38 Legit Places To Find Fossils In Arizona In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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38 Legit Places To Find Fossils In Arizona In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Millions of years ago, Arizona’s desert landscape was a very different place. Parts of it were covered by vast seas, while other areas were lush and green, teeming with life. Arizona fossils tell us stories of creatures that once roamed this land.

As you explore the diverse terrains, from mountains to valleys, you can almost feel the excitement of discovering a piece of history right beneath your feet.

Whether you’re an experienced rockhound or just someone with a keen interest, the thrill of unearthing a fossil is unmatched. Every find is a step closer to piecing together the grand puzzle of Earth’s history.

The Fossils Of Arizona You Can Find

From the fossils of giant reptiles to tiny sea creatures, the state offers a window into a bygone era. You can find a variety of these fossils during your explorations. is not just a hobby; it’s an adventure through time!

With every step on Arizona’s diverse terrain, there’s potential to discover traces of life from millions of years ago. The thrill of unearthing a fossil, feeling its texture, and pondering its story is something everyone should experience.

You can also check out our guide to Arizona rockhounding if you want even more spots to find some amazing rocks and minerals.

How We Found The Best Places For Fossils in Arizona
Our team is constantly on the lookout for new fossil sites and are very plugged into the fossil hunting community. There are new locations that are constantly being found and we love to help more hunters find success. Here are the main factors we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from multiple local fossil hunters and fossil groups
  • The accessibility of the various locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced fossil lovers and those who are just starting out

Using these weights we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding great new fossils for our collections!

Common Arizona Fossils

brachiopod fossil showing the shell's ridges
Brachiopod fossil provided by FossilBucket

Dive into the rich history hidden beneath Arizona’s surface! Here are the common fossils that you’ll likely find on your explorations:

  • Brachiopods
  • Crinoids
  • Corals
  • Trilobites
  • Gastropods
  • Pelecypods
  • Plant fossils
  • Mammal fossils

Arizona State Fossil – Petrified Wood

reddish petrified wood slab showing the tree's rings
Petrified wood provided by NewMoonBeginnings

Petrified wood is ancient wood that has turned into stone over time. This happens when a tree gets buried by sediment and the organic material is replaced by minerals, usually silica.

Over a long time, the wood’s cell structure gets preserved, but in a stone form. So, while it looks like wood and even keeps the tree’s original patterns, it’s as hard as rock!

Rare State Fossils

rough piece of bone from a newly discovered horned dinosaur
Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii bone provided by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Among the many discoveries, these valuable rare Arizona fossils stand out as some of the most exciting finds:

  • Dinosaur footprints
  • Dinosaur bones
  • Rare fish

The Best Places To Find Fossils In Arizona

Arizona is packed with exciting spots where fossils have been waiting for millions of years to be discovered. Here are the best places to visit.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Grand Canyon National Park

sun rising over the Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park showcases a vast canyon carved by the Colorado River and spans about 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep.

While the Grand Canyon is known for its breathtaking views, many also venture there for fossil hunting Arizona experiences.

This colossal landmark is a geologist’s dream. As you look at the canyon walls, you’re seeing layers upon layers of Earth’s history stacked up like pages in a book. Each layer tells a tale of a different time period, from ancient seas to vast deserts.

The terrain of the park varies from rugged cliffs to peaceful plateaus. The varied colors of the rocks, from reds to browns to greens, paint a vibrant picture of our planet’s past.

Getting to Grand Canyon National Park is a breeze. It’s well-connected by major highways and has several visitor centers. Once you’re there, a range of trails, both easy and challenging, await exploration.

Whether you’re a rock lover or just someone who appreciates stunning landscapes, this park is a must-visit!

Where to find fossils in Grand Canyon National Park

Within the Grand Canyon National Park’s vast rock layers, you can find traces of marine creatures like trilobites, brachiopods, and corals that once lived in ancient seas.

As you hike or explore, especially in the Bright Angel Trail, you’ll encounter common Arizona fossils from a time when this area was underwater.

You can also check out areas within the park like the Tapeats Sandstone, Bright Angel Shale, Muav Limestone, and more.

Rock pick being used

The tools every fossil hunter will need

When you're out looking for fossils having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced fossil hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.

At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The fossil-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Southwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Southwestern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks

three-toed dinosaur tracks embedded in red rock

Located near the town of Tuba City, the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks take you on a journey back in time, showcasing the footprints of ancient dinosaurs.

The terrain here is open and mostly flat, making it easy to spot the distinct imprints left by these prehistoric giants.

The tracks are found in the red-brown Moenkopi sandstone, which stands out against the surrounding landscape.

This area gives a fascinating glimpse into the geology and history of the region. The Moenkopi formation itself is very old, dating back over 200 million years. It’s an outdoor museum, displaying the movements of creatures from the Triassic period.

You’ll be able to easily find your way to the Moenkopi Dinosaur. It’s accessible by road, and there are clear signs directing visitors to the site.

Once there, you can take a self-guided tour, or even better, local guides are often available to share their knowledge. This place is a real treat for both seasoned rockhounds and curious beginners!

Where to find fossils in Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks

Only 70 miles from Flagstaff in Tuba City, right within the Navajo Nation, you’ll find the remarkable Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks. The tracks are imprinted in the rock, and they showcase a variety of different dinosaur species.

Petrified Forest National Park

petrified wood log with red, yellow, white, and black swirls in the Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is a captivating spot where nature showcases its artistry. Located in northeastern Arizona, this park stretches over 230 square miles, displaying a vibrant landscape dotted with colorful petrified wood.

This wood turned to stone millions of years ago, and now shines in hues of red, orange, and purple, a stark contrast to the surrounding terrain.

In Petrified Forest National Park, you can have an unforgettable fossil hunting Arizona adventure amid stunning landscapes.

The landscape here is a mix of semi-desert shrub steppe and highly eroded badlands, making it both beautiful and intriguing.

The geology of the park is a rich tapestry of ancient environments, showing evidence of old rivers, lakes, and floodplains. These conditions helped preserve the fallen trees, turning them into the stone logs we see today.

Getting to Petrified Forest National Park is pretty straightforward. It’s well-connected by highways, particularly the I-40, making it accessible for travelers. Once you’re inside the park, there’s a range of trails and viewpoints to explore.

Whether you’re a rock enthusiast or just someone who loves unique landscapes, this park promises a memorable experience!

Where to find fossils in Petrified Forest National Park

Within the boundaries of the Petrified Forest National Park, you can discover plant and animal fossils of Arizona from the Triassic Period, going back over 200 million years.

As you explore, you’ll find remnants of large trees, ferns, and various creatures that lived millions of years ago preserved in stone.

Indian Gardens Paleo Site

eroded slope with some trees at the Indian Gardens Paleo Site
Indian Gardens Paleo Site by Richard N. Horne

The Indian Gardens Paleo Site in Arizona is an amazing place where the past meets the present. Nestled within the beautiful landscapes of the state, this site offers a peek into the world of ancient life.

Geographically, it’s situated in a region characterized by striking rock formations and captivating desert vistas. The terrain here is rugged but incredibly scenic, with layers of rock revealing stories from ages gone by.

The geology of Indian Gardens is a testament to time, showcasing layers upon layers of sediment and, with it, a record of the ancient organisms that once called this place home.

From prehistoric plants to ancient marine life, the fossils found here show a snapshot of the environments that existed millions of years ago.

Reaching the Indian Gardens Paleo Site is a journey in itself. While it’s positioned in a remote area, there are clear paths and signs that guide visitors.

With a bit of preparation and a keen sense of adventure, anyone can access this remarkable site and marvel at the wonders of Arizona’s geological history.

Where to find fossils in Indian Gardens Paleo Site

In the Indian Gardens Paleo Site, you’ll find an array of Arizona fossils that tell the tale of when this region was submerged. Fossils of seashells, kelp, and other aquatic creatures dominate the landscape, giving a clear picture of an underwater world.

Pima County

arid landscape dotted by saguaro, with hills in the horizon

Pima County in Arizona is a vast and varied region full of natural wonders. Located in the south-central part of the state, it stretches across a mix of desert landscapes and mountain ranges.

The terrain is a blend of the flat Sonoran Desert, dotted with iconic saguaro cacti, and the rising peaks of the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains.

These diverse features make Pima County a haven for rock enthusiasts, showcasing layers of Earth’s history through its rock formations and mineral deposits.

Geologically, the county is rich, with evidence of volcanic activity, ancient riverbeds, and tectonic movements. These geological events have crafted the unique landscapes and vistas that draw many visitors each year.

Traveling to Pima County is easy. Major highways like the I-10 run directly through, making it accessible from various parts of Arizona and neighboring states.

Where to find fossils in Pima County

In areas like the Redington site at Bingham Ranch, there have been discoveries of various marine fossils. Head to the Empire Mountains and Santa Rita Mountains to find traces of creatures like trilobites, brachiopods, and corals.

And if you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon some rare Arizona fossils around the county, such as dinosaur bones!

Other Top Places To Find Arizona Fossils By Region

coral fossil with white and orange sections, showing the texture of the coral
Coral fossil provided by OriginMinerals

Beyond the popular sites, there are plenty of other locations brimming with fascinating fossils in Arizona. Let’s dive into a list of these exciting spots to explore!

<tdBrachiopods, gastropods, scaphopods, echinoid spines, bryozoa, horn corals, echinoderm fragments, bryozoa, pelecypods, crinoids

Location Fossils
Cameron, Apache County Crocodiles, dinosaur footprints, reptile footprints
Ganado, Apache County Ichthyodectes, petrified wood, Heterodontosuchus, Metoposaurus, Placerias, Palaeoctonus, Unio
Meteor Crater, Apache County Reptile footprints
St Johns, Apache County Schizodus, Placerias, Eupelor
Steamboat, Apache County Brachiopods, mollusks, Ichthyodectes, plants, Gryphaea, Exogyra
Bisbee, Cochise County Brachiopods, protozoa, echinoid spines, corals, bryozoa, Linguella, Schizambon, Obolus, Billingsella, corals, gastropods
Curtis Ranch, Cochise County Mammals-Capromeryx,Cuvieronius,Simonycteris,Stegomastodon
Gunnison Hills, Cochise County Dictyoclostus, Bryozoa, Neospirifer, horn corals, large echinoid spines
Mustang Mountains, Cochise County
Lake Mary, Coconino County Pelecypods, brachiopods, corals, bryozoa, Nuculopsis, Pecten, Doctyoclstus, Marginifera, Nucula, Bellerophon, Allerisma
Sedona, Coconino County Fish fossils
Whitehorse Hills, Coconino County Corals, brachiopods, crinoids
East Verde River, Gila County Corals, brachiopods, crinoids, echinoid spines
Globe, Gila County Fish teeth
Kohl Ranch, Gila County Conularids, gastropods, crinoids
Morenci, Graham County Linguella, brachiopods
Safford, Graham County Gastropods, vertebrates, horses, mastodon, rodents, capybara, sloth, Glyptodon, Dipodomys, Geomys, Sigmodon, Neotoma, Lepus
Salt River, Maricopa County Brachiopods, spirifer, blastoids, Orophocrinus, crinoids
Iceberg Canyon, Mohave County Corals
Meadview, Mohave County Olenellus, Albertella
Wikieup, Mohave County Bassariscus, Anabernicula, Anas, Agriotherium, Alforjas, Anser, Aquila, Branta, Ciconia, Cygnus, Grus, Hemiauchenia, Himantopus, Megatylopus, Neophrontops, Plesiogulo, Prochenia, Prototaxidea, Pseudaelurus, Rallus, Recurvirostra, Sphenophalos, Dinohippus, Procamelus
Black Mesa, Navajo County Lingula, Ostrea, Prionotropis, shark teeth
Comb Ridge, Navajo County Dinosaur bones
Holbrook, Navajo County Vertebrate tracks, vertebrates, plants, petrified logs, ferns, invertebrates
Kayenta, Navajo County Dinosaur bones, petrified wood, Ostrea
Tohachi, Navajo County Ostrea, Modiola, Sphaerium, Planorbis, Vivaparus, turtle
Galiuro Mountains, Pinal County Corals, crinoid fragments, Psephodus teeth, brachiopods, gastropods, blastoids
Rodgers Quarry, Pinal County Hemiauchenia, Megatylopus, Osteoborus, Prochenia
Superior, Pinal County Arthrodire plates, conodonts
Black Mesa, Yavapai County Corals, trilobites, crinoids
Jerome, Yavapai County Cephalopods, brachiopods, corals, large Arthrodire plates to 40cm in length
Milk Creek Quarry, Yavapai County Aelurodon, Hemiauchenia, Michenia, Protolabis
Muggins Mountains, Yuma County Stenomylus, rodent teeth

Common Questions About Fossil Hunting In Arizona

rock slab with the impression of a crinoid
Crinoid fossil provided by Fossil Realm

We answer some of the most common questions people ask about fossils in Arizona:

Can you find megaladon teeth or sharks teeth in Arizona?

Arizona, known for its deserts and canyons, was once covered by ancient seas. Because of this, it’s possible to find fossils of sea creatures, including sharks.

However, finding megalodon teeth in Arizona is not common. Megalodon, a gigantic prehistoric shark, mostly lived in areas that are now the Atlantic Ocean and its surrounding seas.

Shark teeth have been found in the state. These are rare Arizona fossils, but they’re usually from smaller, ancient species, not the giant megalodon.

If you’re on the hunt for shark teeth in Arizona, look in places that were once underwater, like limestone and shale layers. Keep in mind, always get permission if you’re searching on private land or in protected areas.

Is it illegal to collect fossils in Arizona?

In Arizona, the rules about collecting fossils depend on where you are and what kind of fossils you’re looking for. On private land, you can collect common Arizona fossils if you have the landowner’s permission.

It’s always a good idea to get that permission in writing to avoid any misunderstandings later.

However, it’s a different story on federal and state lands. Collecting valuable rare Arizona fossils like those from vertebrates (like dinosaur bones or mammal remains) is not allowed without a special permit.

These permits are typically given to trained scientists for research purposes.

On the other hand, you can generally collect common invertebrate and plant fossils of Arizona for personal use on federal lands, as long as they’re not in national parks, monuments, or other specially protected areas.

Always double-check Bureau of Land Management guidelines and the rules of the specific area you’re in.

Some places, like national parks, don’t allow any kind of fossil collecting. It’s super important to respect these rules. They help protect Arizona’s rich natural history for everyone to learn from and enjoy!

Can you find dinosaur bones in Arizona?

You can find a variety of dinosaur bones in Arizona, from the mighty Dilophosaurus to the unique Sarahsaurus.

Then there’s the impressive Sonorasaurus, a massive long-necked giant, alongside the speedy Chindesaurus and the small yet interesting Segisaurus.

If you’re passionate about paleontology or just fascinated by the stories that rocks can tell, Arizona is a fantastic place to explore and learn.

How do you identify the fossils that you find?

First, look at the shape and size. Often, fossils have distinct patterns or features that hint at what they once were, like a leaf’s outline or the curve of a shell.

Next, consider the rock type. Fossils are commonly found in sedimentary rocks because they form from layers of sand, mud, and other materials that once covered living things.

Having a good guidebook on fossils can be super helpful. These books have pictures and descriptions to compare with what you’ve found. Using a magnifying glass can also give you a closer look at tiny details that might be key to identifying your find.

And remember, the area where you found the fossil can give clues. Different regions have different kinds of plants and animals in the past.

Our Favorite Places To Buy Fossils In Arizona

exterior facade of the Rare Earth Gallery shop
Rare Earth Gallery

From specialty shops to local markets, the state offers a range of options for both beginners and seasoned collectors. Let’s dive into some of the top spots in the state!

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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