Visiting Dinosaur National Monument

If you love dinosaurs, the one place to visit in Utah should be Dinosaur National Monument. It’s an iconic landmark located on the border of northeast Utah and northwest Colorado.

When visiting Dinosaur National Monument you can explore its stunning landscapes, take part in educational programs, and observe paleontologists at work uncovering ancient fossils.

visiting dinosaur national monument

Dinosaur National Monument was established in 1915 to protect some of the most significant fossil discoveries ever made, including those of over 1,500 dinosaur remains. The fossils are found within sandstone layers from Jurassic-aged rocks that were laid down more than 150 million years ago.

There’s also plenty to do outside the monument itself with rafting trips along the Green River and hikes through scenic canyons nearby.

Whether you’re a budding paleontologist or simply looking for a unique vacation spot, Dinosaur National Monument has something for everyone!

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Visiting Dinosaur National Monument

Here’s some basic information about visiting this fun Utah National Monument to see remains of dinosaurs embedded in the rocks still today!

The monument covers an area of 210,000 acres and includes the Green and Yampa River canyons, as well as several dinosaur fossil sites.

Entrance Fee: All visitors must have an entrance pass. You can also use your US National Park pass at this monument.

Entrance passes do not cover other fees for camping, river access, etc.

Operating Hours: Hours for Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Centers and Exhibit Halls change seasonally so check the website for the most current information.

The Quarry Visitor Center in Utah is open year round except: New Years Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The Quarry Exhibit Hall is open when the Visitor Center is open.

The Canyon Visitor Center in Colorado is open daily during the summer from mid-May to late September.

Weather: You’ll want to be prepared for the expected weather at Dinosaur National Monument depending on the time of year you visit.

Temperatures range from 0 to 30 degrees F in the winter. Snow makes higher elevation roads impassible. Usually only light to moderate snow falls in the lower elevations.

Visiting in the summer means intense sunlight, low humidity, and high temperatures, many times over 100 degrees F! Summer monsoon thunderstorms can cause heavy downpours and localized flooding.

It’s recommended to wear loose-fitting, light colored clothing and sun hat. Be sure to use sunscreen to all exposed skin!

Stay hydrated by taking plenty of water to drink (hydration pack or refillable water bottles), and eat plenty of food or snacks!

If you’re not used to Utah’s dry air you’ll also want lip balm with sunscreen and hydrating lotion.

Travel Safety: The distances are long between services so always keep your vehicle gas tank filled before heading out for the day.

Many of the monument dirt roads are actually clay, and become impassable when wet, even for 4WD vehicles. We recommend you get the weather and road conditions from the Visitor Center before traveling the roads in the monument.

Wildlife: Many wild animals carry deadly diseases and may become aggressive without warning. It’s best to view wildlife from the safety of your car or from a distance.

The venomous animals that live in the monument are rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. They are rarely seen and will flee when approached. Please teach children to not chase or pick up animals.

A scorpion sting is usually mild like a bee sting. But anyone bitten by a rattlesnake or black widow spider needs to seek medical attention right away!

Black bears could be seen in the Harpers Corner area and along the banks of the Green and Yampa Rivers.

Pets: All pets at Dinosaur must be on a maximum 6-foot leash or physically retrained at all times in the Monument.

Leashed pets may be walked within 100 feet of developed areas like roads, parking lots, campgrounds, day-use areas, and river launches. Pets are allowed on a few trails in the Harpers Corner area – check the website for the most updated information.

Pets cannot go on the shuttle or in any buildings like the Visitor Centers or Quarry Exhibit Hall. In the summer if you’re traveling with a pet, tell a ranger and they’ll let you drive to the Quarry in your own vehicle.

Pets are not permitted on trails (other than those open for pets), in the backcountry, or on river trips.

Do not leave pets inside a closed vehicle for even short periods of time, especially in the summer. There is little to no shade at Dinosaur so plan hiking with your pet in the early morning or near sunset. Remember to carry plenty of water for you and your pet.

petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument
Petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument

Is Dinosaur National Monument Worth Visiting?

Yes, Dinosaur National Monument is a unique and fascinating place with lots of natural and cultural attractions. Anyone interested in dinosaurs, geology, or outdoor adventure should check it out!

Dinosaur National Monument is a destination that won’t disappoint you, whether you are a family looking for a fun and educational vacation, a science enthusiast exploring the natural world, or a nature lover looking for breathtaking scenery.

Which Side of Dinosaur National Monument is Best?

Dinosaur National Monument spans two states, Colorado and Utah, and has two main sections: Dinosaur Fossils and Canyons and Rivers.

The Utah side of the monument features the famous Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall, where visitors can see over 1,500 dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock.

The Quarry Visitor Center offers exhibits and a film about the area’s geology and dinosaur discoveries. In addition to the Quarry, the Utah side offers scenic drives, hiking trails, and opportunities for rafting and fishing on the Green River.

On the other hand, the Colorado side of the monument features stunning canyons, unique rock formations, and petroglyphs left by the Fremont people.

Visitors can hike the trails, including the Harpers Corner Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the Green River and surrounding canyons. The Colorado side also provides camping and opportunities for fishing and rafting on the Yampa River.

Both sides of the Dinosaur National Monument offer unique experiences and attractions; the choice ultimately depends on your interests. If you are interested in dinosaur fossils, the Utah side with the Dinosaur Quarry is a must-see, while the Colorado side offers scenic beauty and hiking opportunities. It is best to visit both sides to fully experience what the monument provides.

Can You Dig for Dinosaur Bones at Dinosaur National Monument?

No, Dinosaur National Monument is a protected site, so professional paleontologists do all fossil excavation.

In the Quarry Exhibit Hall, visitors can see dinosaur bones in their natural context and learn about the history of paleontology in the area.

The monument also offers ranger-led programs about the geology and paleontology of the area, including guided hikes and talks.

Dinosaur-themed educational activities for kids and families help visitors learn more about the prehistoric world of dinosaurs at the monument.

routes to reach Dinosaur National Monument

Directions to Dinosaur National Monument

There are several ways to get to Dinosaur National Monument, depending on your starting point and mode of transportation. The monument is located near Jensen, UT and Dinosaur, CO via U.S. Highway 40.

By Car: The monument is accessible by car from several major cities in the region, including Salt Lake City, UT (approximately 3.5 hours away), Denver, CO (about 4.5 hours away), and Grand Junction, CO (about 2 hours away).

By Air: The closest major airports to Dinosaur National Monument are located in Salt Lake City, UT, and Denver, CO. From either airport, visitors can rent a car and drive to the monument.

Don’t rely on GPS devices by simply typing in Dinosaur National Monument. Often it will take you to the headquarters on the Colorado side where there are NO FOSSILS!

Or it will take you to a remote area in the middle of the monument.

Coordinates for the Quarry Visitor Center (Utah side of monument)
Latitude:N 40° 26′ 17.0277″
Longitude:W 109° 18′ 25.6701″

Address for the Quarry Visitor Center
11625 E 1500 S
Jensen, UT 84035

Driving Around Dinosaur National Monument

The area near the Dinosaur Quarry is the most accessible portion and the easiest to visit in a short period of time. The paved Harpers Corner Road provides access to Colorado portion north of Dinosaur, Colorado.

There are four paved roads in Dinosaur National Monument (see Scenic Drives below for more details). All other roads in the park are dirt/clay and become impassable when wet. Four-wheel drive is not required, but is useful on steep unpaved roads.

Be prepared for remote driving conditions. Travel with extra water, food and keep your gas tank above half full.

Cell phone reception is spotty in many areas of the monument.

Dinosaur quarry exhibit
Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit

Dinosaur National Monument Activities

There are several things to do at Dinosaur National Monument, depending on your interests and time to explore. Some popular activities include:

Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Exhibit Hall

The monument’s main attraction is the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall, home to hundreds of dinosaur fossils still embedded in the rock.

This includes the remains of numerous species such as Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus. The exhibit includes an 80 foot long mural!

A raised platform lets visitors view fossils and learn about the area’s paleontology. There are also a few places where you can touch the fossils!

During the busy summer season, you’ll need to use the shuttle bus. The exhibit hall is wheelchair accessible.

Dinosaur National Monument Ranger Programs

Ranger-guided tours at Dinosaur are available during the summer: Geology Talks and Evening Programs. Check the website for the current schedule.

Dinosaur Junior Ranger Program booklets are available at either Visitor Center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Complete the booklet, talk to a park ranger, and receive your badge!

Dinosaur National Monument Scenic Drives

Some of the best Utah scenic drives and Colorado scenic drives are around the Dinosaur National Monument area.

Always check the weather before heading out on any of the monument’s dirt roads. Due to the clay soils, unpaved roads may be impassible when wet. Some roads may be closed or impassable in winter.

Fill your gas tank before doing any of these drives. Pack food, water, and other necessities you’ll need for the drives. There are no services along the routes.

Josie's Cabin
Josie’s Cabin

Cub Creek Road – This road in Utah is called the Tour of the Tilted Rocks. It’s a 10 mile scenic drive that begins at the Quarry Visitor Center and ends at Josie’s Cabin. Plan 1 to 4 hours for this drive.

The first 8 miles are paved, while the last 2 miles are unpaved. The unpaved portion is maintained, but not recommended for low-clearance vehicles. The last 4 miles may be impassable in the winter.

You’ll see petroglyph and pictograph panels, Josie’s Cabin, and awesome views of geologic layers!

view from Island Park Road
View from Island Park Road

Island Park Road – This unpaved road is 18 miles and starts outside the monument and ends inside the park near the Ruple Ranch Site. Plan 2 to 4 hours for this drive.

High-clearance vehicles are strongly recommended. The road is impassable when wet and during the winter.

You’ll see petroglyph panels at McKee Spring, a campground at Rainbow Park (picnic tables and vault toilets, but no potable water), and stunning views of the Green River from Island Park.

view from Harpers Corner at Dinosaur National Monument
View from Harpers Corner

Harpers Corner Road – This 31 mile paved road starts at the Canyon Visitor Center in Colorado and ends at Harpers Corner. Plan 2 to 4 hours for this drive.

It’s a winding road climbing 1600 feet in elevation. The road is accessible for most RVs. The road is closed in the winter.

You won’t see dinosaur fossils here, but you’ll enjoy viewpoints overlooking Dinosaur’s landscape. There are views from as high as 2500 feet above the two rivers! All overlook are wheelchair accessible.

Chew Ranch along Echo Park Road
Chew Ranch

Echo Park Road – The 14 mile unpaved road starts from the Harpers Corner Road and ends at Echo Park Campground. Plan 1 to 4 hours for this drive.

High clearance vehicles with 4WD are recommended due to the steep descent down switchbacks and several dry wash crossings.

Due to the clay soil the road is not passable when wet or covered with snow. ALWAYS check the weather before driving this road.

Cell service is not reliable along this road. At Echo Park Campground you’ll find vault toilets, picnic tables, and potable water when weather allows. Pack out all trash!

You’ll see rock layers, Chew Ranch, and petroglyphs at Pool Creek. Walk a short distance from Echo Park Campground to see the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers.

view from Yampa Bench Road
View from Yampa Bench Road

Yampa Bench Road – The 18 mile unpaved road connects Echo Park Road with the monument’s southeast boundary where you can then access US Highway 40. Plan 2 to 6 hours for this drive.

High clearance vehicles with 4WD are recommended due to road conditions: winding with narrow and steep sections, small stream crossings with water or mud, soft sand deposits along sections of the road. The road is not passable when wet or covered with snow.

There are no services, including cell service, along the entire length of Yampa Bench Road. It could take hours for help to reach out. Let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back.

Pack water, snacks, supplies, and pack out all waste.

Dinosaur National Monument Biking

Biking on any road in the monument is allowed, but not on hiking trails. Here’s a list of where to bicycle at Dinosaur National Monument:

  • Cub Creek Road
  • Rainbow Park to Island Park
  • Yampa Bench Road

Dinosaur National Monument Hiking

The most popular hiking trails at Dinosaur National Monument can be found near the Visitor Centers and along the two scenic drives: Cub Creek and Harpers Corner.

Dinosaur Day Hikes:

Fossil DiscoveryEasy/
2.4 milesQuarry UTNo
Swelter ShelterEasy400 feetCub Creek Rd UTYes
Sound of SilenceModerate/ Difficult3.2 milesCub Creek Rd UTNo
Desert VoicesModerate1.7 milesCub Creek Rd UTNo
3 milesCub Creek Rd UTYes
Box CanyonEasy.25 milesJosie Cabin UTNo
Hog CanyonEasy1.5 milesJosie Cabin UTNo
Plug Hat ButteEasy.25 milesHarpers Corner Rd COYes
Harpers CornerEasy/
2 milesHarpers Corner Rd CONo
ConfluenceEasy1.25 milesEcho Park CONo
Gates of LodoreEasy1 mileGates of Lodore CONo
Green River at Dinosaur National Monument
Green River at Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument River Rafting

There are two ways for rafting in Dinosaur National Monument:

Guided Rafting Trips at Dinosaur National Monument – click the link to find authorized companies that provide one-day and multi-day trips in the monument.

Private Rafting Trips at Dinosaur National Monument – permits are required for all self-guided raft trips on the Green and Yampa Rivers.

Dinosaur National Monument Fishing

You’ll need to follow the Fishing Regulations for the applicable state:

Colorado State fishing regulations: Colorado Parks and Wildlife 

Utah State fishing regulations: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources 

milky way at Fantasy Canyon
Milky Way at Fantasy Canyon in Vernal

Dinosaur National Monument Stargazing

During the summer rangers hold stargazing programs at Split Mountain Campground. Check the event calendar for dates.

Here are a few tips for stargazing at the monument, one of the darkest locations in the US:

Check weather and moon phase: cloudy skies, air quality, and moon phase all affect the experience. When the moon is a small crescent, or no moon (new moon), it’s easier to see the stars or milky way!

Give eyes 30 minutes: your eyes need time to adjust to the darkness, usually about 30 minutes. Try not to look at any bright objects during this time like a streetlight, phone screen, or even the moon.

Use red light: the color red has the longest wavelength so it’s the most gentle on dark-adapted eyes. Use a headlamp with a red light to see where you’re going in the dark.

Dinosaur National Monument Camping

There are many camping options at Dinosaur National Monument, including developed campsites and backcountry sites.

Developed Campsites: There are two developed campgrounds within the monument – the Green River and the Split Mountain Camps. Both campgrounds offer sites for tents and RVs, picnic tables, fire rings, and nearby restroom facilities. Split Mountain Campground is open from April through October, while Green River Campground is open year-round.

Backcountry Camping: Visitors can also camp in the monument’s backcountry, although permits are required. Several backcountry campsites are located along the Green and Yampa Rivers and in the canyons and high desert areas of the monument.

Guests should check for any fire restrictions before starting a fire since campfires are only allowed in designated fire rings. Additionally, all food and trash should be stored appropriately to prevent wildlife encounters.

Utah Travel Guides & Maps

Utah guides and maps

Utah Bucket List

To help make your trip planning easier, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of must-do activities that belong on every Utah Bucket List: things to see, do and taste all around the state! Grab the free download by clicking the graphic below!

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