Do you love or your little ones love dinosaurs? Visiting Dinosaur National Monument is a perfect idea! The dinosaur quarry located on the Utah side is a site that your whole family will love.
Dinosaur National Monument is located in both Utah and Colorado. It borders the state line.
We just recently went and would love to help you plan your trip!
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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 (19 miles).
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.
How Do I Get to Dinosaur National Monument?
Coming from Vernal, you will take U.S. Highway 40 in Jensen, then take Highway 149 north to the monument.
The entrance in Colorado is off of HWY 40 just two miles from Dinosaur, Colorado.
Where Should I Stay When Visiting Dinosaur National Monument?
If you are wanting to stay in a hotel, Vernal, Utah is the best place. There are some great choices. We stayed at Spring Hills Suites and loved it.
If camping is more of the type of adventure you would like, there are six campgrounds accessible by roads within Dinosaur National Monument. On the park’s east side, Gates of Lodore Campground is near CO-318 on the northern border of the monument. Deerlodge Park Campground can be accessed from Dinosaur Park Road east of Elk Springs.
How Much Does it Cost to Go to Dinosaur National Monument?
Admission to Dinosaur National Monument is $20 per car (or is included in the America the Beautiful Pass).
Timed Tickets Required
Timed tickets for the Dinosaur Quarry are available via recreation.gov. Visitors are encouraged to make their reservations before they arrive at the monument.
Reservation fees for timed tickets are $1 per person over the age of 2. Reservations are not required for children 2 and younger. Ticket fees for the Dinosaur Quarry do not include monument entrance fees.
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 than 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.
What to Expect While Visiting Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaurs once roamed at Dinosaur National Monument. Their remains are still visible embedded in the rocks located in the 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.
Visiting Dinosaur National Park Visitor Centers
There are two visitor centers at Dinosaur National Monument. One is on the Utah side and the other is on the Colorado side.
Quarry Visitor Center
The Quarry Visitor Center is located right as you enter the monument site on the Utah side. This is where you will want to be to gain access to the dinosaur exhibit hall.
9:00 am – 5:00 pm (times may vary)
Canyon Visitor Center
The Canyon Visitor Center is located near the mountains and rivers and more outdoor adventures that are available in the park. Dinosaur fossils are not found near this visitor center.
9:00 am- 5:00 pm (times may vary)
Quarry Exhibit Hall
The dinosaur quarry is one of the highlights of the entire park. The Quarry Exhibit Hall allows visitors to view the wall of approximately 1,500 dinosaur bones. You can see the remains of numerous different species of dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus along with several others. These dinosaurs lived in the late Jurassic period.
The hall is an enclosed area that if you ignored the quarry wall, would look like a long two-story building. But what makes the hall so unique is that instead of fossils being displayed as you would expect in a museum, the main source of fossils is the quarry wall. The building was built along where digging has occurred, and the fossils are still in the earth. You can reach out and touch some of these fossils.
There have been 13 dinosaurs that have been completely excavated in this area.
The only way to get to the Quarry Exhibit Hall is to take a shuttle bus or caravan from the Quarry Visitor Center. You will be able to access the shuttle bus at the time of your timed ticket reservation.
Dinosaur National Monument Hiking
As you prepare for Dinosaur National Monument hiking there are two areas to consider. On the Utah side there are six trails and on the Colorado side there are three additional trails. There are also remote or unmaintained trails that will not be included in our list.
Fossil Discovery Trail -Utah 1.2 miles Sound of Silence Trail - Utah 3 miles Desert Voices Trail -Utah 1.5 miles River Trail -Utah 2 miles Box Canyon Trail - Utah .5 miles Hog Canyon Trail - Utah 1.5 miles Plug Hat Trail .2 miles Ruple Point Trail - Colorado 4.2 miles Harper's Corner Trail - Colorado 1.5 miles
Hike to the Petroglyphs
Our first hike was to see the petroglyphs.
- Swelter Shelter
Location: A half mile from the Quarry Visitor Center along the Tour of the Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive
Difficulty: easy walk, about 200 feet from parking area
Description: a variety of both petroglyphs and pictographs designs. Swelter Shelter has no protection from the sun so wear sunscreen. It is a flat path that comes to a rock wall. You can get close and examine the ancient writings.
- Cub Creek
Location: 9 miles from Quarry Visitor Center along the Tour of the Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive
Difficulty: easy walk arriving at a panel with a variety of designs, about 50 feet from parking area; moderately strenuous hike on ¼ mile trail.
Description: petroglyph panels featuring a variety of typical Fremont designs, including several large lizard figures. Lizard figures are not common at other sites.
- Pool Creek
Location: about 37 miles from the Canyon Visitor Center along the Harpers Corner Scenic Drive
Difficulty: easy walk, few feet from parking area; driving on this road is hit or miss. If the weather is bad do not plan to go.
Description: dotted pattern designs above the creek
Tour of the Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive
We decided to take a 12-miles scenic drive down Cub Creek Road. Some of the stops along the way are the Swelter Shelter, Split Mountain viewpoint, Green River, Turtle Rock, and the Josie Bassets Morris Homestead.
This drive allows you to get out of your car and explore. There are many areas to park along the road. The last 2 miles of the road leading to Josie’s Homestead are unpaved. We have a mini-van and it was able to handle the off-road adventure.
Picnic at Josie’s Cabin
Our favorite part besides the dinosaurs was Josie’s 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.
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.
Dinosaur National Monument Hiking – Box Canyon Trail
Location: Box Canyon Trail near Josie’s Cabin
Difficulty: Easy walk through woods.
Description: Flat path through a forest; great views. It was shaded and relatively easy.
Gift Shop at Dinosaur National Monument
After we explored the monument we headed back to Quarry Visitor Center. We were able to check out the gift shop and buy a few souvenirs. Prices were really reasonable and we were able to get a few things to help us remember our trip to Dinosaur National Monument.
Visiting Dinosaur National Monument
Are you ready to visit Dinosaur National Monument? Hopefully, this helps you prepare and plan so that you can have a great time exploring the area. There is also plenty of things to do in Vernal, Utah which is located nearby. This area is also a great place to plan a Utah family reunion.
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