy of M-NCPPC, Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George’s County.

There are dinosaurs in Maryland! Or, technically, there were dinosaurs millions of years ago in what is now considered Maryland. Paleontologists recently uncovered a bone bed at Dinosaur Park in Laurel with more than 100 fossils, including a three-foot-long shin bone from an Acrocanthosaurus, a 39-foot carnivore that lived 115 to 105 million years ago. The paleontologic haul, one of the largest dinosaur discoveries in more than one hundred years, is sparking fossil fever around the region. So if you want to find some—and there is no guarantee it’ll be easy—here are some places near DC to look:


Dinosaur Park

13100 Mid Atlantic Boulevard Laurel, Maryland


Public Programs

On the first and third Saturday of each month, Dinosaur Park hosts a free public dig program where you can work with paleontologists to excavate the site in search of fossils. The most common kinds of fossils at the park are plants, but you may get lucky and find a tooth or claw. The park supplies all the gear and training you need, and paleontologists are nearby for guidance. Get there early because the public programs operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, and spots may fill up quickly. The next open house is Saturday, August 5, from 10 AM to 2 PM. Check here for future dates.


Private Programs

If you want a more educational experience (or you just have some kids that are really into dinosaurs, because what kid isn’t?), Dinosaur Park has private programs for schools, scout troops, and families. You’ll start the day off by learning from paleontologists, who will show off some of the fossils discovered at the dig. Following the lesson, you’ll search for your own fossils with the help of the scientists. A program costs $50 and is limited to a group of 40 people. Events are also fully booked through July, but you can make reservations by contacting


Calvert Cliffs State Park

10540 H. G. Trueman Road, Lusby, Maryland​​

If you want to find your own fossils, drive out to this sandy beach. More than 600 species have been identified here, with fossilized shark teeth and oyster shells being the most common discoveries. Stay away from the cliffs, though. Due to erosion, there is some danger of landslides, and the area underneath the ridge has been permanently closed.


Westmoreland State Park

145 Cliff Road, Montross, VA 22520

From dawn to dusk, you can comb through the grounds at this state park for fossils ; The park even has a spot nicknamed after the treasure, Fossil Beach. The 1,321-acre land also has plenty of campsites and cabins if you want to extend your stay past a daylong fossil hunt.


York River State Park

9801 York River Park Rd., Williamsburg, Virginia

Saltwater and freshwater combine to make an estuary that is ripe with fossil beds. Feel free to go hunting for fossils throughout the 2,500-acre park, where you may even find some Colonial or Indigenous artifacts. If you do find some fossils, the park’s policy asks you only take one per person.


Purse State Park

2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury, Maryland

Low tides make the perfect time for fossil hunting at Purse State Park. The exposed beach makes it easier to scour the grounds for fossilized shark teeth, bones, and shell fragments. But check the tide schedule ahead of time since those fossils may be hidden underwater during high tide.

Nick Pasion
Editorial Fellow