Dinosaur National Monument is a one-of-a-kind location where you can see dinosaur bones in the earth exactly as they were discovered many decades ago. In this short article we’re going to discuss where Dinosaur National Monument is located and ten pieces of information we believe are helpful to know before your visit. We hope you enjoy!
Is, “In the middle of nowhere Timbuktu,” specific enough? The exact location is outside the town of Jensen, in the NW corner of Utah (near the Colorado border). It’s a ten-minute drive north of Jensen to the monument. There are signs off Highway 40 to direct you.
It can be tricky to get here using phone GPS because other locations pertain to Dinosaur National Monument. If you don’t inspect your phone instructions, you may find yourself at the Canyon Visitor Center in Colorado. Trust us. If this happens, hopefully you were headed west, not east.
Here’s the Address: 11625 E 1500 S. Jensen, UT 84035.
A paleontologist named Earl Douglass arrived from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1909. His task was to find intact dinosaur bones and send them back to the museum for display. After searching for many weeks, his team found the first bones of what would soon become the Carnegie Quarry. This section of the Morrison rock formation would yield over 350 tons of fossils and become one of the most significant paleontological finds of the 20th Century.
On October 4, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson established the 80 acres around the Carnegie Quarry as Dinosaur National Monument to protect the enormous find. On July 14, 1938, the park was expanded another 200,000 acres by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The first building you’ll come upon is the visitor center. It is a newer facility with some models and placards to explain the history. We recommend stopping in for 10-30 minutes to look around and ask questions of NPS staff.
A short drive from there is the Carnegie Quarry facility (seen in the top photo). The interior of the building (show directly above) is impressive. You can spend 1-2 hours here.
In addition to these two primary facilities, there are some petroglyphs and a beautiful, riverside campground to explore.
The primary dinosaurs located at Dinosaur National Park are:
Meat Eaters: Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Torvosaurus. All are “T-Rex type” dinosaurs.
Plant Eaters: Camarasaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus, (all brontosaurus-type dinosaurs); Stegosaurus; Camptosaurus, Dryosaurus.
Allosaurus and Camarasaurus are the most common dinosaurs found in the Late Jurassic of Utah and all of North America.
The Carnegie Quarry located at Dinosaur National Monument was mined heavily for specimens before President Woodrow Wilson established a portion of it as a National Monument.
Dinosaur fossils from Carnegie Quarry are housed in museum collections all over the world. Skeletons from Carnegie Quarry can be seen in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
The Fremont people lived in this area about 1,000 years ago and left evidence of their presence in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs. In general, they lived in small bands or family groups, grew crops to supplement native foods, and did not build large permanent dwellings. Archaeological evidence of the Fremonts at Dinosaur National Park dates from about 200 A.D. to about 1300 A.D.
The “Swelter Shelter” petroglyphs are found a minute east of where Dinosaur National Monument is located, on the side of Highway 149. Look for the roadside placard and you won’t miss it. The walk from the road to the petroglyphs is less than a minute.
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If you drive further east of the petroglyphs on Highway 149, then turn left at the T, you will promptly arrive at Split Mountain Campground (photo below). It is a primitive campground with four sites open 24/365. There are a handful of day-area picnic sites as well.
The Split Mountain Campground is located along the banks of the Green River at an elevation of 4800 feet. Split Mountain backdrops the entire campground. The campground is 5 miles from the quarry where Dinosaur National Monument is located.
Split Mountain: A beautiful setting to admire. The yellow and red hills are otherworldly.
River Rafting: Beside the Split Mountain Campground is the boat ramp where rafters and boaters come off the Green River. Commercial trips are offered: They include both one day trips through Split Mountain Canyon and multi-day trips of four or five days depending on the river. Here is a link. Here’s another. If you have the experience and the equipment, you can apply for a permit (link) for your own private, noncommercial river trip. The Green and Yampa Rivers are challenging.
Hiking: The Desert Voices Trail (1.7 mile moderate loop) and Sounds of Silence Trail (3.2 mile moderate-to-difficult loop) are each located in the park. Both hikes lend stunning panoramic of the geologic diversity found located in Dinosaur National Park.
More Petroglyphs: The Chew Ranch Petroglyphs and Cub Creek Petroglyphs are found further along Highway 149. The McKee Springs Petroglyphs are quite spectacular, but very difficult to find on the network of primative roads located north of Dinosaur National Monument.
The park is also home to an abundance of caves, canyons, overlooks, cabins, and ranches across its sprawling acreage. The best way to see all of what Dinosaur National Monument has to offer is to sign-up for a multi-day rafting trip on the Green and Yampa rivers.
The town located nearest Dinosaur National Monument (not counting the tiny scratch of Jensen) is Vernal, Utah, 20 miles west. Here you can find appropriate lodging, restaurants, amusements, supplies, etc., as well as a couple of recommended attractions.
Congrats! You drove far out of the way to see something very cool. Here are some maps for perspective:
It cannot be stated enough how far from significant cities you are at Dinosaur National Monument. It’s incredible they discovered anything out here, let alone something they were looking for.
The question is: Is it worth the time and gas money?
We think the answer is yes… but… not unless you are moving between places or doing a deep investigation of the surrounding areas. The fossil collection is undeniably great — something you’d probably not find anywhere else on earth — and to see it with your own two eyes is special. However, it isn’t going to entertain your for days or weeks, but hours, unless you’re rafting the rivers.
Nearby attractions like Flaming Gorge, the Ashley National Forest and Uintah Mountains, Colorado National Monument, Arches NP, etc., could be packaged together to create a very cool vacation.
We were on our way from Grand Junction to Salt Lake City, and decided it was worth the extra 40 minutes of drive time. We’re not sure if we’d recommend driving the 7 hours round-trip from SLC to Dinosaur National Monument for the singular experience of inspecting the fossils. It depends on how dino-crazy you or your kids are. You wouldn’t likely regret it, but you might not feel like your time was spent as well as it could have been.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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