Dinosaur National Monument   |  Jeremiah Watt

Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur Country Cruise

The Dinosaur Country Cruise is a 48.1-mile out-and-back ride over gently rolling hills and false flats. The ride journeys from Vernal, into the Dinosaur National Monument as far as the pavement stretches, and returns. The pavement surface is good along the outer ends of the route (i.e., in Vernal and approaching and in Dinosaur National Monument) but is fair to rough along Brush Creek Road, in the middle section of the course. There are ten cattle guard crossings. The elevation ranges from 5,359 feet in Vernal to 4,757 feet along S.R. 149 near Dinosaur National Monument.

Dinosaur National Monument Vernal

Ride Overview

Start: Vernal City Park on 900 West south of 500 North.

Length: 48.1 miles (out-and-back).

Terrain: Gently rolling hills. Minimum and maximum elevations: 4,757 to 5,359 feet.

Traffic and hazards: S.R. 149: 680 vehicles per day approaching Dinosaur National Monument in 2005.

Bicycle Shops: Altitude Cycle: 580 East Main Street, Vernal; (435) 781-2595 or (877) 781-2460. Basin Saw & Cycle: 460 West Main Street, Vernal; (435) 781-1226. Red Rock Cycle: 1147 West Highway 40, Vernal; (435) 789-2695.

Maps: City Street Map: Park City, Heber City, Price, Vernal. GM Johnson City Map Series.

DeLorme: Utah Atlas & Gazetteer: Pages 28–29 A4 on page 28.

Benchmark: Utah Road & Recreation Atlas: Pages 54–55 B6 on page 54.

Getting there: From Salt Lake City, take I-80 east to the U.S. 40 exit (Silver Creek Junction). Head south then east on U.S. 40 to Vernal (140 miles from the junction).

Miles and Directions

0.0 Start at Vernal City Park on 900 West south of 500 North; turn right onto 500 North and head east.

0.3 Turn left at 500 West, where 500 North bends right (to stay on 500 North).

0.9 Go straight at the stop sign at Vernal Avenue.

2.5 Cross Ashley Creek.

3.6 Begin upgrade; road gets bumpy.

3.9 False crest; cattle guard — veer right at fork in road onto Brush Creek Road (no street sign).

4.7 Crest of hill; begin downgrade and rolling terrain.

7.3 Steep downhill.

7.8 Stay right at fork in road; begin climb after junction.

8.5 Crest of hill; begin steep downhill (watch for potholes).

9.0 Foot of descent; now in Brush Creek Valley.

9.7 Pavement surface improves.

11.7 Cattle guard.

11.9 Narrow bridge over Brush Creek; rough surface.

12.5 At the stop sign, turn left onto 9600 East (S.R. 149).

12.7 Cross Brush Creek; begin false flats.

14.3 Cattle guard; enter Dinosaur National Monument.

16.0 Dinosaur National Monument entrance station; visitor center on the left.

20.0 Begin downhill.

21.4 Cattle guard.

21.5 Cross Green River; begin upgrade.

22.8 Cattle guard.

23.2 Gradient eases.

23.9 Road narrows; turn around here.

25.0 Cattle guard.

26.1 Cross Green River; begin upgrade.

26.3 Cattle guard.

27.8 Crest of hill.

28.8 Begin downhill.

31.7 Visitor center on the right.

32.0 Entrance station to Dinosaur National Monument.

33.8 Cattle guard; leave Dinosaur National Monument.

35.3 Cross Brush Creek.

35.5 Turn right onto 3500 South (Brush Creek Road).

36.1 Narrow bridge across Brush Creek (rough surface).

36.4 Cattle guard; begin rolling terrain.

38.4 Rough pavement surface.

39.1 Begin climb.

40.0 Crest of climb; begin descent.

40.2 Stay left at fork in road; gravel in turn — end of descent.

40.3 Begin climb.

40.6 Pavement surface improves; intermittent rough spots.

41.1 Begin rolling terrain.

42.4 Pavement surface improves.

43.4 Crest of climb; begin slight downhill.

44.2 At the stop sign, turn left onto 500 North.

45.5 Cross Ashley Creek.

47.2 Go straight at the stop sign at Vernal Avenue.

47.7 At the stop sign at 500 West, turn right to continue on 500 North.

48.1 End of ride; turn left on 900 West to return to Vernal City Park (on the right).

Ride Description

Dinosaur National Monument was the site, in 1909, of the discovery of a rich cache of dinosaur fossils. The discovery forever changed Utah’s role in paleontological history. The discovery led to the creation of the Dinosaur National Monument, along with other dinosaur-related attractions in Utah (such as the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Byway). Dinosaur National Monument straddles Utah and Colorado, extending from northeastern Uintah County into northwestern Moffat County. The monument began as a quarry; today, a visitor center allows the general public to view the ongoing process of fossil evaluation, as well as an authentic dig. Later, the site was expanded to include opportunities for river rafting, hiking, scenic drives, and geological exploration in the Yampa and Green River Canyons. Although the monument headquarters is located in Dinosaur, Colorado, the Utah side features the visitor center and the Green River. (The visitor center was closed to the general public because of some structural issues, as of this writing.)

The ride begins in Vernal, Dinosaurland’s largest city and center of commercial activity (population 8,696 in 2008). Several facts distinguish Vernal: One of the few Utah towns founded by non-Mormons, and the largest city in the United States with no railroad are two of the city’s claims to fame. Monuments to Tyrannosaurus rex and a creature that resembles Barney stand at two of the city’s gateways. The city has a hard, rural, industrial feel, perhaps because of its outlaw past and the work involved in water reclamation and oil-extraction projects. But the city has a “soft” side, with plenty of outfitters providing for the region’s recreational opportunities, museums, and a few outstanding examples of architecture.

Start the ride at Vernal City Park; head east on 500 North from 900 West. Where 500 North curves to the right to become 500 West, turn left to continue on 500 North (mile 0.3). Cross Vernal Avenue and continue heading east. The roadsides become increasingly rural through here: open space, pasture, and fewer houses. At the fork in the road (mile 3.9), veer right onto Brush Creek Road. The pavement surface gets rough here; watch out for potholes. The vista is of a desolate, dry landscape. The road turns downhill at mile 7.3; stay right at the Y intersection at mile 7.8. Climb out of this “saddle” to mile 8.5 and then begin another steep downhill. Reach the foot of the descent at mile 9.0; enter Brush Creek Valley. There are a few houses through here and a prominent bluff on your left. The pavement surface improves at mile 9.7, except for a rough, narrow bridge at mile 11.9. Turn left at mile 12.5 onto 9600 East (S.R. 149) and head north. This lightly used state highway (680 vehicles per day in 2005) provides direct access to Dinosaur National Monument. After passing some lovely meadows, with bluffs on your left and the Green River on your right, enter the monument at mile 14.3.

The monument’s entrance station is at mile 16.0; you may be required to pay a fee here. The visitor center (not the quarry, which is up the adjacent hill) is on the left; stop here for restrooms, refreshments, and information. The mountains in the foreground appear to “bubble” over the landscape; the tall peak in the background is Split Mountain (elevation 7,609 feet). The road through the monument reveals a mixture of tilted sedimentary rocks, hogbacks (steep ridges that are narrow at the top and broad at the bottom), flatirons (successions of hogbacks), and cuestas (asymmetrical ridges). There are also sections of desert scrub, along with panoramas of the Green River and nearby Yampa Plateau. Cross the Green River at mile 21.5 and begin a gradual climb.

The rocky ridges have a very bright sand color that accentuates their ruggedness. The grade eases at mile 23.2, and the road narrows at mile 23.9. Turn around here; beyond this point, the road continues to narrow, becoming unpaved. On the return ride, cross the Green River at mile 26.1 and begin to climb. The road crests at mile 27.8; check out the expansive vista at mile 29.2. You are looking at the broad draw of the Green River. The famous Dominguez-Escalante expedition passed through this area in 1776. The visitor center appears on the right at 31.7; exit the monument at mile 33.8. After crossing Brush Creek, turn right onto 3500 South (Brush Creek Road; mile 35.5) and start the westerly journey back toward Vernal.

Cross the rough, narrow bridge at mile 36.1; the pavement surface becomes consistently rough at mile 38.4. The road climbs at mile 39.1. After cresting at mile 40.0, the road makes a sharp descent; stay left at the Y intersection and watch for gravel in the turn. The road makes a short, steep climb before entering rolling terrain. This area, through which you passed earlier, is particularly desolate, with only patchy scrub. The high mountains in the far distance are the Uintas, Utah’s tallest range. The pavement surface improves at mile 42.4. Vernal can be seen in the distance at the crest in the road at mile 43.4. Turn left onto 500 North (no street sign) at mile 44.2. Development slowly returns after you cross Ashley Creek at mile 45.5. Cross Vernal Avenue at mile 47.2. At mile 47.7, turn right at 500 West to continue on 500 North. The ride ends at 900 West (mile 48.1); turn left here to return to Vernal City Park, which is on your right after making the turn.

Previous Image Next Image