Known for prehistoric creatures that roamed the area millions of years ago, Glen Rose, Texas, is often referred to as the dinosaur capital of the world.
But this small town on the Paluxy River in Somervell County makes an excellent destination for travelers seeking a variety of experiences. Galleries featuring world-renowned artists, a historical town square, and award-winning wines are also part of its charm.
Located on the northern edge of the Texas Hill Country, the limestone hills and cool green waters of the Paluxy River provide a soothing backdrop for both culture and outdoor enthusiasts.
1. There’s More To Glen Rose Than Prehistoric Creatures
Let’s begin in the heart of Glen Rose, the town square.
Like many small towns in Texas, Glen Rose has a historic town square anchored by a Romanesque revival-style courthouse. Built of limestone in 1893, the courthouse square was traditionally a place for weekend produce markets and for neighbors to gather. Surrounding the square are small local businesses that inhabit the vintage storefronts. There are 30 buildings on the square that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. You can download a map of the buildings here (opens as PDF) then take a self-guided walking tour.
If you really want to delve into the history of the area, book a tour of the Somervell County Museum with local historian Dennis Moore. Dennis’s family has lived in the area for over 100 years. Plus, the museum is literally packed with memorabilia, photos, and relics; you really need Dennis to help you make sense of it all. Either way, be sure to see the dinosaur track located outside of the museum.
A few of my favorite buildings on the square are the old stone ice house and the beautiful limestone building located on the corner of NE Barnard and Walnut Streets. Formerly the Campbell Building, this is the site of the first retail complex in Glen Rose. The two-story building now houses an art gallery, a wine tasting room (more on that later), and a ladies’ boutique.
You can enter through the clothing store, which leads you to White Buffalo Gallery and continues to the Bull Lion Ranch wine bar. Or, start at the bar and end up doing some retail damage at the White Buffalo. Be sure to stop in the gallery and say hello to the Duke, a life-size sculpture of John Wayne by nationally recognized artist Robert Summers.
2. Meet The First Family Of Glen Rose
Before leaving the town square, notice the bronze sculpture of a woman on horseback and the man standing next to her. The name of this sculpture is Barnards On The Brazos, The First Family of Glen Rose, by Robert Summers. The sculpture is of the town founders, Juana and Charles Barnard. Juana had been captured by Comanche Native Americans, and George Barnard, Charles’s brother, bought her freedom. She and Charles fell in love, or so the story goes. They then settled in Glen Rose and built a grist mill on the Paluxy River. This is the site of what became the town of Glen Rose. The Barnards owned and operated the mill from 1860 to 1874.
The mill was then purchased by Mr. Jordan of Dallas, Texas, who ran the mill until he fell on hard times. Jordan and his wife are credited with changing the name of the town from Barnard’s Mill to Glen Rose, though the first iteration was actually Rose Glen after the wild roses which were abundant in the area.
The mill saw several more changes of ownership and purpose; it was used as a hospital and a sanitorium for visitors who wished to partake of the healing sulfur waters in the area. Just down the street from the mill is the Inn on the River, the original lodging for visitors to the sanitorium.
Today the property and mill are owned by the Somervell History Foundation, which has restored all of the buildings and turned them into an art museum with a world-renowned collection that includes paintings by Lester Hughes, Amy Miers Jackson, and Morris Henry Hobbs. For more information and for hours, visit the Barnard’s Mill and Art Museum website.
3. Before The Barnards, There Were Theropods And Sauropods
People from all over the world travel to Glen Rose to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park. In 1908, dinosaur tracks were discovered in the Paluxy riverbed. About 40 years later, a man named R. T. Bird, who was collecting fossils for the American Museum of Natural History, heard about the tracks and traveled to Glen Rose. While there, he also discovered the first distinct sauropod tracks ever found.
The best time to see the dinosaur tracks is in the summer months when the river is usually low. You don’t actually have to hike much to be able to see them. There are some viewing points looking down from above the riverbed.
Aside from the dinosaur tracks, the park is a popular spot for hiking, with 20 miles of trails, plus camping, bird-watching, biking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking opportunities. A visit to Dinosaur Valley State Park could easily be a weekend trip or a day trip for the entire family.
If you do come in the summer, know that Texas is very hot and plan accordingly by wearing UV protective clothing and a hat, and bring your own water, especially if you plan to do more than peer at the tracks.
There are a wide variety of camping options at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Some cabins have electricity but most do not. There are also campgrounds. Group camping facilities must be booked by calling ahead. For more information on all the facilities, call (254) 897-4588.
4. Dinosaurs Aren’t The Only Wild Things In Glen Rose
Feed giraffes. Marvel at rhinos. Observe cheetahs. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center consists of over 1,700 acres of land, providing habitat for over 1,000 animals, both exotic and native to the area. Fossil Rim was voted the Best Wildlife Park by the 2020 USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards.
Aside from providing an educational and entertaining experience for all to enjoy, Fossil Rim is “dedicated to the conservation of species in peril, conducting scientific research, training of professionals, responsible management of natural resources, and public education. Through these activities, [Fossil Rim provides] a diversity of compelling learning experiences that inspire positive change in the way people think, feel, and act with nature.”
There are two ways to tour the park -- you may drive your own vehicle or take a guided tour. Either way, you must book your tour in advance, and tickets must be purchased online. You should allow at least two hours to complete the seven-mile drive through the park -- longer if you go on a busy weekend. Food to feed the animals is free when you purchase your admission or are on a guided tour. Only one bag of food per car is permitted.
About halfway through the park, there is a shop and cafe. This is a great place to stop, stretch your legs, and take in some of the views as well.
Fossil Rim has a comprehensive FAQ that you should read in advance of your visit. It will ensure you have the best possible experience and the animals are safe. Though you are in a vehicle, never forget that these are wild animals, and they are unpredictable.
5. Scouting Wild Animals Can Make You Thirsty
Don’t leave Glen Rose without checking out the local wine bar, Bull Lion Ranch, located in the Campbell Building, now the White Buffalo complex.
Proprietor Chuck Tordiglione is the fourth generation of Tordigliones to grow wine grapes. Appropriately, he focuses on Italian wine varietals like sangiovese, Montepulciano, trebbiano, and vermentino, with a few non-Italians in the mix, such as tempranillo, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon. It all seems to be a winning combination for Chuck, as Bull Lion Ranch has won a number of gold medals for its Montepulciano and Texianti red wines.
The Bull Lion Ranch vineyards are in the Chalk Hill AVA, not far from Glen Rose. Chuck grows all his own grapes for the red wines but purchases grapes from farmers in the Texas High Plains AVA for the white wines. Chuck is 100 percent pro Texas and Texas wines, which you’ll discover if you have the chance to chat with him. He has big plans for Texas wine and wine lovers.
The best part -- if you love the wines, you can find them in many local supermarkets across Texas, which makes it easy to replace the bottles you take home from the tasting room.
Glen Rose is a place where you can spend one day or several days; it all depends on what interests you. If you live close enough, it could even become your go-to place to get away and enjoy the quiet natural beauty of the countryside and a good glass of locally produced wine.