Dinosaur National Monument is located along the eastern border of Utah and the western border of Colorado. What makes Dinosaur National Monument so unique is seeing such a large concentration of dinosaur bones, a few of which visitors can touch! Not only do you get to see dinosaur bones, but you can also get close-up views of petroglyphs and get to do traditional park activities too!
Dinosaur National Monument
One of the main highlights of a visit to Dinosaur NM is visiting the Dinosaur Quarry. I spent a lot more time here than I expected and was instantly drawn into the numerous displays offered. There are several other activities once you leave the Quarry exhibit area so make sure to leave yourself enough time.
The park also offers so much more including scenic driving, camping, hiking, petroglyphs, and more. Check out all of our favorite top things to do in Dinosaur National Monument.
One thing to know about Dinosaur NM is the park is large! There are multiple visitor centers, access roads, and campgrounds. The park is currently 210,000 acres of protected land.
You will want to make sure you are heading to the part of the park you plan to visit when setting up your GPS.
Quarry Visitor Center
The Quarry Visitor Center is located near Vernal in Northeastern Utah and has onsite exhibits, rangers available for questions, and a great park store.
Don’t miss the giant dinosaur statue outside the visitor center that is fantastic for family photos.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is a must for every first-time visitor to Dinosaur National Monument! The back wall of the Exhibit Hall has approximately 1500 dinosaur bones exposed as they come out of the rock.
It is hard to explain what it feels like to first see this epic wall of bones within the fossil bed. Going into our visit I knew the bones would be large but then seeing them in person gave me a whole new perspective of just how big dinosaurs really were.
To reach the quarry there is a wheelchair-accessible outdoor ramp that leads up to the second level entrance. Make sure to bring a $1 bill with you to pick up the Quarry visitor guide that explains each of the bones you will see along the bone wall and more about the history of the quarry.
Once inside it is a self-guided tour through the two-level building. On the second level, there are interactive screens that help you identify the bones you are looking at.
There are benches along the wall so you can sit back and just stare in awe at the bones.
To reach the lower level there is a wheelchair-accessible ramp that guides you down to the lower level. On the lower level, you can see the rocks that the dinosaur bones are in, interpretive information, and fossils that have been found in the area.
Don’t miss what I think are the best benches I have seen in any national park! Bone benches! LOL!
One of the highlights and things that I didn’t even know should be on my National Park Bucket List but it is now ….being able to touch a dinosaur bone!
Seriously there is an area where you can touch dinosaur bones still in the rocks.
One thing to know is the only restrooms are outside near the parking lot. Make sure everyone has taken advantage of them so you do not have to rush out from the quarry.
Petroglyphs and Pictographs
There are multiple opportunities to view petroglyphs within the park.
Make sure to pick up the $1 Dinosaur Scenic Drive guide to follow along and know which stops have petroglyphs.
The first petroglyph stop is super close to the visitor center.
The petroglyphs towards the end of the scenic drive are amazing. The sheer size of them is hard to even put into words.
I can’t imagine how many weeks and months it may have taken someone to chisel away at the rocks to create the petroglyphs.
Quarry Area Scenic Drive
The scenic drive that starts near the Quarry is a paved road for the majority of the drive. Towards the end of the drive, it does turn to gravel to reach a few locations.
The Green and Yampa River wind their way to Dinosaur NM from high in the Rocky Mountains. Depending on where you are on the river you may encounter Class III rapids or calm river flowing by perfect for relaxing.
There are two ways to experience river rafting in the park either commercial guided trips or private non-commercial trips.
There are six front-country campgrounds within Dinosaur NM. You will want to make sure you plan which campground you want to stay in based on where you are in the park.
Near the Quarry, there are two campgrounds. The main Green River Campground is for individual use and the Split Mountain group campground.
Junior Ranger Program
The Dinosaur NM Junior Ranger Program can be picked up at the Quarry Visitor Center, Quarry Exhibit Hall, or Canyon Visitor Center.
You can also work on the booklet before your visit. Download the Junior Ranger book here (ages 5 and up) or the Pre-Reader Junior Ranger book here (ages 5 and under). When you finish the activity book, just email the park a picture, and they will mail you a badge!
Dinosaur NM is a LARGE PARK with multiple entrances. Most visitors drive straight to the Quarry entrance and visit the Quarry Visitor Center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
If you want to explore other areas of the park, make sure to give yourself plenty of time as there are no main roads that connect areas of the park. This means you have to drive into an area of the park then drive back out and drive to another location to drive into another area of the park. There are a few exceptions for high clearance 4X4 vehicles but I would highly suggest checking in with a visitor center before heading out to check on road conditions.
If you are driving to Dinosaur NM from Grand Junction Colorado be prepared for a three-hour drive that includes windy mountain roads. We did this drive after visiting Colorado National Monument and then back on the windy roads and it was a lot. We actually stopped at one point to see if we could slow down the motion sickness we were feeling.
You will pass through a few small towns on your way to the park with limited services. I highly suggest having a full tank of gas, food, and water before heading out to the park.
Plan for the drive to take longer than you think it will. We passed a ton of amazing interpretive sites in BLM land that looked epic to check out.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. There is not a lot of shade on the trails within the park.
We visited towards the end of September and it was still 97 degrees in the afternoon. We talked to another visitor who had recently had snow and freezing temperatures in the park. Make sure to check the weather report before heading out to the park.
Some of the park roads close once they receive snow. You can check the National Park website for current road closures.
If you plan to visit more than one area of the park you will want to plan to spend multiple days in the park. The entire park is not connected so you will have to drive in and out of the park to reach each section.
Make sure to enter the visitor center address in your GPS/map program so you are directed to the correct location. If you enter just the park name you may be sent to the headquarters office and/or the middle of the park.
Things to know when planning a trip to Dinosaur NM
Private vehicle - $25
Motorcycle - $20
Walk-ins or bicyclist - Per person - $15
We highly suggest purchasing an annual National Park Pass so you can visit parks all over the country.
WiFi - Free WiFi is available at the Quarry Visitor Center.
National Park Sites near Dinosaur National Monument
Rocky Mountain National Park
Check out all of the National Parks in Colorado and neighboring Utah National Parks, Wyoming National Parks, Nebraska National Parks, Arizona National Parks, Kansas National Parks, Oklahoma National Parks, and National Parks in New Mexico.