Visiting Dinosaur National Monument: Utah

by | Feb 21, 2019 | National Parks

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When I was a kid, growing up in Wyoming, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I read Ranger Rick’s Dinosaur Book from cover to cover dozens of times. From Tyrannosaurus Rex to Triceratops, dinosaurs engulfed my pre-teen life. As I grew older, my interests evolved, but dinosaurs never left my purview. I knew visiting Dinosaur National Monument, Utah was a must on this trip.

In 2008, while living in a Seattle apartment with a college friend from South Carolina, I wrote and recorded a song about dinosaurs, creatively called “DINOSAURS!” I eventually uploaded it to iTunes where I’ve sold upwards of 10 tracks. Several years later, I ended up animating a video for the song, which made its way to YouTube. It took me the better part of 30 hours to put together, which is insane. You can see my dinosaur obsession in full bloom here:

My parents thought I was on drugs when I created this.

Dinosaur National Monument: Seeing Real Dinosaurs (Bones, Anyway)

Many years ago, my family and I visited Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. I vaguely recall seeing the bones in the quarry wall sticking out like suspended fruit in a gross Jello mold. Naturally, since Tiff and I have decided to see the country in our converted camper van, Dinosaur was high on my list of places to visit again. This time as an adult. (Debatable.)

The sign to Dinosaur National Monument at the Quarry Building, where you can see exposed dinosaur fossils in a rock wall

Declared a national monument in 1915, the main draw for the park is, unquestionably, the fossil wall in the Quarry Building. An exposed rock face features the fossilized remains of Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, and Diplodocus, among others.

We visited the Quarry in late February, which was awesome, because there was hardly anyone else there. We had free rein to explore the Quarry without interruption. Visiting in the off-season provides you with that opportunity, but it also means you’ll contend with the weather and shortened visiting hours. If you’re at all interested in seeing actual proof of dinosaurs (sorry, Carl Everett) then this is the place for you. It also has a ton of very educational displays and helpful rangers that make it a perfect place for children to learn about the best—and biggest—creatures to ever roam the planet.

Visiting Dinosaur National Monument: Dinosaur fossils protruding from the rock wall in the Quarry Building at Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument: Other Activities

Unfortunately, due to the time of year we visited, the weather wasn’t extremely cooperative and we missed out on exploring the diverse landscape at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. During the spring, summer, and fall, Dinosaur provides outdoor enthusiasts with ample opportunities to camp, hike, backpack, and river raft. The Green and Yampa Rivers both cross through the park, with rapids up to Class IV on the Green. Hopefully when the weather’s nicer, we’ll be able to check out some of the more outdoorsy activities.

Dinosaur National Monument: Getting There

Located on the border of northwest Colorado and eastern Utah, the best course of action is to set your sights to Jensen, Utah, and go from there. It’s a scenic drive from just about anywhere, and is fairly accessible from both Denver and Salt Lake City. Make sure to stop in Vernal, Utah, as well. As one might expect, there are plenty of roadside dinosaur statues, including one T-Rex that is decorated seasonally. It had a bow and arrow and hearts for Valentine’s Day when we passed through.

Dinosaur National Monument: Final Thoughts

Visiting the Quarry is a must, and if you’re people-averse, checking it out in the off-season is the way to go. However, if you’d rather do some backcountry exploring and possibly break a leg on a whitewater trip, make sure to visit in the summer so that you’re not dodging snowflakes. We really enjoyed ourselves, even though we didn’t spend a ton of time there.

When you’re as obsessed with dinosaurs as I am, it’s truly a destination to visit. And even if you’re not, it’s still pretty cool.

Dinosaur National Monument | How to get there | When to visit | Fossils | Dinosaur Bones | Other Activities | backpacksandroadmaps.com

We’re Tiffany and John, a couple of childfree, DIY travel enthusiasts from Montana and we just can’t get enough of life on the open road. If you’re anything like us, then you feel the same way! We love exploring new places together and finding unique things to do everywhere we go. Read more about our story here.

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