Sidetracks: Museum of the Rockies


The room is alive with bird sounds and the grunts of something else—something much, much larger. Little kids’ eyes widen as a huge, scaly tenontosaurus draws into view. Even adults have to crane their necks to see the full dimensions of the 20-foot-long dinosaur replica. Hanging from it is a pack of colorful, feathered, razor-clawed deinonychus. Kids cower behind their parents. “Isn’t it nice that the big dinosaur has birds for friends?” says one mother, nervously eyeing her young kids. But the little boy next to her knows better. “Those are like velociraptors,” he says. “They’re going to


the big one.”

Whether you’re skiing at Montana’s Big Sky or Bridger Bowl, you’re probably not expecting to find yourself in the middle of

Jurassic Park

, feeling like a Cretaceous hoers d’ouevre. But pay a visit to one of the most fascinating small museums in ski country, and you’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for dinosaurs (as well as relief that they’re extinct).

The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) is on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, an hour from the slopes of Big Sky, and is as intriguing to adults as it is to kids. It features one of the finest paleontology departments in the country, thanks to paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner, the reigning star of the science and an adviser to Steven Spielberg in the first two

Jurassic Park


The centerpiece of the museum is the Siebel Dinosaur Complex, an array of life-sized paleontology displays—many based on Horner’s famous finds—highlighted by a giant

T. rex

replica out front. It also houses models of several dinosaur species that can only be found here.

Though MOR retired its animatronic dinosaurs, it has installed even more up-to-date replicas. Those deinonychus, for example, have vivid, tie-dyed feathers, a nod to Horner’s theory that dinosaurs were far more colorful than previously imagined. And the Hall of Horns and Teeth, home to the largest

T. rex

skull in the world—five feet long and discovered in eastern Montana—will send a shiver down your spine. Back at Big Sky, you just might find yourself wondering what’s buried under all that snow.



Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission $10; kids (5–18) $7; seniors (65-plus) $9; kids 4 and under free.