Visitors can enjoy unique attractions at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado. While visiting here, I found myself constantly shifting my field of view to things above and below me. Colorful tilting rocks in vast landscapes showed geology in action. Petroglyphs and pictographs told stories of Indigenous people from long ago. An amazing collection of dinosaur fossils took me even further back in time.
The Monument also includes places to hike, fish, river raft, picnic, and camp. There’s a visitor center in Utah, and another in Colorado.
The small Visitor Center in Utah features informational exhibits and a store.
You can sign up for a bus shuttle that takes you to the nearby Quarry Exhibit Hall. At certain times of the year, you must take the shuttle bus there, but when we visited, we could drive ourselves. DO NOT MISS IT!
Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Exhibit Hall
I had read about this site before, but I was blown away when I saw it in person. WOW!
A long, narrow building houses an amazing wall of dinosaur fossils. Discovered by paleontologist Earl Douglass, in 1909, it includes 100 fossils of dinosaurs and other creatures.
Discoveries at this site include dinosaur tracks, embryos, eggs, juveniles, and adults. Several of the specimens are nearly complete.
Paleontologists overlaid the site with a grid to help them map out where the specimens were located. If you visit the site, touch screens identify specific remains. Nice, interactive tool!
Identifying the jumble of bones found must have been like trying to separate several boxes of jigsaw puzzles all dumped together.
They uncovered approximately 1,500 bones here.
Other items on display
The Exhibit Hall also includes large articulated dinosaur skeletons and several smaller displays.
The Quarry Building
The original Dinosaur National Monument Quarry building, constructed in the 1950s, was rebuilt from 2009 to 2012. Modifications were made to stabilize the building, constructed over clay bentonite soil. It helps protect the fossils from vandalism and the damaging effects of weather. You can view the wall from the second story or get a closer view at ground level.
Dinosaur National Monument Tilted Rocks Tour
We started our tour at the Utah Visitor Center and then drove ten miles along Cub Creek Road. An Auto Guidebook of the twelve-mile route is available to purchase where the tour begins.
Stop 1 takes you to Swelter Shelter, a short 200-foot walk from the road. Researchers who worked at the site gave it this name while working in the desert heat. People made the pictographs and petroglyphs discovered here about 1,000 years ago.
I featured another petroglyph site north of here in my Legend Rock post.
Stop 2 takes you to the 1.8-mile-long Sound of Silence Trail. We did not hike the moderate-to-difficult trail on our visit since we didn’t want to leave our dogs in a hot vehicle.
My favorite view from above
We stopped at Stop 3 to get a better view of Split Mountain. The Green River, for some unknown reason, went right through this mountain instead of going around it.
Stop 4 highlights tilting rocks in the landscape. Forces deep underground pushed them upward, warping them into dome shapes.
Stop 5 explains the processes that formed the current landscape. When uplift occurred 50-60 million years ago, the nearby Uinta Mountains were formed. The Blue Mountains, and Split Mountain, are foothills of the Uinta. Over time, the mountains eroded and deposited material in the rivers. The Green River eventually cut its way through the deposits.
Stop 6 gives a panoramic view of Cub Creek Valley. Cottonwood trees benefit from the nearby Green River and provide shade to this campground. Farther from the river, drought tolerant shrubs, such as sagebrush and greasewood, predominate.
Stop 7 features banded hills of the Morrison Formation. Gray, red, purple, and brown bands cut across the hills. Outcrops of these formations may contain dinosaur fossils from 149 million years ago.
Stop 8 goes to Placer Point. In the 1930s, gold mining was attempted here, but the particles were too small to mine for profit.
Stop 9 passes by a private inholding of the Chew family. They have ranched in this area since the early 1900s.
Stop 10 directs your attention to Turtle Rock. This landmark developed its unique shape because of more rapid weathering in parts of the sandstone.
Additional stops on the Auto Tour
Stop 11 takes you onto a steep and rough road that climbs 3,000 feet to the peak of Blue Mountain. The tour brochure advises you to only travel this road if you have 4-wheel drive and good off-road tires. We did not attempt it with our campervan.
If you continue the Auto Tour, you’ll go by interesting rock formations and additional petroglyphs.
The last stop is at the ranch of local legend Josephine Bassett Morris, pictured above. She settled here in 1914 and raised livestock and grew produce. She was married five times and supposedly dated Butch Cassidy. The brochure hinted at her colorful history, making me want to learn more about her.
For more information about Dinosaur National Monument, visit Discover Dinosaur.