The monument was created in 1915 to protect an extensive deposit of fossilized dinosaur skeletons as well as pictographs dating back 10,000 years. The monument is divided into two districts, the Canyon Area on the east side and the Dinosaur Quarry on the west side. Each district has its own visitor center. Pets are allowed inside the monument but must be on a leash no longer than 6 ft (1.8 m). Pets are not allowed inside any buildings or on any hiking trails.
Dinosaur National Monument's cultural history dates back 10,000 years. The Yampa and Green Rivers have provided water for survival in an arid country. Indian rock art in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs provide evidence that many people have come before modern travellers. The Fremont Indians lived in the canyons in Dinosaur National Monument 800 - 1,200 years ago. Following the Fremont were the Ute and Shoshone, who are still live in the area. Early settlers left their mark on the landscape with their homesteads. Those who had access to the rivers and a constant flow of water survived, while others dried up with drought and moved away. Now, many of the remains of homesteads are found alongside the Indian art work of the past.
The park's value as a site for dinosaur remains was established when paleontologist Earl Douglass first came to Utah looking for mammal fossils. He returned in 1909 and discovered an immense deposit of dinosaur bones, now protected at Dinosaur National Monument. Although made famous by dinosaurs, Douglass died preferring his beloved mammal fossils over dinosaurs.
This part of Utah and Colorado is rocky-desert, with sinuous canyons deep-cut by rivers.
Flora and fauna
|Dinosaur National Monument|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Dinosaur's climate is semiarid with temperatures averaging between 0°F (-17°C) to 30°F (-1°C) in January and 50°F (10°C) to 100°F (38°C) in July. Elevations within the park vary between 4700 and 9000 feet. Winter snow makes roads at higher elevations impassable while only light to moderate snow is found at lower elevations. Summer thunderstorms often cause heavy downpours and localized flooding, but may fail to dampen parched soils less than a mile away.
Both districts of the Monument are accessed via U.S. Highway 40. From Salt Lake City, take I-80 east to US 40 east, about 4 1/4 hours and 185 mi (297 km). From Provo, take US 189 north to US 40 east, about 4 hours and 166 mi (267 km). From Denver, take I-70 west, to SR 9 north, then to US 40 west, about 5 hours and 285 mi (459 km).
Fees and permits
Entrances fees are valid for seven days, allowing unlimited re-entry for the week. Fees as of 2020 are:
- $15 - Per person on foot/bicycle
- $20 - Motorcycle
- $25 - Private Vehicle
- $45 Dinosaur Annual Pass
There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot/bike that provide free entry to Dinosaur National Monument and all national parks, as well as some national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and national forests:
- The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free pass by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
- The $80 Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
- The free Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
- The free Volunteer Pass is available to individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
- The free Annual 4th Grade Pass (valid for September-August of the 4th grade school year) allows entry to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid Outdoors website is required.
The National Park Service offers free admission to all national parks on five days every year:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January); next observance is January 18, 2021
- The first day of National Park Week (third Saturday in April); next observance is April 17, 2021
- The National Park Service Birthday (August 25)
- National Public Lands Day (fourth Saturday in September); next observance is September 25, 2021
- Veterans Day (November 11)
Harpers Corner Road is closed from mid-December to approximately Easter due to snow at the higher elevations.
All dirt roads in the park are clay based and impassable when wet, even with four-wheel drive vehicles. These roads are Echo Park Road, Yampa Bench Road, Island Park Road and the road into Gates of Lodore. These roads are not maintained in the winter and can be impassable due to snow. The use of chains on wet clay roads renders the roads all but impassable for those who follow. Waiting for several hours will allow the roads to dry, leaving them in drivable condition for all visitors.
Dinosaur Quarry district
- 1 Quarry Visitor Center (7 miles north of Jensen, Utah off Highway 149. The visitor center parking lot is just past the entrance station.), ☏ . Labor Day-Memorial Day Weekend: Daily - 8:30AM-4:30PM, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day; Memorial Day Weekend-Labor Day Weekend: daily - 8:30AM-5:30PM. The Quarry Visitor Center is the gateway to the Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones. Exhibits at the visitor center introduce the variety of resources and places to explore within the monument. This facility features a staffed information desk, a sales area for the Intermountain Natural History Association and a theater with a twelve-minute park film. During the summer, shuttle buses depart from here for the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
- 2 Quarry Exhibit Hall. The Quarry Exhibit Hall allows visitors to view the wall of approximately 1,500 dinosaur bones in a comfortable space regardless of the weather. You can see the remains of numerous different species of dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus, and Stegosaurus along with several others. Exhibits, including an 80-foot long mural, reveal the story of these animals and many others that lived in the Morrison environment during the late Jurassic.
Canyon Area district
- 3 Canyon Visitor Center, 4545 Hwy 40 (2 miles east of Dinosaur to Harpers Corner Road, north on Harpers Corner Road, first right into the parking lot), ☏ . October 29-May 1: Closed; May 2-Memorial Day Weekend: 8:30AM-4:30, closed M-Tu; Memorial Day Weekend-August 30: daily - 8:30AM-4:30PM; September 1-October 26: 8:30AM-4:30PM, closed M-Tu. The Canyon Visitor Center is the gateway to the monument's mountains and river canyons. Exhibits orient visitors to the monument's facilities. An Intermountain Natural History Association bookstore sells items that will further enhance your experience. Staff are available to answer questions and a park film is shown throughout the day. Restrooms and water are available during business hours. Dinosaur fossils are not found in this area. The Canyon Area is a region of deep, twisting canyons. Petroglyphs can be seen here but the district contains no dinosaur fossils.
Each district has numerous trails of varying length and difficulty.
- Dinosaur Quarry District. 6 trails ranging from 1/2 mi (0.8 km) to 3 mi (4.8 km).
- Canyon Area District. 4 trails ranging from 1/4 mi (0.4 km) to 8 mi (13 km), one of which is handicapped-accessible.
The Green and Yampa Rivers pass through the monument, offering Class III and Class IV rapids. Unless you are an experienced river rafter, do no attempt without a professional guide.
- Private boats - $15 application fee, plus $20 for a one-day permit or $185 for a multi-day permit.
- Commercial guide trips. See the Dinosaur NM website for a current list of authorized commercial guides.
There are no restaurants within Dinosaur National Monument. However, several picnic areas provide a relaxing atmosphere with a view. Picnic areas are located:
- Near the Split Mountain boat ramp along the Tour of the Tilted Rocks self-guided auto tour near the Temporary Visitor Center.
- At the Josie Bassett Morris homestead at the end of the Tour of the Tilted Rocks self-guided auto tour near the Temporary Visitor Center.
- At Plug Hat Butte along the Harpers Corner Auto Tour road in the Canyon Area of the park.
- At the Canyon Overlook along the Harpers Corner Auto Tour road in the Canyon Area of the park.
- At the Harpers Corner Trailhead along the Harpers Corner Auto Tour road in the Canyon Area of the park.
Nearby communities offer a variety of dining options.
There is no lodging within Dinosaur National Monument. However, the nearby communities of Vernal, Dinosaur and Rangely have lodging. Obtaining lodging in the area can be difficult; it is recommended that you reserve lodging ahead of time if you plan on staying in the area overnight.
Dinosaur Quarry district
- 1 Green River Campground (The Green River Campground is located 5 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center near Jensen, Utah.). Open from mid-April to mid-October. 80 sites. 27 sites can be reserved in advance. Sites accommodate both tents and RVs (no hookups). Drinking water and flush toilets are available but there are no showers. The Green River Campground is located along the banks of the Green River in a grove of cottonwood trees at an elevation of 4795 feet. The highly eroded Split Mountain towers to the north of the campground. The famous dinosaur quarry, where you can see 150 million year old dinosaur bones still encased in the rock is approximately five miles from the campground. Also nearby is the Split Mountain Boat Ramp where river rafters come off the Green River after trips through Dinosaur National Monument's canyons. $18 per night (2020 rates).
- 2 Rainbow Park Campground (Near Green River boat ramp). 4 sites. No water, vault toilet. Rainbow Park Campground is 28 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center in the Utah portion of the monument. It is located on a dirt road that is impassable when wet. The campground is located on the Green River near the Rainbow Park Boat Ramp at the head of Split Mountain Canyon. Rainbow Park Campground is open year-round, but there is no winter maintenance on the unpaved road. $6 per night (2020 rates).
- 3 Split Mountain Group Campground, At the Split Mountain boat ramp (4 mi (6 km) east of the Visitor Center). 4 group sites, up to 20 people per site. Flush toilets and drinking water are available but there are no showers. Reservations are required. In the off-season, general camping is allowed without reservation for no charge; However, there is only a vault toilet available and there is no water. The Split Mountain Group Campground is located along the banks of the Green River at an elevation of 4800 feet near the foot of Split Mountain. Beside the campground is the Split Mountain Boat Ramp where rafters and boaters come off the Green River. During the off season, when the Green River Campground is closed, the Split Mountain Campground is open to all campers. $6 per night - Off-season, $40 Group Site Fee - Main Season (2020 rates).
Canyon Area district
- 4 Deerlodge Park Campground (59 miles west from Craig Colorado or 53 miles east from Dinosaur, Colorado on US Hwy 40.). 7 sites. All sites are first-come, first-served. Deerlodge Park Campground is located 53 miles east of the Canyon Visitor Center. It is located on the Yampa River at the boat ramp at the head of Yampa Canyon. It has seven shady sites suitable for tents. The sites have tables and fire pits. There is running water and vault toilets, but no showers. Deerlodge Park Campground is open year-round, but winter access can be very difficult due to snow. When the Yampa River exceeds 18,000 cfs, the campground will flood. $6 Campground Off Season fee when water is not available, $10 Summer Fee when water is available (2020 rates).
- 5 Echo Park Campground, Near confluence of Green and Yampa Rivers (38 miles north of the Canyon Area Visitor Center), ☏ . 22 tent sites, one being handicapped-accessible. One group site, up to 20 people. Running water (from mid-April to Sept.), vault toilets, no showers. High-clearance vehicles are required to access the campground, the last 13 mi (21 km) are on a dirt road. Reservations are not required except for the group site (call for reservation). Situated along the Green River at the base of towering cliffs, the Echo Park Campground provides a unique camping experience in Dinosaur National Monument. Steamboat Rock dominates the view. Fremont petroglyphs are located on the canyon walls. Bighorn sheep and mule deer frequently roam through the campground. Unimproved hiking trails lead to the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers or to Mitten Park. $6 Winter Camping Fee, $10 Summer Camping Fee (2020 rates).
- 6 Gates of Lodore Campground, Near Lodore boat ramp on the Green River (Head of Lodore Canyon, 106 mi (170 m) north of the Canyon Area Visitor Center). 19 sites. All sites are first-come, first-served. Gates of Lodore Campground is located on the Green River at the boat ramp at the head of Lodore Canyon. The campground is popular with river rafters who often stay here before launching on the Green River. There are 19 sites, some with shade. The sites have tables and fire pits. During the summer, there is running water and vault toilets, but no showers. The campsites can accommodate tents and RVs (but there are no hook-ups). $6 Campground Fee - Low Use Season, $10 Standard Campground Fee - Peak Season (2020 rates).
Most of Dinosaur National Monument's 210,000 acres is proposed wilderness. With proper planning, a backcountry trip at Dinosaur can be a wonderful experience of solitude and serenity. Wilderness camping is allowed with a free permit that can be obtained at the visitor center or by phone (+1 435 781-7700 or +1 970 374-3000).
The park's backcountry rules are that you must have a permit and adhere to the following restrictions:
- Campsite must be at least one mile from developed areas, like the Dinosaur Quarry and boat ramps.
- Campsite must be at least 1/4 mile from roads.
- Campsite must be at least 1/4 mile from hiking trails.
- Campsite must be at least 300 feet from water.
- Campsite must be at least 1/4 mile from cultural sites.
- Campsite must be at least 1/8 mile from the Green or Yampa rivers. (River campsites are closed to backpackers during the high-use river-running season, which is the second Monday in May until the second Friday in September.)
There is one designated backcountry camping area within the park which must be reserved in advance:
- Jones Hole Creek, Confluence of Jones Hole Creek and Ely Creek, along the Jones Hole hiking trail, ☏ . 2 sites that accommodate up to 8 people at each. Water from creek, vault toilet, pack trash out. Reservation required. Free.
Keep your vehicle's gas tank above half-full. Distances can be deceptively long between services. Watch for wildlife on monument and nearby roads. Wildlife can be abundant along roads during all seasons. Please observe speed limits and be aware of wildlife in the road corridor. Four wheel drive may not be enough on some monument roads. Many park roads are clay-surfaced (unpaved), and become impassable when wet no matter what kind of vehicle you have. Get weather and road condition reports before traversing park roads.
Dinosaur is a land of extremes; please dress appropriately for the season. Summer temperatures can soar over 100°F (38°C); winter temperatures can drop well below 0°F (-18°C). Summer nighttime temperatures can be cool. Dress appropriately, including proper shoes and headwear, use sunscreen. Dressing in non-cotton layers allows you to add and remove clothing as needed while not retaining moisture that can lead to hypothermia.
Always carry and drink plenty of water. Extreme temperatures, high elevation, and an arid landscape can lead to rapid water loss. Many locations may not have water readily accessible and may require backpackers and hikers to carry fresh water. All water gathered in the monument must be treated before consumption.
Watch your step. Trails are often rocky and uneven, and other hazards may be present. Slow down, enjoy the scenery, and watch your step.
Carry food with you. At higher elevations your body must work harder than at lower elevations; more work means more calories burned. The monument ranges from 4700 feet to over 9000 feet in elevation. Salty foods can replace electrolytes lost through sweating. Eating helps your body use water efficiently.
Afternoon thunderstorms during summer are common, and lighting can strike from miles away. During summer thunderstorms avoid high, bare rock surfaces to prevent being struck by lightning. If caught outside find the lowest point possible that is not near a tree or other tall object, and make yourself small. Also be aware of flash flooding in canyons; a storm miles away can send a wall of water raging down a canyon, flooding it within minutes, emptying just as fast.
Most wildlife is more scared of you than you are of them. You might, however, surprise or startle wildlife or accidentally make an animal feel threatened. Watch where you walk; if you do come across wildlife, give it plenty of space and an escape route. Small children and pets may be particularly vulnerable – keep your group together at all times. Be wary of animals that are being aggressive.
Snakes are an important and beneficial part of the ecosystem. Most snakes found in the monument are non-poisonous, but two are poisonous: the midget faded rattlesnake, and prairie rattlesnake. Snakes, like all wildlife in the monument, should be observed and enjoyed from a safe distance.
Plants can bite, too. Many plants, including cactus, greasewood, Russian thistle, and others can scratch, stick, or otherwise be dangerous. Watch where you put your hands and feet.
- Jensen - The closest town to the park borders, offering limited services.
- Vernal - This town in Utah is southwest of the park's borders.
- Dinosaur - In Colorado southeast of the park's entrance.
- Rangely - In Colorado to the southeast of the town of Dinosaur.