Dinosaur National Monument Logistics
Location: Dinosaur National Monument is located in northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado.
Get Here: Dinosaur is about 191 miles or just over three hours from Salt Lake City on eastbound U.S. Highway 40/191.
When to visit: Dinosaur National Monument is open 24 hours a day year-round. Some areas may be closed in winter due to snow.
Quarry Visitor Center Hours:
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. mid-May through mid-September
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).
Geography and geology: Dinosaur National Monument straddles the border of Utah and Colorado, allocating about two-thirds of its 330 square miles to Colorado and the other one-third to Utah (although all the dinosaur fossils are found on the Utah side). Though Dinosaur National Monument incorporates part of the Great Basin high desert, it also includes mountains characteristic of the Rockies. It ranges in elevation from about 4,700 feet along the Green River to 9,005 feet atop Zenobia Peak.
Dinosaur National Monument harbors one of the most complete geological records found anywhere in North America. The monument’s record of geological history, spanning 1.1 billion years, is ancient—nearly as old as the oldest known rocks in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. These rocks and their various strata are the result of the encroachment of twelve different seas and their associated periods of deposition. All this rock assumes a multitude of different forms. The red rock tends to belong to a formation known as the Moenkopi and Carmel Formation; the gray rock, the white rock, the black rock, and all the variations in between belong to other formations.
Size and History: In 1909, 20 miles east of Vernal, paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered a 200-foot-long sandbar layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. From 80 acres in 1915 to the present size of 210,844 acres, Dinosaur National Monument originally protected the large concentration of fossils in the quarry area, but was expanded to protect the unique geology, sublime canyons and confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers.
GPS coordinates of park entrances:
Quarry Entrance (Utah): 40.436721, -109.308810
Deerlodge Park Entrance (Colorado): 40.404939, -108.343169
Gates of Lodore (Colorado): 40.737218, -108.871222
Canyon/Harpers Corner (Colorado): 40.245194, -108.972564
Overnight options: There are no restaurants or lodging in Dinosaur National Monument. In Utah, a full range of lodging options are available in Vernal; in Colorado, Dinosaur and Rangely have lodging. Dinosaur National Monument does have several campgrounds located in the Utah section of the park:
• Split Mountain Campground is 4 miles east of the dinosaur quarry (GPS: 40.444267, -109.253283). In summer it is open for group camping only and charges group fees ($25 per night) with a maximum of twenty people at each of the four sites. Though there’s no water in winter, the campground is open the rest of the year to individual campers. It offers water, restrooms, shade, tables, firepits, and a boat launch. For reservations call 877-444–6777 or visit recreation.gov.
• Green River Campground is 5 miles east of the dinosaur quarry (GPS: 40.422417, -109.244717). The campground has 80 sites for tents and RVs. Many sites are shaded, and amenities include drinking water, restrooms, firepits, and picnic tables. Ranger talks are offered in the evenings. This campground is open from April until October with a $12 fee per night. Green River Campground is closed during winter. A nice path leaves from the north end of the campground. It winds above the Green River and in 1.8 miles ends at Split Mountain Campground. In early morning and late afternoon, great photo opportunities exist for both the river and Split Mountain. For reservations call 877-444–6777 or visit recreation.gov (reservations in Loop B only; all other sites first come, first served).
• Rainbow Park Campground is located 28 miles from the dinosaur quarry at the end of Island Park Road (GPS: 40.496013, -109.174126). This is a primitive campground with two tent sites, no water, and pit toilets. It lies at the end of an unpaved road that is impassable when wet. No RVs are allowed. The campground is open year-round (weather permitting), and there is no fee.
• Ely Creek Campground is the monument’s only designated backcountry campground. Located 2 miles down Jones Hole Creek Trail, it offers two large primitive tent sites along Jones Creek with enough room for ten people at each site. No water, no fires, no mountain bikes, no pets, no fees. Camping by free backcountry permit only, available at the visitor centers. A Utah fishing license is required to fish the creek.
Nearest groceries and supplies: On the Utah side, all services and supplies can be purchased in Vernal.