How to find fossils

Sometimes a rock’s just a rock … and sometimes it’s a fossil. How can you tell the difference?

Research which fossils are common where you’ll be hiking.

Stop by a museum or visitor center, call a local university’s geology department or search for a club of paleontologists (people who study fossils of plants and animals).

Find the right kind of rocks.

Fossils are found in sedimentary rocks, like sandstone, limestone or shale. Sedimentary rocks look like layered pancakes.

Look for exposed rock.

Check out stream cuts, bluffs, sea cliffs, road cuts or any place where bedrock is eroding.

Get low.

You’ll see more fossils when you’re on your hands and knees. Use a magnifying lens. Form a “search image” in your mind. If you spotted ammonites at a nearby rock shop, think about what they looked like. Search for spirals and snail shapes. And remember that most fossils are small sea animals – not rare dinosaur bones.

Leave fossils as you found them, so others can enjoy them, unless directed otherwise by local authorities. If you think you’ve found something unusual, make a careful note of its exact location – information that’s as important as the rock itself. A fossil’s location tells its story, where and how the animal lived.


Here are five fossils that you can look for on your next hike.


People in the Middle Ages called ammonoids “snake stones” because they thought the fossils were coiled snakes.



Scientists say most brachiopods disappeared 250 million years ago, when as much as 95 percent of ocean animals died in a mass extinction.



Algae lives inside the coral, giving it nutrients and oxygen.



This flower-shaped animal’s anus was next to its mouth.



Growing trilobites crawled out of old exoskeletons through head splits, giving their fossils “facial structures.”


Comments about “How to find fossils”

  1. dankey7788 says:

    That was a cool artical

  2. macaroni175 says:

    This article was interesting because it teaches people a lot about fossils, where they come from, how to find them. And it is very interesting to learn about fossils too. I also like to find fossils from different types of plants that are in my drive way, now in stone form!

  3. fish says:

    I learned so much about fossils i cant wait to go out and start looking.

  4. jd says:

    how to find fossils and other interisting items are actually very easy all you have to do is start to dig with a shovel very carfully and sooner or later you’ll find somthing intresting.

  5. mightman says:

    sweet fossils!!!!!

  6. Fossils!!! says:

    Next time I go outside I will make sure to look for these things

  7. cmw says:

    the folsels are so cool

  8. FeverX says:

    I have found many fossils just looking by the creek and in the pea gravel by our swingset. We find fossils by the Lake Michigan beach alot also.

    The best one I have was in a rock garden at our neighbors. They had just gotten a fresh load poured from the truck and I looked down and this is my best fossil ever.

  9. rick says:

    You rock at finding good fossils.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Thanks alot boyslife.com!

  11. zach says:

    Fossils may be gros but they’re awsome I’d like to find fossils.I love to find fossils.

  12. Zach says:

    I love to find fossils eather they’re under ground or in the mountains the’re still realy awsometo find them exspeicaly in the summer.

  13. code567 says:

    where is the derdra

  14. souljaboy says:

    i had a necklace that looked like it had tons of crinoids strung around it.. i think it was just plastic though

  15. Buba10 says:

    I have A cystal rock and it is still growing

  16. nickname says:

    In Jurassic park they make dinosoar amusement parks from fossils.

  17. caveman says:

    i think i found a fossil of a skull

  18. Boborinorino says:

    Thats awssome

  19. Dylan says:

    Rocks are really cool!

  20. -_- CH3353 says:

    i always find tons of fossils on the exposed side of a cliff

  21. bobby joe jr. says:

    Fossils are sweet!!!

  22. macaroni175 says:

    I think it is a good article that teaches people a lot on a whole bunch of different types of fossils and what they came from.

  23. jakie says:

    i am jacob i think the corals fossil is cool

  24. asd3333333333333333333333333333 says:

    in a rock

  25. Jake says:

    I took a fossil from my mom’s collection to the Museum of Natural History for a special day they have in March so you can tell if what you have is old and they told me it was from a pre-Jurassic period.

  26. fose says:

    fossals are cool

  27. ccr says:

    those are so cool

  28. Justin says:

    Fossils are so cool because they were dinosauses!

  29. darkside08 says:

    i have a GIANT collection of rocks.

  30. bobo says:

    I think that the fossils are very cool on the pictures that they show them here. I have seen a fossil before they were very cool the fossil that I saw was a rat it was killed but we just left it alone and let it do it’s stages that it needs to do before it turne’s into fossil fuel. I do not know why I like them so much but thatb is just the way I am.

    I wonder what food they ate before they died.

  31. jack says:

    ok that is sooo cool i want to hold one and get dirty

  32. scchocolate says:

    How do you find fossils in the city?

  33. James says:

    Rocks? HO YA I LOVE ROCKS!!!!!

  34. bamaboy says:

    im a new cub scout and i like to play basketball and go to the beach where there are lots of fossils and schells to collect from the ocean. i have a kewl collection so far.

  35. other me (not the first one) says says:

    i think it would be cool to go out and just see a fossil by a stream or somethin

  36. Anonymous says:

    hi my name is bobby and i think rocks are cool

  37. jojo says:

    I always find tons of fossils, but usually they are worthless.

  38. papa says:

    there is this place that is cool that is somewhere in africa.

  39. pizza rocks says:

    i don’t know

  40. b says:

    i found a fossil in my back yard

  41. justme says:

    Mr. Evans

    What about Leave No Trace ?

  42. pokefan says:

    i found a fossil i thank it is a dinosuar bone

  43. me says:

    i live on a dirt rod and i found a very unusal fossil.

  44. AGuy says:

    With the unfortunate drought that is occuring in the south eastern states, now is a very good time to look for fossils. I live in Georgia, and there are many sreams and creeks that are completely dried up exposing a lot of rocks you otherwise would not be able to get to or see. Also the river systems are running much lower than usual exposing a lot more of the edge shore, and in some areas you can even get to the bottom of where the water is still running. This makes for a great location as you are able to get to many older rocks that have not even been seen for years, let alone looked at in search for fossils! All along the Appalachian trail you will find dried up streams, creeks, and river beds! So the next time you go hiking, look around for those areas that look like the ground is shaped like a “V”, then you can start looking around for fossils! Good luck and Happy Hunting!

  45. Anonymous says:

    What are the more rare fossils?

  46. nevada777 says:

    ive found Crinoids

  47. Yo92345 says:

    you can find fossils buried in the ground .. or a place with lots of rocks like a riverbed with no water in the mountains. and i think you clean fossils with a brush.

  48. ferada says:

    were do you find fossils

  49. weasle says:

    Thats cool how to get the fossils. But how do you clean the fossils?

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