Located on the border between Utah and Colorado where the Green and Yampa rivers converge, Dinosaur National Monument stretches across more than 200,000 acres in Uintah County, Utah and Moffat County, Colorado. Visitors from around the world visit the monument to look into the past to a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
More than 5,000 dinosaur fossils have been discovered at Carnegie Quarry and in this area, with 1,500 still embedded in the world-famous Wall Of Bones in the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
The original fossil discovery in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working and collecting for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, lead to the protection of 80 acres and the establishment of Dinosaur National Monument in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1938, the monument was expanded to its current size to include the river canyons of the Green and Yampa and protect the site’s expansive natural history.
With 800 paleontological sites, Dinosaur National Monument is famous for it’s dinosaur fossils. But there are many other things to see as well, like petroglyphs and pictographs, incredible rock formations, majesting views, beautiful rivers, historic sites, and miles of hiking trails. In fact, the quarry area is actually just a small part of the monument.
Also in Dinosaur National Monument, you’ll find opportunities for backcountry wilderness hiking, challenging whitewater rafting on the Green River and Yampa River, and remote camping and stargazing.
Things To Do In Dinosaur National Monument
All of the dinosaur-related things to do and place to see at Dinosaur National Monument are accessed from the Quarry Visitor Center and all of the other easily accessible things to do in the Utah side of the park, are located on the Tour Of The Tilted Rocks On Cub Creek Road, a 24 mile round trip scenic drive.
There are other trails of varying lengths and difficulties throughout the monument that go to more dinosaur fossils, petroglyphs, gorgeous scenic vistas, and historic sites, but they are all in full sun and in the summer, it is absolutely sweltering.
Here are our favorite things to do at Dinosaur National Monument that are perfect for families:
01. Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center
Located just north of Jensen, Utah, the Quarry Visitor Center is the gateway to the Quarry Exhibit Hall and the world famous wall of dinosaur bones. Inside the Visitor Center, there is a gift shop, exhibits on the variety of resources and places to explore in the monument, and a twelve-minute park film. This is also where you catch the free shuttle to the Wall Of Bones.
02. Quarry Exhibit Hall
The Quarry Exhibit Hall at the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument showcases a Jurassic dinosaur fossil bed with 1500 dinosaur bones and fossils.
Thankfully, the modern, two-story, air conditioned Quarry Exhibit Hall, built right on top of the Wall Of Bones, makes it easy for families and visitors of all ages to comfortably view the 1,500 dinosaur bones from species like the Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus, Stegosaurus, and many more.
03. Swelter Shelter Petroglyphs
Swelter Shelter, named by the researchers who excavated the site in the blazing, sweltering heat of summer, is a sheltered area at the base of a rocky cliff with views of petroglyphs and pictographs by the Fremont people.
Located just 0.9 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center along the Tour Of The Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive On Cub Creek Road, Swelter Shelter is one of Dinosaur National Monument’s oldest known sites of human occupation. It is accessed on an easy, dirt trail, stretching only 200 feet from the road.
04. Split Mountain And Green River
Split Mountain is named for the fact that the Green River has split it in half. At the scenic overlook, you can see panoramic views of the Cub Creek Valley with Split Mountain on the left and Blue Mountain on the right. In this area you’ll encounter the Split Mountain Campground, Picnic Area, and Boat Ramp, the stunning striped hills of the Morrison Formation, and the beautiful Placer Point Vista on Green River.
05. Turtle Rock And Elephant Toes Butte
The many holes on Turtle Rock result from the rapid weathering of weak rock called Entrada Sandstone, the same type of rock that forms the arches in Arches National Park. Across the creek from Cub Creek Road is Elephant Toes Butte, eroded from Nugget Sandstone. The parallel layers in Elephant Toes Butte show that it originated as a tall sand dune in a desert 200 million years ago.
06. Fremont Petroglyphs
Located 10.7 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center in the Cub Creek area of Dinosaur National Monument, are petroglyph panels featuring a variety of typical Fremont designs, including several large lizard figures, not common at other sites.
Fremont designs include both petroglyphs (scratched/carved) and pictographs (painted). They are only about 50 feet from the road, making the historic site easy to visit.
07. Josie Bassett Morris Homestead
Josie Morris was a single, independent, self-sufficient rancher and evidence of 50 year life along Cub Creek can still be seen. Located at the end of Cub Creek Road, Josie’s homestead cabin is open to the public — you can go inside, walk through the rooms, and imagine what it was like living in the small cabin without electricity or running water.
08. Box Canyon Trail
The Box Canyon Trail is an easy, mostly flat, 0.5 mile round trip, out and back hiking trail that winds underneath a canopy of trees and leads into a box canyon. On the Box Canyon Trail walk/hike, lasting about 20 minutes, you’ll pass by walls of the Split Mountain Weber Sandstone, under a canopy of trees, and over a sandy canyon floor.
Bonus Things To Do In Vernal, Utah
While the following two places to visit aren’t a part of Dinosaur National Monument, they are in Vernal, Utah’s Dinosaurland and are awesome places to visit for families if you have time!
09. Utah Field Natural History State Park Museum
Located in the heart of the Uinta Basin and Dinosaurland, the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal is a 22,000 square foot museum that preserves and reveals the local prehistoric world. At this awesome museum, you get to discover the prehistoric world and explore the world of paleontology by interacting with hands-on exhibits, digging for fossils, touching real dinosaur bones, walking an interactive timeline, seeing dinosaur skeletons and ancient fossils, and experiencing the Dinosaur Garden.
10. Moonshine Arch Trail
Located just 15 minutes north of Vernal, Utah, Moonshine Arch is a stunning 85 foot long natural sandstone arch with a 40 foot tall window that you can hike to and climb around on. The Moonshine Arch Trail is a sandy, 1.5 mile, out and back trail totaling 3.0 miles round trip. The trail follows an OHV trail and it is an easy to moderate uphill hike all the way to the massive sandstone arch.
Know Before You Go
- Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah is open daily, 24 hours per day. There are no dinosaur fossils visible on the Colorado side of the monument. If you want to see Dinosaur Fossils, you must visit the Utah side of the monument near Jensen, Utah.
- Park admission fees are $20.00/personal vehcile, $15.00/motorcycle, and $10.00/person for bicyclists and walk-ins. An Annual Pass is $40.00. Free admission days are offered on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the First day of National Park Week, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- The Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center is located at 11625 East 1500 South, Jensen, Utah 84035 in Uintah County. It is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm during peak season from late May to mid-September and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm during the off season from mid-September to late May. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- The Quarry Exhibit Hall located over the world-famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry is 0.25 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center. It is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm during peak season from late May to mid-September and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm during the off season from mid-September to late May. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- The Canyon Visitor Center is located at 4545 US Highway 40, Dinosaur, Colorado 81610 in Moffat County. It is open daily from late spring through early fall from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is closed throughout the winter.
- The Tour of Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive is a 10 mile one-way scenic drive along Cub Creek Road. The drive begins at the Quarry Visitor Center and ends at the Josie Morris Homestead with several interesting stops along the way. Be sure to pick up the Tour of Tilted Rocks print guide ($2.00) at the Quarry Visitor Center. It has information about wildlife, unique rock formations, petroglyphs, and historic sites along the road.
- The Josie Basset Morris Ranch Complex and the Quarry Visitor Center are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Dinosaur National Monument boasts one of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. The sky is so dark, you can see 4,500 stars.