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Discover Dinosaur National Monument--Past and Present

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Updated December 5, 2016.

Dinosaur National Monument is more than just another place to see, it’s a timeless experience!

With its footprint in two states, Colorado and Utah, a seamless melding of history lives on since the beginning of time. 

Explore the geologic wonders of the “present” in Colorado’s canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers.

Discover the “past” off the slopes Utah’s Split Mountain Canyon at the foot of Diamond Mountain Plateau. 



About Dinosaur National Monument

Imagine traversing the arid desolation of Utah’s outback.  It’s 1909 and jutting from the age-old soil are eight curious formations.  

This is what Earl Douglas, a Paleontologist from Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found; dinosaur tail bone pieces.  Little did he know what he was about to uncover would one day become a world famous travel destination.

While the origins of an Earth shattering occurrence remain a hot political, religious and scientific debate, the fact remains a tragic calamity befell a now extinct species of creatures and the land tells the story.

It’s not a story involving just one location rife with fossils, but one of a region carved from formidable natural forces, some immediate and some over long periods of time.

Taken as a whole, from the beginning to present day, compelling drama unfolds, transcending beyond the rocks and dust we see.  

There’s more to it.

Bound up in those that went before us and in those that still live and breathe, like the abiding rivers flowing here, generation after generation; the historical testament at Dinosaur National Monument is alive.


Explore Dinosaur National Monument


Click on the links below to find fantastic places to see and thrilling things to do!



the journey begins here . . . live the adventure!


Map Your Road Trip


Use the map below to locate the destination of your choice.  Click on the red pins to get more information.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Locations Map



How to Get There

From the Salt Lake City, Utah area, take I-215 to I-80 East.  Take US-40 East to Jensen, Utah.  Go north on highway 149/Quarry Entrance Road to Quarry Visitor Center.

From the Denver, Colorado area, take I-70 West.  Take US-40 West to Jensen, Utah.  Go north on highway 149/Quarry Entrance Road to Quarry Visitor Center.

From the Grand Junction Colorado Area take I-70 West.  Take highway 139 northbound.  In Rangely, Colorado go west on highway 64.  Take US-40 West to Jensen, Utah. 

From Rock Springs, Wyoming take US-191 South to Vernal, Utah.  Take US-40 East to Jenson, Utah.  Go north on highway 149/Quarry Entrance Road to Quarry Visitor Center.



Quarry Visitor Center

Dinosaur National Monument has two visitor centers, reflecting the “past and present” histories of the park. 

Because we were passing through on our way to another destination, we only had an afternoon to see the monument.  The truth is, we had no idea the monument was so huge!  

We could have easily spent two or three days exploring all the wonderful sights.  If we ever travel this way again, we will plan enough time to see what we missed.

It was a tough choice.

Do we journey through outstanding canyon lands or do we enjoy digging up answers about dinosaurs?

We chose the “past”.

Even here, wildlife thrive.

What a wonderful greeting!

The Quarry Visitor Center is a treasure trove of resources.  Take time to see the short film about the park and be sure to purchase a dinosaur souvenir to remember this unforgettable road trip must-see.

“Paleontologist Earl Douglass began studying the fossils here in 1909.”

--Local Signage

“Getting the dinosaur fossils out of the rock was only the beginning of the job.  Workers next wrapped fossils in burlap and plaster.  These jacketed fossils were lowered onto mule-drawn skids and dragged down the trail for boxing . . . Wagon trains carried the crated fossils 60 miles (97 km) to the nearest railhead.  The crated fossils traveled by train to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum.”  

--Local Signage

The center stands as gateway to an amazing dinosaur bones excavation.

Access to the famous wall of bones is by escorted caravans or shuttles, depending on the season.

On this trip we enjoyed the shuttle ride through beautiful painted hills and bluffs on our way to the Quarry Exhibit Hall.



Quarry Exhibit Hall

After many years of construction and reconstruction, the new Quarry Exhibit Hall houses one of the foremost collections of dinosaur fossils in the world.

Here scientists and students collaborate and conduct research.

Preserving the archaeological dig, the exhibit hall protects the renowned Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry where visitors can experience up-close the sheer largeness of dinosaur remains.

Visitors stand in awe of the unbelievable number of fossilized bones protruding from an historic cataclysmic geologic event.

Goodbye Victorian era children-are-to-be-seen-and-not-heard, and "look only" rules of conduct.  I love interactive museums that encourage "touch" and multi-sensory learning; it deepens the prehistoric experience!

“This is a cast skeleton of an Allosaurus from the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in east-central Utah.  It is about the same size as the individual from this quarry whose large skull in on exhibit here.”  

--From local signage

This cast specimen of the original Apatosaurus skull housed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History looks like the real fossil.

Fossil casts exhibit the twisted, tortuous deaths of these remarkable beasts during a catastrophic event.

Fossils are everywhere in Dinosaur National Monument.  

See them in the raw, as they were meant to be found, up close and live.  Hike the Fossil Discovery Trail a 1.2 mile foot path between the Quarry Visitor Center and Quarry Visitor Hall.

Learn more about this fascinating trail; click on the links below for downloadable PDF brochures:

A Fossil Fanatic’s Guide to the Fossil Discovery Trail

Fossil Discovery Trail

A marvelous view of the valley can be had from the view point at the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

The Green River cuts a wide swath, dividing Split Mountain in two.



 Tour of Tilted Rocks

The Tour of Tilted Rocks is a scenic 20 mile round-trip auto route.  Starting at Quarry Visitor Center, visitors can easily spend more than one day exploring all the sights along the way.

Nature’s brush covers a bleak canvas with colorful tints and shades.

The geography of this place tells the story of a wretched past.  This ancient mud flow is evidence that a colossal flood event forever changed the original landscape.

In this photo, a ray of sun pierces a heavy cloud layer, spotlighting Split Mountain (tilted rocks) rising above the painted hills in the foreground.  Track current conditions on the Split Mountain webcam.

Hiking

One of the best hikes on the west side of the park is the Sound of Silence Trail.  The trailhead begins about 2 miles east of Quarry Visitor Center.  It’s a 3 mile journey looping through a rock record.  

Observe desert hiking precautions.  Sun stroke and heat stroke prevention is of primary concern. Cover up to prevent sunburn and wear a hat.  Pack along snacks and most importantly, plenty of water, a minimum of two liters.  Drink before you feel thirsty to stay properly hydrated in hot arid conditions.

Stay on the trail.  Look, but don’t collect anything to take home, including fossils, artifacts, plants . . . or anything else.  For the preservation of, and for your safety, please don’t feed or try to befriend the wildlife.  Take photos instead.

At Dinosaur National Monument wildlife blends into the landscape.  It takes a keen eye to spot one . . . 

. . . and a quick trigger finger to capture one on film!

Learn more about this fascinating trail; click on the links below for downloadable PDF brochures.

Travel through Time: Sound of Silence Trail

Geological Blast through the Past

The Desert Voices Trail, located across the way from Split Mountain Campground offers families a brilliant view of Split Mountain.  About 1 ½ miles round trip, there is a ¼ mile footpath connecting to the Sound of Silence Trail.

Hike along the banks of the Green River.

The River Trail is 2 miles (one way) of incredible wildlife viewing at both ends of the day, dawn and dusk.

It’s also one of best places for birdwatching!

As a connecting trail, the River Trail runs between Split Mountain and Green River Campgrounds.

==>More Hiking in Dinosaur National Monument

Camping

Consider spending more time here than we did and stay overnight in the park.  Split Mountain and Green River Campgrounds situated in the shadows of Split Mountain are about 4 miles from Quarry Visitor Center.  Both campgrounds take peak season reservations for RV (not hookups), tent and group sites.  Nearby Split Mountain boat launch allows access to the Green River for water sports enthusiasts.

==>More Camping in Dinosaur National Monument



Cub Creek Petroglyphs

“Petroglyphs are patterns or figures that have been chipped or carved into the rock.  The Fremont people, who lived here between 550 and 1200, created these petroglyphs.”

--Local signage in Dinosaur National Monument

“The petroglyph panels here at Cub Creek feature a variety of typical Fremont designs, including human and animal figures and abstract designs.  The petroglyphs in this area are distinguished by several large lizard figures, not common at other sights.”

--Local signage in Dinosaur National Monument

We find attention-grabbing points of interest along the way . . . 

 . . . a camera shy bird . . . 

 . . . and beautiful blooms in May.


Some petroglyphs are high up on sheer cliff faces . . . 

 . . . requiring us to climb steep trails to narrow rock ledges so we could photograph our finds.


Plateau Lizards scurried across and under our feet as we trekked across the ledges.

Then, we came across these lizard petroglyphs!


From these heights the views of the valley below are magnificent.

Learn more about these spellbinding art forms at Dinosaur National Monument; click on the link below for a downloadable PDF brochure:

Petroglyphs and Pictographs



Weather at Dinosaur National Monument





Dinosaur National Monument News


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Camping

Deerlodge Park Campground

"Deerlodge Park Campground consists of seven walk-in campsites situated amongst large cottonwood trees . . . Deerlodge Park Campground is located 53 miles east of the Canyon Visitor Center. It is located on the Yampa River at the boat ramp at the head of Yampa Canyon . . . The Steps Trail located at the end of the Deerlodge Park Road provides views over the Yampa River."  NPS.gov



Echo Park Campground

"Situated at the base of towering cliffs along the banks of the Green River, the Echo Park Campground provides a camping experience like no other in Dinosaur National Monument. Steamboat Rock dominates the view. Fremont petroglyphs are located on the canyon walls. Bighorn sheep and mule deer frequently roam through the campground. Unimproved hiking trails lead to the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers or to Mitten Park and dramatic views of the Mitten Park Fault." NPS.gov


Gates of Lodore Campground

"Gates of Lodore Campground is located on the Green River at the boat ramp at the head of Lodore Canyon . . . The campground is popular with river rafters who often stay here before launching on the Green River."  NPS.gov



Green River Campground

"The Green River Campground is located along the banks of the Green River at an elevation of 4795 feet. The highly eroded Split Mountain towers to the north of the campground. The famous dinosaur quarry, where you can see 149 million year old dinosaur bones still encased in the rock is approximately five miles from the campground. Also nearby is the Split Mountain Boat Ramp where river rafters come off the Green River after trips through Dinosaur National Monument's canyons. Just a short drive away, you can see petroglyphs left by the Fremont people, explore the homestead of Josie Morris, hike numerous trails or maybe catch a glimpse of wildlife like mule deer and bighorn sheep."  NPS.gov


Rainbow Park Campground

Though Rainbow Park Campground is free, it is very rustic and small, only 4 tent sites.  Pack in your own water.  A river launch site is nearby.



Split Mountain Campground

"The Split Mountain Group Campground is located along the banks of the Green River at and elevation of 4800 feet. The highly eroded Split Mountain towers over the campground. The campground is near the famous dinosaur quarry, where you can see 149 million year old dinosaur bones still encased in the rock. Right beside the campground is the Split Mountain Boat Ramp where river rafters come off the Green River after trips through Dinosaur National Monument's canyons."  NPS.gov


Fishing

"Fishing is allowed in Dinosaur National Monument, subject to the regulations of the state in which you are fishing. A valid state fishing license is required for fishing even though the monument is federal land."  NPS.gov

Guide to Important Fish Species in Dinosaur National Monument

Hiking

Bull Canyon Trail

"This steep trail descends from the Yampa Bench Road to the Yampa River near the Harding Hole campsites. The trail provides dramatic views of Bull Canyon and the Yampa River. The Harding Hole campsites are reserved for river users during the high use season (see river rafting information). In the off-season, campsites are open to backpackers. River rafters can use the Bull Canyon Trail to access the sweeping views from Wagon Wheel Point."  NPS.gov



Cold Desert Trail

A short, level trail for visitors to enjoy the wilds of the desert!



Gates of Lodore Trail

See picturesque Lodore Canyon on foot via an easy ¾ mile trail.  Family friendly. 



Harpers Corner Trail

This 1.5 mile one way foot path leads to a high point with a stunning view of Whirlpool Canyon and the Green River. 


Hog Canyon Trail

Take a 1.5 mile one way stroll with your children through the dessert to see Box Canyon.  This easy trail is accessible from the Josie Morris Homestead.



Island Park Trail

Experienced hikers only!  That’s the mantra for this 16 mile round trip hike across scenic rock lands and canyons.  Take a compass and map because the trail is obscure in many places.



Jones Hole Trail

View more petroglyphs and pictographs on the Jones Hole Trail.  The trailhead starts at the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery, on Jones Hole Road.  Though a bit strenuous, this 4.75 mile hike is pleasant as it follows Jones Hole Creek to its confluence at the Green River, known as Jones Hole.  Backcountry campsites are available nearby.



Plug Hat Trail

Follow the .25 easy trail to experience the sweeping panorama of Plug Hat Butte.  It’s all about canyon drama!



Ruple Point Trail

"For most of its length [4.75 miles one way], Ruple Point Trail crosses a rolling terrain filled with sagebrush and juniper. Near the end of the trail, a short descent rewards hikers with a breathtaking views of Split Mountain Canyon and the Green River 2,500 feet (762 meters) below."  NPS.gov


Museums

Field House of Natural History State Park Museum

Do you wish to see more dinosaur fossils?  Down the road in Vernal, Utah, the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum features more exhibits about dinosaurs and local culture and history.


Points of Interest

Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge

"Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge is located along the Green River in northwest Colorado. Situated between the Cold Springs and Diamond Mountains, this remote river valley has long been an oasis to both wildlife and humans seeking shelter from the surrounding harsh, semi-arid environment." FWS.gov



Canyon Area Visitor Center

Located near Dinosaur, Colorado, at the base of the Harpers Corner Road, the Canyon Visitor Center serves as a gateway to the monument's mountains and river canyons. Exhibits orient visitors to the monument's facilities. 



Ely Creek Waterfall

"Roughly 2 miles (3.2 km) from the fish hatchery, Ely Creek flows in from the west to join Jones Creek. Follow Ely Creek for approximately a quarter mile (0.4 km) to reach a small, scenic waterfall shaded by Douglas fir and birch trees."  NPS.gov



John Jarvie Historic Ranch

"This historic property built in 1880 provides a glimpse of turn-of-the-century frontier life in Brown's Park. John Jarvie, a business man from Scotland, chose this particular one because of the naturally occurring river crossing. For years it had been used by Indians, fur trappers, travelers, and local residents. Jarvie figured it would be an excellent spot to establish a business. At its height, the Jarvie ranch operation included a store, post office, river ferry, and cemetery.  BLM.gov



Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery

"At the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout are raised to stock areas in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. Visitors can walk among the hatchery raceways, where trout are raised, or enjoy a picnic on the grounds. Parking, restrooms, and an information kiosk are located at the hatchery."  NPS.gov



Josie Bassett Morris Homestead

Josie Morris Cabin

" . . . for Josie Bassett Morris, the Wild West was a stark reality. Josie lived most of her 90 years in this austere, yet beautiful, landscape, when people depended on the bounty of the land for survival and "neighbors" for companionship." NPS.gov

Josie Bassett Morris downloadable brochure


Pool Creek Petroglyphs

"These unusual petroglyphs are located approximately 1½ miles from the Echo Park Campground. They can be easily seen with an easy walk from the road. These petroglyphs feature dot-pattern designs and are high above the creek along the rock face."  NPS.gov



Whispering Cave

"Located approximately one mile from the Echo Park campground along the Echo Park Road, this fissure in the sandstone rock provides a cool and shady spot to rest on a hot day."  NPS.gov


Stargazing

"Dinosaur National Monument is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States . . . prime places to view the night sky with either the naked eye or through the use of telescopes and binoculars. The monument has a designated spot where we hold our night sky programs near the Split Mountain Campground."  NPS.gov

Water Sports

White Water Rafting

"Whitewater rafting is a popular way to experience the remote canyon areas at Dinosaur National Monument. You can take a licensed commercial rafting trip or you can tackle the river on your own, provided you have a permit, the correct equipment and the necessary experience."  NPS.gov






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