Visiting Dinosaur National Monument
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Visiting Dinosaur National Monument – An Amazing Guide

Do you love or do 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!

Let’s explore everything you can do when visiting Dinosaur National Monument! 

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Where is the Dinosaur National Monument Located?Things to do in Vernal

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).  

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.

How Do I Get to Dinosaur National Monument?Directions to Dinosaur National Monument

Coming from Vernal, you will take U.S. Highway 40 in Jensen, then take Highway 149 north to the monument.

Directions to Dinosaur National 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?Springhills Suites in Vernal Utah

Hotel

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.  

Camping

Camping in Utah

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?Tickets for Dinosaur National Monument

Admission to Dinosaur National Monument is $20 per car (or is included in the America the Beautiful Pass).

If you are planning on visiting Dinosaur National Monument you can check out the National Park website for monument entrance fees. 

How Much Time Should I Spend When Visiting Dinosaur National Monument?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.

What to Expect While Visiting Dinosaur National MonumentVisiting 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.

Visiting Dinosaur National Park Visitor CentersVisiting Dinosaur National Monument

There are two visitor centers at Dinosaur National Monument.  One is on the Utah side and the other is on the Colorado side.

Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center

Visiting Dinosaur National Monument Quarry

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.

Hours:

9:00 am – 5:00 pm (times may vary)

Canyon Visitor Center

visit Dinosaur National Monument

The Canyon Visitor Center is located near the mountains and rivers and has more outdoor adventures that are available in the park.  Dinosaur fossils are not found near this visitor center.

Hours:

9:00 am- 5:00 pm (times may vary)

Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall

Dinosaur Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument

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.

Excavation Wall

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.

Shuttle Bus

Shuttle Bus to Dinosaur National Monument

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 when visiting the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center.

Dinosaur National Monument HikingDinosaur 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. 

Hikes at Dinosaur National Monument

Fossil Discovery Trail -Utah1.2 miles
Sound of Silence Trail – Utah3 miles
Desert Voices Trail -Utah1.5 miles
River Trail -Utah2 miles
Box Canyon Trail – Utah.5 miles
Hog Canyon Trail – Utah1.5 miles
Plug Hat Trail.2 miles
Ruple Point Trail – Colorado4.2 miles
Harper’s Corner Trail – Colorado1.5 miles

Hike to the Petroglyphs

Dinosaur National Monument hiking

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 the 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 the 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 the 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

Dinosaur National Monument Hiking trail map

Tour of the Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive

Dinosaur National Monument Hiking

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 

Josies Cabin at Dinosaur National Monument

Our favorite part of visiting Dinosaur National Monument, besides the dinosaurs, was Josie’s Cabin.  This abandoned cabin is a kid’s 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.  

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. 

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.

Visiting Dinosaur National Monument Gift ShopVisiting 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 MonumentVisiting 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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If you have any questions join my Facebook Travel Community.  You can ask any questions you have about upcoming trips and everyone is happy to help you plan your trip.  I also try to give exclusive travel deals that companies send me.  It is a great group to join!

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75 Comments

  1. What a super cool National Park to explore. I know I would love to see the fossils in the quarry hall and the petroglyphs look super amazing. I love that these ‘pictures’ have survived all these years for us to explore and learn from.

  2. My boys would love to visit there! We have a similar dinosaur park in Alberta that we love to explore but it would be nice to take a trip there and tie this in with a visit to other areas of Utah.

  3. Hiking and dinosaurs what a kids dream. I love all the trails to be discovered. Go Josie, total rebel of her time.

  4. This place is so cool! Would love to hike these trails and check out the petroglyphs especially. And love that there’s an option to take a scenic drive to other places of interest.

  5. This would be so fun! It’s so unique to have the fossils part of the walls still, instead of completely excavated! I’d love to hike here

  6. What an awesome place! I had no idea about this this park! I’ll definitely have to save this for future reference. That wall with the bones still in looks really neat; my family would love to see this.

  7. This looks sooooo fun!! My boys were obsessed with dinosaurs when they were little. I bet they’d still love this place today, even though they’re 18 and 22! Thanks for the detailed descriptions, hike recommendations, and thorough post!

  8. Looks like such an amazing place, and it’s definitely on our list of places to visit. In fact, we are going to Utah for Thanksgiving, and I might try to fit it into the itinerary! I’ve always heard great things about Dinosaur NM, and now I see why! Thanks for the great info! 🙂

  9. This is a great family trip. We love visiting museums, the outdoors and exploring so this would be the perfect trip for our family.

  10. We were here when the boys were little. I went back and found the photos in a scrapbook. It was so much fun for them, especially for my oldest. He adored dinosaurs for so long.

  11. What a fun trip for the whole family! I travel Utah frequently but have not been here! Thank you for sharing your trip… it’s on my list for our next trip!

  12. I SO WANT TO GO HERE! It is literally on my to-do list and every time I read about it I wonder why I haven’t gone yet! Next summer I have got to knock this off my to-do list!

  13. That looks so fun! I would love to take my teens there next summer! We are planning an out west trip and I definitely want to look more into this!

  14. My 4 year old is obsessed with dinosaurs and would love this! I didn’t know they were so prominent in Colorado.

  15. Looks like such a cool place in a lovely setting! Thanks for all the great details. I can’t wait to take my kiddos here someday!

  16. I have a very irrational fear of dinosaurs, but my son would love this and I’m always looking for road trip spots! Thanks for posting and I’ll be bookmarking it!

  17. This definitely looks like the type of place my kids (and Hubby and I) would love! Not only are dinosaurs interesting to learn about, but wow, the landscape is gorgeous!

  18. Pingback: Plan a Spring Break in Utah – Planning Away

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