Dinosaur National Monument is not one, but two states! The mailing address for the park says that it is in Colorado, but all the neat dinosaur fossils that you can see are on the Utah side of the park. The physical address for the park is Jensen, Utah, so the park is in two states!
Dinosaur National Monument: Actual Fossils of Dinosaurs
No, this is not a prank or a joke! There are real, discovered dinosaur fossils and bones within the park. The fossils are entombed within a riverbed that once carried the fossils to their final resting places. Dirt and sediment covered the bones, and eventually, it became hardened rock over the years. It became a national monument in 1915 after Earl Douglass discovered dinosaur fossil beds in 1909. Earl was a paleontologist who was working for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Thousands of beds were found and excavated by Earl, and the contents got shipped to the museum for display.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the site as a national monument to protect the site and precious fossils within the area. Currently, there are over 800 paleontological sites which have fossils of dinosaurs that have been identified as the Allosaurus, Abydosaurus, and the Deinonychus to name a few. The park is also known for not only its fossils but its ancient petroglyphs that have been carved or painted onto the rock walls.
Visitor Centers in the Park
The best way to start your experience here is to stop by one of the two visitor centers located in the park. The Quarry visitor center can be found 7 miles north of Jensen, Utah, just off the highway. There are amazing dinosaur exhibits here that all ages will enjoy! Watch the 12-minute park film and visit the fabulous Quarry Exhibit Hall with the world famous wall of dinosaur bones to see. The Canyon visitor center is near Dinosaur, Colorado (yes, that is the name of the town!) The center is the entryway to the beautiful mountains and canyons located in the Colorado area. This area does not have dinosaur exhibits but is geared more towards your outdoor experience that you can enjoy here.
Cub Creek Area
Travel to the Utah side of the Dinosaur National Monument to the popular Cub Creek area. Here you can find some great hiking trails, petroglyphs, campgrounds, picnic areas, and historic sites. The road through the area starts from Quarry visitor center until the historic Josie Morris’s cabin. You can see giant lizard petroglyphs in the Cub Creek area, and you can find none anywhere else. Josie Morris settled in the area in 1914 and lived there alone for almost 50 years. The cabin she built still stands, and she raised crops, had livestock and thrived on her homestead. Upon her death in 1964, her home became an important historical aspect that was and is protected by the Dinosaur National Monument.
Visitors should try the River Trail which hikes along the scenic Green River with perfect views of Split Mountain. Hog Canyon Trail and Box Canyon trail are nice shaded walks that start from Josie Morris’s cabin. Enjoy a nice picnic at one of the tables in Split Mountain campground or along the historic cabin at the end of the road.
Harpers Corner Area
The Colorado side of the Dinosaur National Monument has Harpers Corner area. The drive is a 32-mile scenic route that travels into the heart of the monument and canyon areas. There are several picnic areas available along the way for lunch with fascinating views or try one of the hiking trails that lead off of the road. The Plug Hat Trail shows guests a pinyon-juniper forest and great views, and the Harpers Corner Trail hikes up on a ridge above the Green River. The Ruple Point Trail has beautiful scenic sights of the canyon below and the Green River.
Echo Park is where two rivers meet, the Green River and the Yampa River. Here the famous Steamboat Rock juts up and out of the water, looking like the same shape as the front of a ship as the river winds around it. The rise and fall of the canyon walls matched with Steamboat Rock and the winding rivers make for some dramatic and beautiful scenery. Raft down the river on an excursion or try camping in the Echo Park campground that has 22 sites ready for tent camping in the charming area. Walk along a beach area that the rivers have created and see the views that dinosaurs once did millions of years ago.
Rainbow Park and Island Park
About 30 miles away from the Quarry visitor center lies the Rainbow Park and Island Park areas in Utah. The area is known for river rafting, petroglyph sightings, picnicking, camping, and a historic ranch. The petroglyphs are a short way away from the roadside pullout at McKee Springs. Ruple Ranch is the historic ranch that can be seen and was established in the late 1800s. The original house was burned down in 1960, but the corrals and loafing shed remain even until this day. Rainbow Park Campground has three sites with lovely big trees for shade. These are only for tent campers, and it is open year-round. Try the Island Park trail that departs near Ruple Ranch and heads through the backcountry areas until it reaches the Jones Hole Trail. It is approximately 8 miles one way and the trail can be hard to follow and not for beginners.
Over 200,000 Acres to Explore
The park has about 210,000 acres that have some great trails, camping sites with views of the river, and best of all, dinosaur fossils. The Colorado side of the park has the best hiking and outdoor activities with the lovely canyons and rivers to explore until your heart is content. Schedule a river rafting trip to see the canyon like never before.
The Utah side of the park has amazing dinosaur fossil exhibits as well as maps and area information on where to see petroglyphs and other fantastic points of interest. Visit the popular Quarry Exhibit Hall which contains a 150-foot stretch of the quarry with over 1500 fossilized bones from various dinosaurs in it. See what the creatures looked like based on their skeletal structure found cemented in the rock that is on display in the Hall. Explore Dinosaur National Monument and the amazing sights of both the outdoor scenery and the dinosaur fossils of the creatures that once roamed freely about the area.