Are you or your children interested in dinosaurs or fossils, then you can’t miss making a trip to Dinosaur National Monument. If you love learning about history and ancient cultures, you’ll love exploring the 210,000 acres in this part of Colorado and Utah. Just imagine the millions of years of history etched into the rocks and cliff faces.
Let’s look at all that Dinosaur National Monument offers so you can get started planning your next trip!
Explore Prehistoric Dinosaur National Monument
You could spend a day or a week at Dinosaur National Monument exploring all it has to offer. Depending on how much time you have, you can discover the dinosaur fossils at the Quarry Exhibit Hall and the petroglyphs at McKee Springs.
If you want to get away from the crowds, ride down to Harpers Corner for beautiful views of the canyons or Rainbow Park and Island Park for a journey into the wild west. There’s so much to explore there!
Best Things to Do at Dinosaur National Monument
Whether it’s camping in the backcountry, rafting down the Yampa River, exploring the Bull Canyon Trail, or standing in awe of the 149 million-year-old fossils, there’s something for everyone at Dinosaur National Monument.
Travelers of all ages will enjoy the adventures offered here. Let’s look at a few of the best things to do at the Dinosaur National Monument.
Pro Tip: Learn more about Is a National Monument Considered a National Park? before you head to Dinosaur National Monument.
See Dinosaur Fossils
Quarry Exhibit Hall showcases 1,500 dinosaur bones, including the easily recognizable stegosaurus. You can even touch some of these million-year-old fossils. Other exhibits retell the story of the late Jurassic era.
You’ll first want to stop by the Visitor Center, which is seven miles north of Jensen, Utah, off Highway 149. Make sure to view the 12-minute film while inside the Visitor Center before heading over to view the dinosaur fossils. During peak season in the summer, shuttle buses transport visitors to the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
Go River Rafting
Two ways to experience rafting through the canyons of Dinosaur National Monument are by taking a guided tour or exploring the rapids yourself. However, the Green and Yampa Rivers aren’t for the inexperienced rafters.
They have multiple challenging Class III and Class IV rapids that often capsize boats. Don’t attempt to traverse them yourself unless you’re confident in your skills, have the right equipment, and apply for a permit.
There are the rapids of Warm Springs and Hell’s Half Mile and quiet beaches at Rippling Brook and Island Park.
Check Out The Petroglyphs
The Fremont people who once lived in the area of the Dinosaur National Monument left traces of their culture etched in the stone. You’ll see artwork figures of humans and animals chipped or carved into the rocks.
No one knows what they mean. It’s a beautiful mystery!
View the petroglyphs, but don’t touch them as the designs are very fragile. They’re easy to access, and you can view them up close, so make sure not to miss them on your trip to Dinosaur National Monument.
Take a Hike in the Desert
When you go hiking, always make sure to bring plenty of water, a sun hat, and lots of sunscreen. Many of the Dinosaur National Monument trails are not open to pets, so make sure to leave them at home.
There are popular trails that include two paved tour roads and remote hiking trails through the desert. These remote locations include the Bull Canyon Trail, the Island Park Trail, the Gates of Lodore Trail, and the Jones Hole Trail.
Off-trail hiking is permitted at Dinosaur National Monument, but please follow the Leave No Trace guidelines. You can access the remaining trails from the Quarry and Cub Creek area on the Utah side of the monument, and Harpers Corner Road on the Colorado side of the monument.
Is Dinosaur National Monument Open Year-Round?
The Utah side of the Dinosaur National Monument is open year-round except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Summer hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from May 28 to September 19.
Winter hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from December 1 to February 28. Standard hours during the rest of the year are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Colorado side of the Dinosaur National Monument is open less frequently. It’s not open for winter from October 10 to April 30. During the spring season, from May 1 to May 27, it’s open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm only on Saturday and Sunday. Then on May 28, the standard hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily begin until winter closure on October 10.
What Does It Cost to Visit Dinosaur National Monument?
Visitors are required to purchase a recreational use pass. You can buy your digital pass online at Recreation.gov before your arrival.
A private vehicle entrance pass is $25, a motorcycle entrance pass is $20, and the per person fee for someone without a car is $15. You can also use any Interagency lifetime and annual passes like the America the Beautiful pass or the Lifetime Senior Pass.
Pro Tip: Colorado has more than just the Dinosaur National Monument. Check out these 7 Amazing Reasons to Visit Colorado National Monument.
Camping at Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument permits backcountry camping. Permits are free but required for campers. The landscape is rugged and remote, so camping is only encouraged for experienced backpackers. There are two designated backcountry camping sites: Ely Creek (reservations are required) and Jones Hole Creek. Also, dispersed camping throughout the area is allowed.
It’s especially important to pack lots of water as it’s scarce in the desert terrain. Make sure to properly store food as well. And, watch out for black bears are in the area.
There are also six campgrounds – three in Utah and three in Colorado – for additional camping locations. There are no hook-ups, and amenities are seasonal for most locations. Prices vary from campground to campground, so check out each site for more details.
Is Dinosaur National Monument Worth The Trip?
Dinosaur National Monument is worth the trip whether you’re into dinosaur fossils or not. It’s a beautiful area at the border of Utah and Colorado that offers a rugged landscape and unique scenic experience.
Viewing the petroglyphs, seeing real dinosaur bones, exploring the hiking trails, and rafting down the rivers create an experience any outdoor enthusiast will enjoy.
When will you take your trip to Dinosaur National Monument? Drop a comment below!
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