Dinosaur National Monument: 5 Things to Know

I have been to every National Park in southern Utah. Most, more than once. I had never been to Dinosaur National Monument. It felt out of the way from I-80 and I prefer I-70 through Utah.

I enjoy southern Utah so much that once I hit Utah, going south feels like the only options. Everything is different this year, however. We are taking our annual road trip, despite the current pandemic, because we have the opportunity to see our families. Since everything is different and I love Steamboat Springs, we opted for highway 40 from Salt Lake City.

Dinosaur National Monument’s west entrance is at very close proximity to this route. When we got there, I could not have been more surprised and amazed! The scenery is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Moab but far less populated. We accessed the visitor’s center, hikes, and a campground on the Green River all within 10 miles of the highway and in a 15 minute drive. Here are 8 things to know that I didn’t know until this week.

1. Dinosaur National Monument is not as far out the way as it may seem.

It is on the way if you happen to be on highway 40 between Heber City, Utah and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The west entrance visitor’s center is less than 10 miles from the highway, hikes, and the campground are a few miles beyond.

There are other entrances but we did not explore those on this trip and cannot speak to those. In looking at the map, they clearly seem further from the highway and more difficult to access than the Jensen, Utah entrance. The Quarry Visitor’s Center was well attended but we chose to bypass it in light of the current pandemic.

2. It offers plenty of river sports.

The Green River and its largest tributary, the Yampa River, run through the park before heading south to meet the Colorado in south of Moab.

Whether you prefer to hire a commercial guide or apply for a private permit, the rafting is guaranteed to be an adventure!

If rafting isn’t in your plans, bring your fishing pole, swimsuit, and picnic supplies and settle into a spot on the river bank.

3. The hiking is diverse and accessible.

I have been to tons of National Parks and Monuments and done many, many hikes. Less than two miles from the visitor’s center and on the way to our campground, we stumbled upon one of the most diverse hikes that I have seen.

The Sound of Silence trail is a 3.2 mile loop, rated moderate to difficult. It starts in a dry river bed, winds up and over various rock layers and through narrow washes. We walked in and out the first mile at sunset just after we arrived at the park and then returned the next morning for the full loop. I was not disappointed! Bring a hat (there isn’t any shade), sunscreen, water, and decent shoes. You will get dusty and hot. The trail is well marked and would be nearly impossible to follow with out the markings.

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4. The views are different than you may expect.

Red, green, white, and shades of brown are all mixed together. Red rock stands against white, with valleys and high hills.

5. The campgrounds are easy to find, clean, and enjoyable.

From the Jensen, Utah entrance, there are 2 campgrounds within 10 miles. We chose Green River and it was perfect for what we needed. It was easy to get to and did not require tons of extra driving. It is on the edge of the river and offers a variety of campsites. We followed a trail to a sandy river bank, climbed a steep hill side, made friends with a resident chipmunk, and spotted tons of lizards. There is potable water, toilets and picnic tables. Not every site had shade. Some sites were smaller than others and none were fully exposed to the river but for our purposes and camping in our Sprinter, it was a good fit. The location sealed the deal for sure!

Dinosaur National Monument has much more to offer than just fossils and is easier to access than you may think. Get out there and enjoy!

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