Dinosaur National Monument is famous for being the home of nearly 1,500 dinosaur fossils. A lesser-known appeal about this fascinating place is the ample opportunity for adventure within its boundaries. Established in 1915 at the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry site near Jensen, Utah, the national monument has grown from its original 80 acres to more than 210,000 acres of dramatic desert landscape. Today multiple options for exploring its colorful canyons, mountains, and rivers, along with its rich history, make visiting Dinosaur National Monument a must.
What Makes It Great
It’s fitting that your adventures start where the monument began, the Dinosaur Quarry. The refurbished Quarry Exhibit Hall lets you see more than 1,000 exposed dinosaur bones in an enclosed layer of the Morrison sandstone formation. The fossils seen here are from the Jurassic period and include bones from Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Stegosaurus. And don't be shy: Visitors can even touch some of these ancient remnants. Once you finish at the quarry, follow the mellow 1.3-mile footpath of the Fossil Discovery Trail back to the visitor center. This winding route will lead you down through several layers of sandstone, some of which hold visible fossils.
After finishing up at the visitor center, hop in the car and check out the 10-mile auto-route called the Tour of Tilted Rocks. This drive begins right at the Quarry Visitor Center and heads east along Cub Creek Road, passing trailheads, campgrounds, and scenic pullouts before ending at the historic Josie Morris Homestead.
Along the way, be sure to check out the Sound of Silence Trail. This moderate three-mile loop is a quiet journey through the varied rock layers of the Colorado Plateau and offers a great view of Split Mountain.
Don’t miss the roadside petroglyph panels located less than a mile from the Morris Homestead. A rough trail, less than a quarter-mile in length, takes you along a dark sandstone wall where the ancient Fremont Culture have left behind signs, shapes, and images chipped from the varnish.
At the end of the Cub Creek Road is a the Morris Homestead, a simple cabin on the edge of a meadow. According to local reports, the story goes that at the age of 40, the recently divorced Josie Morris homesteaded this property in 1913. She built the cabin, fences, and outhouse buildings and lived here for nearly 50 years before her death in 1964. A quick look inside reveals dirt floors and no running water or electricity. Walking the easy Hog Canyon Trail above the water of Cub Creek and in the shade of mature cottonwood trees, it’s easy to envision what life must have been like for Morris and other early settlers in the area.
After spending your day discovering the monument, settle in for night at either the Green River or Split Mountain Campgrounds (about half way back to the visitor center on Cub Creek Road). Both are suitable for tents and RVs, have picnic tables, fire rings, water, and restrooms with flush toilets. After dinner or before breakfast the following day, be sure to walk the moderate two-mile River Trail, a course running along the river between the two camps. This trail offers excellent views above the Green River that are at their best near sunrise and sunset and are often only shared with mule deer and desert bighorn sheep.
What You’ll Remember
It’s hard to forget dinosaurs, and they are here in abundance. The sense of discovery along the trails in Dinosaur National Monument as you keep a close eye out for fossils around every corner makes this a magical place and a must-do for any dinosaur lover in the group. Come for the dinosaurs and discover its many other treasures.
Who’s Going To Love It
Not surprisingly, dinosaur-lovers will be in awe here. However, folks who like a taste science, adventure, history, and beautiful scenery will also find plenty of surprises—and reasons to return.
Directions, Permits, and Regulations
The Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall and Quarry Visitor Center, one-half mile from the Quarry, are open year round. From U.S. Highway 40 in Jensen, Utah, take Utah Highway 149 north to the monument. During the summer, shuttle buses run from the visitor center to the Quarry Exhibit Hall to see the dinosaur fossils. Between October and April, rangers lead visitors up to the Quarry by car caravans.
There are four paved roads in the park. All other roads in the park are dirt/clay, which are impassable when wet. Be prepared for remote driving conditions. Contact the park for more information at 435- 781-7700 to check on road conditions before you travel.