Guide To Exploring Dinosaur National Monument
One of the most remote parts of Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument is along the area of the country famous for its fossils. I was shocked to learn that the majority of dinosaur fossils, including many of the famous big ones are from the US across much of the mountain region. Much of these areas were part of a great sea that covered the land and preserved so many of these fossils. Dinosaur National Monument is particular exciting, in that there are places you can actually see fossils, where that is lacking in many of the other fossil monuments.
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Wondering which U.S. states host Dinosaur National Monument? Dinosaur National Monument is located southeast of the Uinta Mountains at the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers in Colorado. Dinosaur remains can be seen embedded in the rocks of its deep canyons, as well as petroglyphs of ancient cultures. There are many things to do in the Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado: hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback-riding are amazing opportunities to learn about the history of these iconic sites. However, there are more recreation and educational opportunities like the free paleontology programs for kids it offers. It is an ideal destination for a family vacation, children will love Dinosaur National Monument! Camping near Dinosaur National Monumenopportunities are also available to make the experience extra special.
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Things To Do At Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaurs once roamed throughout Dinosaur National Monument. In fact, many of the best museum pieces from around the world have been excavated from in and around the Monument.
Currently, 11 species of dinosaurs have been found in Dinosaurs famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry including stegosaurus, diplodocus, and allosaurus. A tour of the park allows visitors to experience what life may have felt like 150 million years ago.
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Where To Stay Near Dinosaur National Monument Faq
Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about where to stay near Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado/Utah.
Where should I stay when visiting Dinosaur National Monument?
Vernal is the closest town that has a good selection of hotels near Dinosaur National Monument. The tiny towns Jensen and Dinosaur are other options in the area, but they offer a very limited selection of Dinosaur Monument lodging.
What is the closest city to Dinosaur National Monument?
Vernal and the tiny Jensen are the towns nearest Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah side of the park. Further east on the Colorado side the also tiny Dinosaur is the town closest to Dinosaur National Monument.
Is there lodging inside Dinosaur National Monument?
There are no hotels or other accommodation options within Dinosaur National Monument. However, the gateway town Vernal provides Dinosaur National Monument lodging just a short drive from the park.
How long does it take to see Dinosaur National Monument?
In just a few hours you can explore the famous dinosaur fossils at Quarry Exhibit Hall. But Dinosaur National Monument covers a vast area with much more to explore. Make sure that you add time for hiking, exploring petroglyph sites and other park activities.
What To Expect While Visiting Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaurs once roamed at Dinosaur National Monument. Their remains are still visibly embedded in the rocks located in the dinosaur quarry. Today, the mountains, desert, and untamed rivers flowing in deep canyons are some of the landscapes you will see at the monument.
Petroglyphs hint at earlier cultures. Later, homesteaders and outlaws found refuge at Dinosaur National Monument. Whether your passion is science, adventure, history, or scenery, Dinosaur National Monument really has it all.
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Best One Day Itinerary
Even though I spent multiple days in Dinosaur National Monument, most people only stop as they are passing through to other places. So to help you plan heres my thoughts on the best one day itinerary.
If you have only one day within Dinosaur National Monument, concentrate your time in the Dinosaur Quarry area of the park. Theres enough to see and do in this area without having to spend hours driving to other sections.
The first stop should be the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center. Here you can get information on the various sites, bus schedules etc. From the Visitor center you can take the shuttle up to the dinosaur quarry. Here youll pass through a building that encloses a section of rock that still has dinosaur fossils embedded. One of the best things they did is preserve this for all to see. If you took the bus up, walk down via the Fossil Discovery Trail back to the visitor center.
From here drive a mile down the road and stop at the Swelter Shelter Petroglyphs. This is a short walk up to several petroglyphs on the rock.
Drive another mile to the Sounds of Silence trail, the 3 mile trail that will take you through the desert landscape and a wash. If you are feeling adventurous you can extend a few extra miles with the desert voices trail.
Have The Place To Yourself
With its mild weather , Dinosaur makes for an enjoyable visit just about any time of the year. That being said, if youre not one for enjoying scorching heat, steer clear of late July or early August, when the park sizzles just shy of 100 degrees.
The park is pretty remote, located almost exactly between Salt Lake City and Denver. While the majority of the park is on the Colorado side of the borderand many make the understandable mistake of visiting via the tiny town of Dinosaurthe most highly anticipated attractions are actually in Utah near the town of Jenson.
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Recommended Hotels Near Dinosaur National Monument
Springhill Suites by Marriott Vernal Modern Dinosaur lodging with indoor pool and hot tub
The Utah hotel also has modern rooms and great amenities, including indoor pool and hot tub. Marriott in Vernal is one of the very best places to stay near Dinosaur National Monument if you want the whole package.
Dinosaur Inn Classic Dinosaur accommodation with outdoor swimming pool in Downtown Vernal
Dinosaur Inn is a classic place to stay when visiting Dinosaur National Monument. Its location in Downtown Vernal is extremely convenient just steps from restaurants and Utah Field House of Natural History State Museum.
As a bonus Dinosaur Inn also provides a seasonal outdoor swimming pool for its guests to use. If you prefer something else than the big hotel chains, the inn near Dinosaur National Monument is an excellent choice.
History At Dinosaur National Monument
The history of the cabin and its owner is very interesting. We learned some about Josie at the cabin, as well as at a museum in Vernal. Josie married five times, and then struck it out on her own until she died at age 90. She seemed to be a remarkable character, and through the generosity of those in the surrounding community, the cabin has been preserved.
We thought this area was perfect for a picnic lunch. There are picnic tables and bathrooms available in this area as well.
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Where To Stay For Dinosaur National Monument
ps I also posted this in the CO forum.
Vernal Utah is the usual choice for Dinosaur.NM.
There are several entrances to the park. The main entrance is closest to Vernal. It is also the largest town with the most services. It is also where you’ll find the State Field House Museum, which is an important addition to the dinosaur wall. It is at the museum that you find what has been extracted from the monument.
Another great spot for the monument is Harpers Corner. The entrance to that is in Dinosaur Colorado, but you wouldn’t really want to stay there.
On a short visit those are the two places I would recommend.
Be sure to stop at the store in Maybell on your way to Steamboat.
Agree with Kbecjeans. The Harper’s Corner Road is great on the CO side of Dinosaur NM. There are some excellent overlooks along the road worth stopping at, but the highlight is the 2.5 mi. RT hike at the end of the road on the Harper’s Corner trail to a fabulous peninsula overlooking sweeping views of the rivers below in 3 directions. Probably the most worth doing short hike in the park if you have the time.
Vernal has tons of places to stay from your standard chain motels to mom and pop places.
How Much Time Should I Spend When Visiting Dinosaur National Monument
The amount of time you spend when visiting Dinosaur National Monument really depends on how much of the park you would like to see. If you are only planning on seeing the dinosaur quarry then you could be done in 2 hours.
Dinosaur National Monument is 210,000 acres! So you could easily spend a day or two exploring. We decided to go for about 5 hours. However, we only visited the Utah side. We went to the dinosaur quarry and hiked the most popular trails on the Utah side.
If you wanted to drive over to Colorado where another visitor center is located, you would want to plan an entire day. There is also camping available in the park, so breaking up your visit over a couple of days might be a good idea.
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Take A Whitewater Rafting Trip
The rivers located in Dinosaur National Monument, the Yampa, and the Green, are the chief tributaries of the Colorado River. Together, these rivers provide an exciting opportunity for rafters to sightsee and enjoy whitewater adventure.
Both rivers feature class III and IV rapids. However, the Green River includes classics like Triplet Falls, Hells Half Mile, and Disaster Falls. Dinosaur River Expeditions offers both single and multi-day trips.
Blue Mountain Inn & Suites
Blue Mountain Inn & Suites can be found in nearby Rangely, Colorado, about 20 miles from the monument. This fine hotel offers spacious, luxurious suites, all of which include cable TV, microwaves, refrigerators and wireless Internet. Other perks of this inn are its heated indoor pool and spa. The innkeepers serve a free continental breakfast each morning in the hotel lobby. Local eateries include Betty’s Cafe, Ace High Club and Los Petrillos Restaurant.
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And You Can Hike River
Do you like national parks but dislike crowds? Same. Big fan of dinosaurs? Us too! Allow us to tip you off about Dinosaur National Monument, a stunning adventureland at the border of both Utah and Colorado. It sits at a nexus point between perennial favorites like Yellowstone, Arches, Zion, and Rocky Mountain National Park. But perhaps due to the vastness of its desert locationor maybe because it hasnt earned official national park statusyoull have the place to yourself to explore its gorgeous landscapes and amazing history.
Dinosaur National Monument is unique in that, in addition to outdoor treks and big views, you can see one of the densest collections of dinosaur bones and animal fossils in the world. Plus it has petroglyphs, secluded camping, and rafting on a river surrounded by stripey desert mountains on both sides. Here are the best things to do on a very-worthwhile trip through the area.
So You Want To See Some Bones
Most of Dinosaur National Monument sits in Moffat County, Colorado, but you have to go to the Utah side to see the fossils. The nearest sizable town on the Utahn side is Vernal , while the nearest town to the Colorado side is Dinosaur, Colorado , which boasts diverting dinosaur-named streets but few motels or eateries.
Start your tour of at the Quarry Visitor Center, 19 miles from Vernal. From late May to mid-September, its open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. From mid-September to late May, its open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Here, you can ask rangers questions about the monument, buy an inexpensive guide to the Tour of the Tilted Rocks , visit the gift shop, and then take a shuttle or hike to the Quarry Exhibit Hall . Kids can also get their national monument stamps and take part in the Junior Ranger program.
The aptly named Fossil Discover Trail cuts through tilted rock layers, exposing a variety of rocks and three separate fossil areas, including one featuring a few large pieces of dinosaur bones just as paleontologist Douglass would have found them. Further on, youll see petroglyphs of the Fremont peopleone of several places to spot them in the monument. The trail offers an amazing opportunity to see real dinosaur and other prehistoric fossils and petroglyphs in and on rock walls as you hike through a series of steep ridges, but be prepared for desert hiking and slippery-when-wet conditions.
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How To Explore Dinosaur National Monument On Foot
Just like the monument was originally established to preserve the quarry but later extended to include more than 210,000 additional acres, youll come for the dinosaur fossils and stay for the rivers, canyons, and desert mountains. Additional hiking trails in the area include the Sound of Silence Trail and River Trail, a four-mile trek that follows Green River and provides dramatic views of one of Dinosaurs most prominent features, Split Mountain. In the morning and at dusk, hikers often spot wildlife along the river. According to the National Park Service website, Box Canyon and Hog Canyon, both on the Utah side, are excellent hikes for young kids. These are Dinosaur National Monuments lower elevation trails.
On the Colorado side, the heart of the Monuments canyon country, Ruple Point Trail, a 9.5-mile loop, goes through rolling, sagebrush-speckled terrain, and ends with a jaw-dropping view of Split Mountain Canyon and Green River below. At the end of Harpers Corner Road is Harpers Corner Trail, a three-mile trail that also culminates with a view of Green River and the surrounding canyons. Other Colorado-side trails include Mitten Park Trail in the remarkable NPS website for more information.
Dinosaur National Monument Logistics
Dinosaur National Monument straddles the border of Utah and Colorado, allocating about two-thirds of its 330 square miles to Colorado and the other one-third to Utah . Though Dinosaur National Monument incorporates part of the Great Basin high desert, it also includes mountains characteristic of the Rockies. It ranges in elevation from about 4,700 feet along the Green River to 9,005 feet atop Zenobia Peak.
Location: Dinosaur National Monument is located in northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado.
Get Here: Dinosaur is about 191 miles or just over three hours from Salt Lake City on eastbound U.S. Highway 40/191.
When to visit: Dinosaur National Monument is open 24 hours a day year-round. Some areas may be closed in winter due to snow.
Quarry Visitor Center Hours:
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. mid-May through mid-September
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year .
Size and History: In 1909, 20 miles east of Vernal, paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered a 200-foot-long sandbar layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. From 80 acres in 1915 to the present size of 210,844 acres, Dinosaur National Monument originally protected the large concentration of fossils in the quarry area, but was expanded to protect the unique geology, sublime canyons and confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers.
GPS coordinates of park entrances:
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Where Is The Dinosaur National Monument Located
Dinosaur National Monument is close to Vernal, and Dinosaur, Colorado. Vernal, Utah is a great location to make your home base as there are many businesses, restaurants, and accommodations. Dinosaur National Monument is only 20 minutes away .
The dinosaur quarry is on the Vernal Utah side.
Dinosaur, Colorado is where the entrance to Dinosaur National Monument is on the Colorado side. Although, you will still have to plan to drive another 30 miles to reach the dinosaur quarry which is located on the Utah side.
Picnic At Josies Cabin
Our favorite part of visiting Dinosaur National Monument, besides the dinosaurs, was Josies Cabin. This abandoned cabin is a kids dream. Seriously, my kids did not want to leave. They loved exploring the cabin, pretending it was their house, and imagining different furnishings in each room. They could have played all day in it.
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