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