You don’t have to know anything about paleontology to enjoy a trip to the Dinosaur National Monument. Located along the border of Colorado and Utah, the Dinosaur National Monument spreads over 210,000 acres and offers a diverse range of activities to make your stay here exciting and memorable.
Quarry Exhibit Hall
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is located on the Utah side of the monument, near Jensen, and shelters approximately 1,500 dinosaur bones fossilized into the rocks and cliffs. The quarry provides valuable insights into what life was like nearly 150 million years ago, and gives visitors an educational experience unlike any other. An 80-foot-long mural illustrates the story of these Jurassic animals, and rangers are available to answer any questions you may have.
History: The dinosaur quarry was established in 1923 by paleontologist Earl Douglass. It was he who suggested that the government leave the fossils exposed and house them for protection. The exhibit hall was built around the quarry more than 30 years later, preserving the remnants for both visitors and scholars alike. The reason these fossils are concentrated in this one area is due to the geographical landscape. The river carried animal carcasses downstream where they became stuck in the sandbar. The sandbar eventually formed into rock, fossilizing the bones. Many of the fossils are partially exposed, but left intact in the rock. Research on the quarry and the surrounding land continues today where new discoveries are still being made.
A network of roadways weave throughout this monument, allowing visitors to tour the landscape from the convenience of their vehicles. These scenic drives offer passengers sprawling views of the stunning landscape, including mountain peaks, deep gorges, and remote canyons. Some of the roadways are paved, two-lane highways, while others are dirt roads that can be dangerous to travel on in rough weather.
Harpers Corner Road: Located on the Colorado side of the monument, this 31-mile route is a paved road that passes the colorful Plug Hat Butte and features a wheelchair-accessible picnic area perfect for pulling over and refueling before heading back out to explore.
Echo Park Road: Located on the Colorado side of the monument, this 14-mile route is unpaved. Offering a thrilling descent down a series of switchbacks, Echo Park Road ends at the banks of the Green River.
Yamaha Bench Road: Located on the Colorado side of the monument, this 18-mile route is unpaved and runs along the flat area above the Yampa River. This auto tour boasts multiple viewing overlooks to observe the north face of the blue mountains which rise to the south. Historic homesteads and ranches are also featured along this road.
Tour of Tilted Rocks: Located on the Utah side of the monument, this 10-mile route begins at the Quarry Visitor Center. This paved roadway offers fantastic views of geologic layers, unique rock formations, and petroglyph and pictograph panels.
Other popular roads are the Gates of Lordore (unpaved) and Deerlodge (paved) located on the Colorado side of the monument. Rainbow Park (unpaved) and Island Park Road (unpaved) are popular auto tours on the Utah side of the monument.
The Dinosaur National Monument is just as well known for its amazing and picturesque views as it is for its fossils. Hiking trails snake through the landscape, giving visitors an up close and personal way to explore the rugged terrain.
Fossil Discovery Trail: Located in the Utah portion of the monument, this 1.2 mile one-way trail is of a moderate level of difficulty. It can be accessed from either the Quarry Visitor Center or the Quarry Exhibit Hall, where it cuts through several tilted rock layers. For those who make this trek, large pieces of dinosaur bone are visible in the rocks, left just how they were discovered in 1909.
Sound of Silence Trail: Located in the Utah portion of the monument, this 3-mile loop can be accessed off the Tour of Tilted Rocks Road. It is a moderate to challenging level of difficulty due to some areas of steep slickrock, but those who take it on are rewarded with sweeping views of split mountain, interesting rock layers, and diverse scenery.
Desert Voices Trail: Located in the Utah portion of the monument, this 1.5-mile round trip trail can be accessed near the Split Mountain boat ramp. It is of moderate difficulty, and offers hikers spectacular views of Split Mountain. Trail signs line this path educating and informing hikers of the landscape, wildlife, and greenery. This trail can be combined with Sound of Silence Trail for a longer hike.
Ruple Point Trail: Located in the Colorado portion of the monument, this 4.75-mile one-way trail is located near the Island Park overlook. The moderately difficult trail is lined with sagebrush and juniper, and offers breathtaking views of Split Mountain Canyon and the Green River below.
Harpers Corner Trail: Located in the Colorado portion of the monument, this 3-mile round trip trail is located at the end of Harpers Corner Road. The moderately difficult path offers hikers with a fairly level stroll and striking views of the river canyons.
Cold Desert Trail: Located in the Colorado portion of the monument, this 1/2-mile loop is an easy and short trek that still provides opportunities to experience the diversity of the desert. The trailhead of the Cold Desert Trail is located at the Canyon Visitor Center.
Rafting is a popular way to observe the remote canyons of the Dinosaur National Monument. The Green and Yampa Rivers flow through towering cliffs, providing a unique vantage point of the land. Drops and obstructions in the water create rapids that make for a fun and thrilling journey. Warm Springs, Hells Half Mile, Disaster Falls, and Triplet Falls offer exciting whitewater rapids, while the Rippling Brook provides rafters with a chance to get out of the boat, relax on the beach, and take in the scenery. Rafters will get the opportunity to experience class III and class IV rapids, while getting one-of-a-kind views of the surrounding landscape. Multi-day trips and single-day trips are both available from a variety of different guides.
Biking is allowed on any road within the Dinosaur National Monument, but it is not allowed on any of the trails. Take proper measures to stay safe, especially on the narrower roadways. The best bike routes are from Rainbow Park to Island Park, Yampa Bench Road, and Cub Creek Road. Services are not available along many of the routes, so make sure to bring plenty of water and stay hydrated.
One thing is for sure when you visit the Dinosaur National Park, you won’t be bored! Tour the landscape on horseback, grab some binoculars and scan for wildlife, birdwatch, or stargaze. Or play some fun Flashlight Games once you're settled in at your campsite for the night. You can also fish in the clear waters of the monument's rivers or cool off by taking a refreshing dip in them. Don’t forget to refuel with a lovely picnic at one of the monument’s many picnic benches scattered throughout the land.
There are six campgrounds within the Dinosaur National Monument, giving you over 120 sites to choose from. Three of the campgrounds are on Utah's side, and the other three are located on Colorado's side. No water, sewer, or electric hookups are available at any of the camping locations.
RV-Friendly Campgrounds: Green River Campground is just 5 miles away from the dinosaur quarry and offers 79 sites. Split Mountain Campground is located beside the Split Mountain boat ramp. Gates of Lodore Campground is positioned near the head of Lodore Canyon and has 19 sites offered on a first come-first served basis.
Tent-Only Campgrounds: Rainbow Park Campground is located on a dirt road that is impassable when wet, and offers 4 primitive camp sites for rustic accommodations. Echo Park Campground is nestled at the base of the Green River cliffs, while Deerlodge Park Campground is located next to the Yampa Canyon boat ramp. RVs are strongly discouraged at these campgrounds due to the dangers of getting to the sites.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is less than an hour drive from the Dinosaur National Monument, and is a rugged stretch of land featuring forest slopes and high desert views. Red Fleet State Park is a beautiful reservoir great for fishing, boating, and camping in the gorgeous red rocks of Vernal. For other scenic spots to explore, check out Ashley National Forest, Steinaker State Park, or the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. For a more educational experience, consider visiting the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery or the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum.
The Dinosaur National Monument operates to understand the history of the land. It aims to observe how rocks, plants, animal life, and the geographical landscape develops and changes overtime. When you visit, you are given more than just a fun recreational experience, you are offered the opportunity to learn important stories of the Jurassic past.