One of the most fascinating natural areas in the country is located right of the southeast regions of the Uinta Mountains, spreading over 210 thousand acres across Utah and Colorado: Dinosaur National Monument is more than a park area, a place where United States’ primordial history stands the test of time.
Priceless historical artifacts and traces from time immemorial, fossils, canyons, rivers, long-reaching hiking trails, mountain ranges as far as the eye can see, and many, many dinosaur curiosities make Dinosaur National Monument a trip no one will want to miss.
From dinosaurs and ancient peoples to modern-day fossil discoveries
Due to its many geographical advantages, such as its grand number of caves, alcoves, proximity to water - the Yampa e and Green rivers travel through the area - and, hundreds of millions of years ago, an abundance of green forests ensured that a great population of dinosaurs roamed, lived, and die near the mountains, where much later first nations humans and indigenous American people would cross, settle and find shelter on.
The lands of the Dinosaur National Monument still bear the marks of billions of years of Earth’s history. Dinosaur fossils, stunning prehistoric petroglyphs, and a remarkable number of archeological remains, peppered in the mountains and grounds make it a veritable natural museum under the open sky.
The area was proclaimed a National Monument in 1915, 14 years after over 300 tons of dinosaur bones were found in the rocks in what would become the Carnegie Quarry, one of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century, and was expanded 200,000 acres more in 1938.
Adventures and activities at dinosaur national monument
For adventurers looking to get the most out of the stunning scenery in the expanse of Dinosaur National Monument’s canyons, there are no lack of options on what to do or where to go, something to please families and outdoor sports lovers alike, from guided tours to rafting rides to sunset picnics.
Stargazing, picnicking, cycling and wildlife viewing (from safe distances, of course!) are just a few of the activities that the Dinosaur National Monument offers. Check the guided tours available to know all sorts of curiosities and historical tours of the location.
At Dinosaur National Monument, there is simply no shortage of amazing things to see. The mountains and canyons offer the most breathtaking views, and the many hiking trails available on land, from beginner-level roadside trails to more hardcore, remote paths, are sure to be a unique experience for all.
Hiking trails are spread out across the whole Monument, and hikers can choose among 14 different trails in either Utah or Colorado, or even explore the Monument off-trail, for those who have the necessary experience and preparation.
As the entire Dinosaur National Monument is located in the desert and the trails can get long and quite remote, it is always crucial to have plenty of water and sunblock on hand, alongside the appropriate hiking gear. Hikers should also be careful and avoid approaching wild animals or unknown plants.
River rafting is one of the most sought-after activities at Dinosaur, as a perfect way to enjoy the abundance of amazing canyons at the park. There are two ways to river raft at Dinosaur: guided or solo trips.
Visitors who purchase commercially guided trips, from one of the many expeditions authorized by the park will get experienced crew to guide adventurers in exploring the rivers and the secrets of the waters at Dinosaur National Monument. Trips can be one day or multi-day, depending on which parts of the river travelers will want to see.
If any travelers have the equipment and knowledge to brave the rivers on their own they can apply for authorization for solo trips, but beware: the Yampa and Green rivers are not easy to traverse, and safety is always a priority.
Spending a night by the stars and surrounded by the mountains at Dinosaur can be a perfect weekend getaway.
There are 6 campgrounds and over 120 camping sites, so options are plenty for whatever campers want to experience most, near the Green River, near Yampa River, near the Dinosaur Quarry, at the Gates of Lodore, or smack down in the middle of Echo Park.
Choose your destination and enjoy sleeping and eating where dinosaurs once frolicked!
an open-air history museum
Finally, the main attraction: dinosaurs! The most popular attractions at Dinosaur Monument are the archeological sites and evidence, the dinosaur fossils, prehistoric tools, and petroglyphs still remaining in the caves.
Petroglyphs and pictographs, aka cave paintings, either carved or painted onto the rock bed of mountains, dating back up to a thousand years ago are spread out across 5 different locations of the Monument’s range. It’s believed these designs were made by the Fremont people who inhabited the region, and they feature stunningly clear examples of human figures, animals, tools, and accessories.
The million years old groundbreaking (literally!) dinosaur fossils that are the origin of the Dinosaur National Monument, over 1,500 of them can be seen at the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall, where people can see and even touch the 149 million-year-old bones of the great lizards that once roamed the Earth.
Exhibits, geological stories, guided tours, and reproductions all make up the Quarry Exhibit Hall, where dinosaur history truly comes to life!
The Quarry Exhibit Halls and Visitor Centers have specific opening hours depending on the season and days, so make sure to check them out beforehand.