Dinosaur National Monument: Turtle Rock And Elephant Toes Butte

Turtle Rock On Cub Creek Road In Dinosaur National Monument

While we all had been looking forward to everything dinosaur at Dinosaur National Monument, we all were pleasantly surprised to find out that the national monument also had a 24 mile scenic drive (12 miles each way) with all sorts of scenic stops, archaeological sites and petroglyphs, and historic sites. The Tour Of The Tilted Rocks scenic drive follows Cub Creek Road as it winds through the Cub Creek Valley alongside Split Mountain and the Green River, ultimately ending at the Josie Bassett Morris Homestead site.

Along the drive, there are several opportunities to pull over and go exploring and each important site is marked with a numbered sign that corresponds with information in the $1.00 guide I picked up at the Quarry Visitor Center. Of the 14 documented things to see along the Tour Of The Tilted Rocks scenic drive, two are rock formations.

Elephant Toes Butte

Across the creek from Cub Creek Road is Elephant Toes Butte, eroded from Nugget Sandstone. Though the sandstone dates back to the time of the dinosaurs, it records a very different environment than the dinosaur quarry. The parallel layers in Elephant Toes Butte show that it originated as a tall sand dune in a desert 200 million years ago. The dunes were later compressed into sandstone, which had then eroded over time.

Elephant Toes Butte In Vernal, Utah
Elephant Toes Butte along Cub Creek Road in Dinosaur National Monument.

Turtle Rock

From long-time settlers to brief passers-by, people like to name the things they see and this rock is most commonly known as Turtle Rock. The many holes on this formation result from the more rapid weathering of weaker parts of the rock. This is Entrada Sandstone, the same type of rock that forms the arches in Arches National Park.

Natalie and Carter Bourn Standing In Front Of Turtle Rock
Carter and Natalie Bourn standing in front of Turtle Rock along Cub Creek Road in Dinosaur National Monument.

Know Before You Go

  • Turtle Rock And Elephant Toes Butte are rock formations on the Tour Of The Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive, a 12 mile one-way drive along Cub Creek Road in Dinosaur National Monument.
  • The drive begins at the Quarry Visitor Center located off Highway 149 at 11625 E 1500 Street, Jensen, Utah 84035 in Uintah County.
  • The last two miles of the route are unpaved but well maintained. The last four miles are unplowed in the winter and may not be passable by car December to March.
  • Some other stops along the self-guided Tour Of The Tilted Rocks include the Swelter Shelter petroglyphs, Split Mountain viewpoint, the Green River, the Fremont petroglyphs, the Josie Bassett Morris Homestead, and Box Canyon Trail.
  • At the Quarry Visitor Center, pick up the Tour of The Tilted Rocks print guide ($1.00) with information about wildlife, unique rock formations, petroglyphs, and historic sites along the road.
  • The guide will tell you to allow at least one hour for the Tour Of The Tilted Rocks scenic drive, but it took us almost three because we got out at almost every stop to look around.
  • The Visitor Center 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. Dinosaur National Monument is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
  • On the drive down Cub Creek Road and back, there will be many opportunities to get out and take short walks to get a closer look at the points of interest. Also, wildlife may occasionally be seen, including mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and many bird species.
  • Fuel, food, and other services are not available along this route. The nearest services are in Jensen, Utah, seven miles south of the Quarry Visitor Center.

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