Colorado Resort Adventure Guide

National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument is a diamond in the desert. The diversity of this diamond in the desert is so striking, so surprising to the unprepared, that they are often disappointed they have not allowed more time to experience Dinosaur. A week is not too much time to allow to experience the sparkle of this diamond.

The park was created in 1915 for the unmatched deposit of Jurassic dinosaur bones. The unique natural exhibit of over 1600 dinosaur bones, in their final resting place, were deposited in an ancient river bed turned to stone. Today remnants of that deposit form one wall of the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center.

In 1938 the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers were added to the original 80 acres. These colorful canyons, carved into spectacular geological formations, expose much of the Earth's history.

The park, is a diverse mix of arid ecological communities. Several factors contribute to this diversity. Four biological provinces: the Colorado Plateau, the Rocky Mountains, Great Basin and the Wyoming Basin meet here. Geological faulting, great changes in elevations, the presence of rivers, and the four adjacent provinces enables Dinosaur to contain diverse plant and animal communities. The diversity provides genetic stability for the monument's biota and a cushion against natural disaster. Diversity provided a relatively stable life for groups of The People from earlier times we call Desert Archaic, Paleoindian, Fremont and Ute. Elaborate drawings in the form of petroglphs and pictographs are preserved within the park.

The canyons proved to be a barrier to movement and settlement, and aridity a limiting factor for humans. Abandoned homesteads dating from the early 1900's dot the landscape. Occasionally settlers, because of geology, soil, water and other factors were more successful. This can be observed at the Chew, Ruple and Morris homesteads and some of today's ranches adjacent to the park.

Geology is also a barrier to roads and other developments. Thus today's access roads dip into the heart of the canyon country. Because of limited development silence here is overwhelming. Combined with topography and prevailing weather patterns the skies are clear, exposing billions of night time stars.

Dinosaur National Monument is located in northwest Colorado and northeast Utah and straddling the border of Colorado and Utah. About two-thirds of the park is in Colorado. Dinosaur is 210,000 acres in size; plenty of room for you to find solitude, magnificent scenery, hike a wild landscape, and renew your relationship with nature.

4545 Highway 40
Dinosaur, CO 81610-9724

(970) 374-3000

The park entrance fee is $10.00 per vehicle. Special fees for commercial tours and buses apply. Phone (801) 789-8277 for an educational group entrance fee waiver or more detailed information.

Camping fees vary depending on the season and facilities. Be prepared to pay from $5.00 to $10.00 per night. Rates for the reservation group campsites at Split Mountain group campground are higher. For more information on campgrounds see the Camping Facilities section.

Backpacking, horse packing, and backcountry camping requires a free backcountry permit. These are available at Monument Headquarters and the Dinosaur Quarry.

Fees and non-commercial river permits are required for private white water river trips on the Green and Yampa rivers within the park. For information on fees, equipment and experience requirements, and how to apply for the permit lottery, call (970) 374-2468. Vehicle and passenger shuttle service is available from Wilkins Bus Lines (801) 789-2476. Vehicle shuttle service is available from River Runners Transport (801) 781-1120. Passenger shuttle service is availbe from T-Rex Taxi (801) 790-7433.

Rates for commercial river trips vary according to the length of the trip and other factors. Companies are listed below.

Visitor Centers and Exhibits:
Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center contains exhibits on the Jurassic dinosaurs that lived here, their ecosystem and the science of paleontology. Talks given during summer months and there is a fine book shop.

Headquarters Visitor Center contains exhibits on what to do, river canyons, and human history of the park. There is a 10 minute orientation slide program and book shop.

Self Guiding Auto Tours:
There are two self guided, surfaced road tours (tour guide booklets are available at visitor centers or beside the road at the start of the tour):

-- Near Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center is the "Tour of the Tilted Rocks", a 17 mile round trip drive, that exposes the complexity and beauty of Dinosaur. The drive takes 1-2 hours and will guide you to prehistoric petroglyph sites, to a nature trail, to up-turned scenery of Cub Creek, and to the shaded, cool, historic Morris homestead.

-- Near Monument Headquarters Visitor Center is the "Journey Through Time", a 62 miles round trip drive along the Harpers Corner Road, that takes you up and across the beautiful Blue Mountain Plateau. The drive takes 2-4 hours and will guide you along a gently winding paved road to spectacular scenic overlooks, to several nature trails, to picnic grounds, and to the steep unpaved Echo Park Road that drops into Echo Park and the Yampa Bench, the heart of the park (not passable when wet). If you hike Ruple Point Trail or drive down to Echo Park, plan to spend the entire day. The Harpers Corner Road is the entrance into the canyon backcountry of the park.

Self Guiding Nature Trails:
Desert Voices Nature Trail: Close to the Dinosaur Quarry, is 1 1/2 miles long, moderate difficulty. Trail is an introduction to issues and management of Dinosaur N.M. and has trail signs for kids, by kids.

Sound of Silence Route: Close to the Dinosaur Quarry, is 3 miles long, high difficulty. Learn to find routes and properly hike in the desert, experience silence.

Cold Desert Trail: Is a Monument Headquarters, 1/2 mile long, and easy. Trail is an introduction to flora and fauna of the cold desert sagebrush community.

Plug Hat Trail: Along Harpers Corner Road, 1/4 mile in length and easy. Trail is an introduction to flora and fauna of the pinion-juniper community and offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

Harpers Corner Trail: At the end of Harpers Corner Road, 1 1/2 mile in length, moderate difficulty. Trail is an introduction to dramatic geologic features and a breathtaking view of the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers.

Gates of Lodore Trail: At the end of the campground at Gates of Lodore, 1 mile in length and is easy. Trail offers spectacularly views of the river gorge and introduces some of the plants and geology of the area.

We recommend you purchase trail and auto guides for the above before your visit so that you are familiar with them. Phone (800) 845-DINO to order.

Programs, Activities:
Short talks are presented at the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center every day during summer months. A variety of longer talks and guided walks are offered each day throughout the park during the summer. These programs are designed to get you into the most interesting parts of the park, are fun and deal with the natural and cultural history of the park. Evening talks are presented at the Green River Campground most nights during summer.

Camping Facilities:
Campsites available on first come, first served basis. Green River Campground usually does not fill up during the summer, it has plenty of cottonwood trees shading campsites and is located along the scenic Green River.





Pit Toilets


Green River






Echo Park






Gates of Lodore






Deerlodger Park






Rainbow Park






Groups can reserve a group site at the Split Mountain group campground which contains four sites, water, and modern restrooms. Sites are available with reservation (fee required) - phone (801) 789-8277 for information and to make a reservation.

Limit of stay 14 days. Vehicles or trailers in excess of 35' prohibited. No RV hookups. Water is turned off in the fall to prevent freeze up and is turned on in the spring. When water is not available, a camping fee is not charged. No food, beverage or other supplies available within the park.

Food and Supplies:

Full services are available in Vernal, Utah and Craig and Rangely, Colorado. Limited supplies and services are available in Dinosaur, Browns Park and Maybell, Colorado, and Jensen, Utah.

The geological and climatological conditions that have limited previous attempts at development of the region are still present today. The tilted geological formations create a variety of soils which make construction of facilities and roads difficult and their maintenance expensive. The Cold Desert conditions and barrier of the east to west trending Uinta Mountains create significant snowfall in the higher elevations from December through April. Limited budgets dictate that attempts to keep facilities open match periods of time when more people are travelling. That is usually during summer.

Local conditions also vary greatly with geology and other factors. Summer afternoon showers may limit access to or from specific sections of the monument because a normally easy drive crosses a section of Mancos shale or Mowry shale. When wet these formations create roads that are greasy, impassable and often dangerous. Usually, given the sporadic nature of summer storms the roads dry out within several hours and again become passable.

Because of paved roads and visitor interests it is not uncommon for summer visitation at the Dinosaur Quarry to exceed 1000 people each day, while several miles away petroglyph sites and old homesteads on dirt roads receive only a few hundred visitors. Because it is well off the beaten path, and has modest facilities, the Gates of Lodore campground rarely receives heavy visitation... even though access is by all weather roads. Jones Hole and Harpers Corner have similar conditions. From late autumn until spring the Harpers Corner Road, at elevations above 7000 feet is normally closed because of snow.

River use, by commercial and private river runners, is not possible when the river is iced over in winter. Use begins to climb as the days warm. In late season, around July, the Yampa River receives little use. It is the only major free flowing tributary of the Colorado River System. Because its flow is not regulated by dams there is not enough water for boats in the later summer months. The Green River season extends through the fall because water releases from Flaming Gorge Dam upstream are regulated and adequate for boating. Water release from the dam may favor extending the boating season but the changed flow patterns have threatened many components of the ecosystem.

So visitation is limited by geology, weather and climate, development and peoples interests. That means that people who have the enthusiasm with some ability can choose where and how to experience the park which is in a relatively wild and preserved state. Others will also find access to places and things that will interest them... and perhaps some day draw them another step in the progression of experiencing the values of PRESERVATION.

-Headquarters Visitor Center: Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and is closed on federal holidays during fall, winter, and spring months. Open 8 a.m. - 4:30 on weekends during summer.

-Quarry Visitor Center: Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years days. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day the Quarry is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tour of the Tilted Rocks Auto Tour, campgrounds, other facilities and areas: open all the time except when limited by weather conditions.

A Cold Desert is characterized by low humidity, hot summer days, with occasional violent afternoon thunder storms; summer evenings are cool because skies are clear and there are no moderating nearby large bodies of water. Most moisture falls as winter snow and winter temperatures are often cold. Elevations vary between 4500 feet and 9000 feet. Thus a hot summer day at the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center can be pleasantly cool at Harpers Corner.

Even though humans control much of their comfort in living quarters and while travelling, it is well to remember the effects of the environment. People unused to high elevations should take some time to acclimatize, and drink plenty of water. The arid, often hot summer climate means you should always carry and drink water. In the clear air, and higher elevations less of the sun's ultraviolet rays are filtered out. During summer it is wise to wear some form of head gear and carry sun screen. Because of the arid climate your skin can dry out. Consider the value of moisturizing lotion. Insects occur, primarily in riparian habitats, during some seasons. Spring and summer afternoons can spawn strong winds and locally violent lightning storms. Stay away from exposed places and high ridges during lightning storms.

People should wear clothing appropriate for the season and activity in which they are participating. Suitable footwear for hiking in rough terrain is important. It is even important to have suitable footwear and clothing available when travelling, especially when exploring the more remote areas of the park. Motorists are well advised to carry and know how to use a jack and spare tire. A small shovel, first aid kit, additional water and other emergency supplies are good ideas.

The river water, released from the depths of Flaming Gorge, is COLD. River currents are deceptively dangerous and swimming is not advised. Diving into rivers is extremely dangerous as sandbars move and obstacles are hidden.

Locate and travel to U.S. Highway 40.

The Monument Headquarters and Visitor Center is one mile east of Dinosaur, Colorado, just off US 40. This is the center for information on the canyon country of the park. There are no dinosaur bones in this area.

The Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center is 7 miles north of Jensen, Utah, on Utah State Highway 149. Many people miss the turn onto UT 149 in Jensen so be watchful. This area of the park contains the only place where dinosaur bones can be observed.

Commercial highway travel is available within the park through T-Rex Taxi (801) 790-7433. Concessionaires provide river rafting and bicycle trips. Hiking and bicycling are becoming more popular forms of touring. Although there are few formal trails, prior planning with a detailed map is a very rewarding way to get away from the crowd and experience some spectacular country. Bicycles are restricted to roads, but given the variety of roads and conditions this form of transportation is also on the increase.

Trailers or RV's should not be taken on the Echo Park or Yampa Bench Road.

Each of the visitor centers are minimally accessible. The ramp at the Quarry Visitor Center was not designed for wheel chairs. A free pamphlet describing the upper level exhibits is available. Restroom facilities moderately accessible. Those needing special access can drive directly to the Quarry Visitor Center to park. Headquarters Visitor Center and restrooms are moderately accessible. Primitive accessible toilet facilities are available at Lodore and the end of Harpers Corner Road. Accessible campsite at Green River Campground. There is an accessible trail at the Plug Hat picnic area

Other Visitor Facilities:
The non-profit Dinosaur Nature Association operates bookstores at Monument Headquarters and Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Centers. To order materials or a catalog phone (800) 845-DINO.
The resources of Dinosaur are so varied and vast that there is something here to interest and surprise almost anyone. Activities include bird watching, photography, sightseeing and fishing to general sloth and lollygagging; from sight seeing by car, to walking and backpacking, to white water river running; from sunrise until moonset; from winter crisp and elusive days through the azure and golden fall.

You will be amazed!

On arrival you will be disappointed if you do not allow a day to a week for your visit. At a bare minimum allow 1 - 2 hours to see the fossil dinosaur bones and unique exhibits at the Dinosaur Quarry.

Next, drive the Tour of the Tilted Rocks Auto Tour which is close to the Quarry. The drive takes 1-2 hours and will allow you to begin to appreciate the beauty and scenery of the park. To see rugged and spectacular canyon landscape drive the Journey Through Time Auto Tour which begins a Monument Headquarters and takes 2-4 hours to complete.

Explore for hidden surprises in the Deerlodge area. After the middle of July, the Deerlodge campground is one of the quietest places in the park. Angling for catfish, visiting the many historic cabins in the area, and hiking into Disappointment Draw are activities to soothe the soul.

Become absorbed by the alternating heat and shadow, calm and wind of Steamboat Rock. Ponder the ancients or a fat trout in Jones Hole. Adventure out the mysteries and unsurpassed views of the primitive Yampa Bench Road.

Camp at the Gates of Lodore Campground in Browns Park a quiet little use campground. Lodore and Browns Park is a remote area, that is often overlooked by visitors. The imposing red vertical rock of Lodore Canyon almost always looms on the horizon of the gentle Brown's Park valley. Tucked away, aloof and hidden are petroglyphs, historic coke ovens, Browns Park's historic cemetery, a swinging bridge over Green River, the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, and the reconstructed historic Jarvie Ranch (BLM).

Jones Hole hidden in a 500 million year old geological fault, is caressed by a perennial creek. A well placed artificial lure or fly will bring a battle (artificial flies and lures only, catch limit, license required). Jones Hole is one of the prettiest spots in the park. A fish hatchery, petroglyphs, waterfall, and more await. This is a great place for a family to spend the day.

Consider taking a commercial river trip (1-6 days).

For Commercial Concession River Trips: Reservations strongly recommended, walk ins for day trips often available, see page 2.

For Private Non-commercial trips: PERMIT REQUIRED. Phone (970) 374-2468 for information.

For backcountry camping, hiking & horse packing permits: PERMIT REQUIRED. Phone (970) 374-3000.

For research collecting (collecting anything) by institutions or individuals: PERMIT REQUIRED. Phone (970) 374-3000.

For Commercial activities or special events: PERMIT REQUIRED. Phone (970) 374-3000.

For commercial photography or filming: PERMIT REQUIRED. For media information or filming permit phone (970) 374-3000.

For other commercial activity: PERMIT REQUIRED. Phone (970) 374-3019.

The desert is fragile. It is open and vulnerable. Think about your impact, multiplied by hundreds of thousands of people each year. If you take some time to learn about the special nature of the desert, use good judgement, support the National Park Service mission of PRESERVATION, and FEAR YOUR OWN ACTIONS more than you fear the law, you will be all right and set a good example. If you have ANY question about the impacts you have or the law, ASK A RANGER BEFORE YOU DO IT.

Our mandate from Congress is to preserve the natural and cultural heritage within Dinosaur for future generations to see and enjoy. To achieve this mandate restrictions are required. Therefore, collecting any cultural or natural object (arrowheads, rocks, flowers, bugs, etc) will remove the object so others cannot enjoy it and is not allowed. Hunting or molesting wildlife is not allowed. Placing your name and date, or other graffiti on cabins and rock faces, or other cultural and natural features is not allowed. Driving your vehicle off maintained roadways will scar the soil and damage plants. Treat the park and what is in it like it is your own property, because it is yours to care for.

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park, 
     Vernal, UT                                 (801) 789-3799
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, 
     Vernal, UT                                 (801) 885-3315
Ashley National Forest, Vernal UT               (801) 789-1181
Bureau of Land Management, Craig CO             (970) 824-4441
Bureau of Land Management, Vernal UT            (801) 789-1362
Expedition Island Park, Historical Museum, 
     Green River, WY                            (307) 872-6435
John Jarvie Historic Ranch (BLM) 
     Browns Park, UT                            (801) 885-3307
Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge            (970) 365-3613 
White River History Museum, Meeker, CO          (970) 878-9982
Rangely History Museum, Rangely, CO             (970) 675-2612 
Meeker CO Chamber of Commerce                   (970) 878-5510
Craig CO Chamber of Commerce                    (970) 824-5689
Vernal UT Chamber of Commerce                   (801) 789-1352
Dinosaurland Travel Board (Utah)                (800) 477-5558
Dinosaur CO Welcome Center                      (970) 374-2205

Do you have questions about Colorado's National Parks?