The Ultimate Guide to Dinosaur Discovery While on a Trip to Utah

If you’re looking to interject some dinosaur exploration during a trip to Utah, rest assured you will experience a plethora of offerings in which to sink your imaginary Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth.

State-of-the-art museums dot the state beckoning you to experience prehistoric life, discover things you never knew, and watch in real-time as scientists work on life-size fossils.

In nature and on-site venues will transport you back more than 150 million years to when this region supported dinosaurs of all classifications. You’ll find yourself hunting for dino tracks embedded in red rock to walking along the most historically significant quarry sites in the world.

We’ve provided the must-sees in Utah museums and in nature/on-site with additional tips to help you plan your trip. Enjoy!

 

Museums

Northern Utah

Natural History Museum of Utah

Nestled in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains with panoramic views of Salt Lake City, visitors go on a historical journey of the Beehive State’s geological beginnings hundreds of millions of years ago to today’s widely varied environment. The wide-open and winding elevated pathway of the Past Worlds exhibit grandly captures Utah’s abundant dinosaur history.

Sizing up the competition at the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City. Photo: Mark Osler

On display are dozens of reconstructed dinosaur skeletons and fossils, including a duck-billed dinosaur, a Utahraptor, an Allosaurus and a huge Stegosaurus — all discovered in Utah quarries. A popular favorite is the world’s largest collection of horned dinosaur skulls.

The Experience: Indoor with access to hiking trails along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: How to maximize an afternoon at the Natural History Museum
Plan a Visit: Learn More

North American Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point

The Museum of Ancient Life is part of the sprawling, multi-day destination and museum complex called Thanksgiving Point in Lehi. It boasts more than 60 dinosaur skeletons, including the world’s most complete Stegosaurus and 50 hands-on, interactive exhibits. For something special, take a fun paleontology class or watch an exciting 3D movie at the museum’s Mammoth Screen.

The Experience: Indoor with numerous options to explore more at the complex
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Seeing the Dinosaurs of Utah Valley
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology

If you only have an hour or so, the Museum of Paleontology in Provo, with free admission, packs in a plethora of fossils, full-size skeletons and minerals to view in detail. The museum is unique in that there’s an entire section that encourages visitors to touch real fossils.

The Experience: Indoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Seeing the Dinosaurs of Utah Valley
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Large dino doin' a scare–Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park. Photo: Mark Osler

Ogden George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park

An afternoon-long adventure awaits those who want to imagine themselves living among dinosaurs. The park, along the Ogden River Parkway, is 8.5 acres-worth of 100 exhibits and realistic, full-size dinosaur replicas that come to life though robotics and a state-of-the-art sound system. Venture inside to the Stewart Paleontology Museum, which showcases dinosaur skeleton casts, fossils, an animatronic dinosaur display, a working paleontology lab and a natural history collection.

The Experience: Outdoor park with indoor museum
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Time Traveling at Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Northeastern Utah

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum

In the heart of “Dinosaurland” in Vernal is a can’t-miss virtual tour of our earth’s ancient history, housed in this grand 22,000 square-foot facility. Here you’ll see countless fossils (and a live Fossil Lab), dinosaur skeletons from surrounding quarries, educational exhibits and cultural displays. A highlight is the Dinosaur Garden, an outdoor diorama with numerous full-sized dinosaur replicas, including a 20-foot Tyrannosaurus and a 6-ton Stegosaurus.
The Experience: Indoor and Outdoor

Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: What Makes it Great
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Welcome to Dinosaur Land. Photo: Marc Piscotty

Dino tracks at Red Fleet State Park.  Photo: Dean Krakel

Meet the Utah Raptor at Eastern Prehistoric Museum. Photo: Mark Osler

Central Utah

Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum in Price

Displays reveal exclusive archeological and paleontological wonders such as a cast of the Huntington Mammoth, ancient artifacts from the Fremont Indians and skeletal remains of the Utahraptor, discovered in 1989. While researching at the museum for the film Jurassic Park, director Steven Spielberg was so inspired by the Utahraptor that he gave it a featured part in the film Jurassic Park. Movie buffs may remember it as the nightmare-inducing “Velociraptor.” Kids will devour the children’s digging room, with a realistic quarry where the youngest of budding archeologists can dig for dinosaur bones.

The Experience: Indoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: How to Experience Utah’s Dinosaur History at the Prehistoric Museum
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale
This small, yet intriguing museum shares numerous dinosaur foot impressions, dinosaur skeleton reconstructions and a cast of a Tyrannosaurus skull, as well as hundreds of Native American artifacts. It also uniquely displays a depiction of the geologic layers that make up the beautiful San Rafael Swell.

The Experience: Indoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Plan a Visit: Lean More

Southeastern Utah

Moab Giants Dinosaur Park and Museum

Be sure to schedule some quality time for your dinosaur fix at this incredible indoor and outdoor complex in Moab. Watch a 3D film about prehistoric life and then explore exhibits with touch screen technology and educational games. Head outside to the half-mile interactive paleo safari exhibition to get up close and personal with more than 100 reconstructions of life-size dinosaur species and the tracks they left behind.

The Experience: Indoor and Outdoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Where technology Meets Prehistory
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Museum of Moab

Once known as the Dan O'Laurie Museum, the Museum of Moab is set to reopen in September 2019 after a complete remodel and refresh of its vast exhibits that include everything from the remnants of dinosaurs to archeological artifacts from early inhabitants of Moab and the Four Corners region.

The Experience: Indoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Plan a Visit: Learn More

A 3D Dino experience at Moab Giants. Photo Courtesy of Moab Giants.

Dinosaur Museum of Blanding

If you’re planning a trip to Moab and Arches National Park, it’s definitely worth saving some time for a quick drive south to Blanding near part of Bears Ears National Monument to visit its one-of-a-kind Dinosaur Museum. What makes this dino museum different are its large display of dinosaur eggs and pieces of actual fossilized skin — and the intriguing exhibit on the important role dinosaurs have played in pop culture, media and movies.

The Experience: Indoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Why a Visit to the Blanding Dinosaur Museum is a Must
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Southwestern Utah

St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm

Imagine working on your property and accidentally discovering dinosaur tracks from 200 million years ago. That’s exactly what happened in 2000 to Dr. Sheldon Johnson. Thanks to Dr. Johnson, his wife LaVerna and their donation and preservation efforts, there is a museum here to keep safe thousands of trackways, including the world’s largest collection of dinosaur swim tracks. Kids can dig in the sand to uncover replica fossils, find tracks and make their own footprints.

The Experience: Indoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Dinosaur tracks draw local and international geology enthusiasts
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Southern Utah

Big Water Visitor Center and dinosaur museum

The Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is an immense and rugged geological landscape that’s a perfect backdrop for those who want to recreate in the outdoors and learn more about their favorite dino meat-eater or plant-eater. Between Kanab and Lake Powell on the south side, the interpretative center in Big Water, Utah, includes a dinosaur dig and real dino relics, as well as information about the unique rock layers of Grand Staircase.

The Experience: Indoor with a shaded picnic area
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Big Water Visitor Center at Grand Staircase
Plan a Visit: Learn More

In Nature and On Site

Northeastern Utah

Dinosaur National Monument

Spanning more than 200,000 acres across the Utah and Colorado border, the vast, wildly popular monument shares thousands of dinosaur fossils that were first unearthed here in 1909. From Jensen, Utah, make your way to the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall, a protective quarry building where you can view a boneyard wall of 1,500 protruding skulls, femurs, vertebrae, and more preserved in their original form. These remnants represent dinosaur species from the late Jurassic period including the Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus and Stegosaurus. Also enjoy driving tours around the park, hike the nature trails, backpack, white-water raft, practice your photography skills, bird-watch, fish and bike.

The Experience: Outdoor with some indoor exhibits
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Northeastern Utah’s Dinosaur Legacy Comes to Life
Plan a Visit: Learn More

A natural track on display at the St. George Discovery Site. Photo: Mark Osler

An up close examination at Dinosaur National Monument. Photo: Mark Osler

Red Fleet Dinosaur Trackway
This 1.5-mile trek along a moderately rugged trail at Red Fleet State Park and Reservoir will not disappoint the dinosaur fanatic or the casual hiker. At the trail’s end, you’ll have to work just a little to find the tracks of the 200-million-year-old dilophosaurus, which reside in the slickrock shores of the reservoir.

The Experience: Outdoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Following the Dinosaur Tracks of Red Fleet State Park
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Central Utah

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry
The working dig site is known internationally for having the densest collection of Jurassic-era dinosaur fossils ever discovered (more than 12,000 bones belonging to at least 74 individual dinosaurs, many of which belong to the meat eater Allosaurus). This quarry is the world's only possible dinosaur predator trap, and several scientific hypotheses here try to unlock the mystery. Visitors can walk to rock art sites, see dinosaur excavations, and experience scenic vistas.

The Experience: Outdoor with some indoor exhibits
Family Friendly: Yes
Get Inspired: Hidden Secrets of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry
Plan a Visit: Learn More

 

Experience an open dig site at Cleveland–Lloyd Quarry. Photo: Mark Osler

Southeastern Utah

Dinosaur Tracks Trail near Moab

This is an 0.2-mile easy hike above the Colorado River to a tilted boulder featuring the tracks of the three-toed Allosaurus. It’s perfect for families to discover ancient trackways together.

The Experience: Outdoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Hike Details: A Unique Dinosaur Trackway

Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trackways near Moab

Try out this 15-minute easy trek to see tracks in the red rock likely left by the Apatosaurus and the Diplodocus. To get there, head south on U.S. 191 toward Moab. At mile marker 148, turn east on a dirt road to the trailhead, Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trackways.

The Experience: Outdoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Dinosaur Sites Near Moab: See All

Southern Utah

Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry

This 10-acre quarry in the San Rafael Swell is a fossil hunter’s mecca. Scientists first started researching here in earnest 11 years ago and the excavation site has yielded the discovery of thousands of pounds of dinosaur bones. This is definitely a site for the more advanced and patient dino searcher, with a summer volunteer program or expert-led quarry tour.

The Experience: Outdoor
Family Friendly: More for adults, but dino-enthusiastic kids could also enjoy
Get Inspired: Searching for Bones in Capitol Reef
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite near Kanab

It doesn’t get much more picturesque than being surrounded by beautiful sandstone cliffs as you hike this 0.5-mile round trip trail to view hundreds of dinosaur tracks with at least six different types of footprints form the early Jurassic time period.

The Experience: Outdoor
Family Friendly: Yes
Plan a Visit: Learn More

Whitney Childers

Whitney Childers spent 13 years as a writer and editor in newspapers and magazines, which led to her work as Media Director for Women’s Ski Jumping USA, the team that famously pushed for gender equality in the Olympic Games. Childers teamed up with colleagues in 2012 to launch a crowdfunding platform, RallyMe.com, which was acquired in 2016 by NBC Sports. She now runs Glee Media, a communications studio, while trying to steal as much time as possible with her family in Utah's outdoors.

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