Type of trail: Self-guided out-and-back hike
Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation change: 75 feet
Hiking time: Approximately 1 hour
Maps: Intermountain Natural History Association pamphlet (25 cents); National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #220
Difficulty: Easy; it’s best to hike here in early morning or late afternoon during the hot season.
Starting point: Gates of Lodore Campground, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the dinosaur quarry. This is the north end of the monument. It is reached by taking U.S. Highway 40 east from Jensen, Utah (the town just outside the dinosaur quarry), toward Colorado, passing in 25 miles the Canyon Visitor Center. Continue on U.S. 40 for about 58 miles to the town of Maybell, Colorado. Go left at Maybell onto State Road 318, and go approximately 37 miles, until you come to a left turn onto the hard-packed County Road 34. There is a sign here indicating that this is the road to Gates of Lodore. Follow CR 34 for about 9 miles — it leads directly into the campground. The trail begins at the south end of Gates of Lodore Campground.
This short, easy hike takes you above the Green River, which is flowing somewhat placidly here out of the Browns Park area. You can walk to the beginning of the Canyon of Lodore, where river runners are abruptly thrust into the riffles and rapids of this incredibly beautiful, rugged area. The Green River cut right across the mountains here and carved out the Gates of Lodore.
The hike is intended to introduce visitors to the red cliffs of the canyon and the flora and fauna of the area. You’ll see an abundance of cheatgrass here, a nonnative invasive grass that most animals cannot eat. Lichen cover the rocks. Since lichen are sensitive to air pollution, the brighter the colors the cleaner the air. So far, pollution evidently hasn’t taken hold here. Another amazing phenomenon is that you are actually standing on the Uinta Mountain Group, which comprises some of the oldest rocks in the monument. Because the geology here is complex but fascinating, we suggest purchasing a book or pamphlet on Dinosaur’s rocks. The Gates of Lodore is a quiet area, a place of beauty and much history, and is well worth exploring.