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Dinosaur National Monument

All I can say is this place is really far away. From Steamboat it's another 200 miles on a 2 lane road. The drive is somewhat tollerable to Craig but after that it is just high desert and looks like the drive from Fruita to Green River so on the scenery scale, its about a 3.

There are 2 entrances to DNM, one in Colorado and one in Utah. The Colorado entrance is free. There are no dinosaur fossils, trails or exhibits to be seen. But there is great adventure driving to be had. We rolled out about 25 miles to Echo Park Rd and then headed down the hill. It was a great drive down some moderatly steep switchbacks to a nice large valley. You can think back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the area, ranchers worked the land but now it's just quiet, windswept spot. Once we got down to the Yampa Bench road we pulled off for some lunch and relaxation.

Wild horses at the top of Echo Park Rd.
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Lunch spot. It's so hard to find good places to have lunch when on the road
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We could see the storms moving in and that was a good as any to roll out. We came home on County Road 16 which might be one of the best roads to drive. It was smooth, fast, sweeping and the FJ handled it with neary a wimper.

We camped up at Steinker State Park just outside of Vernal. It is the gateway to get up to Flaming Gorge. We camped here cause the author forgot to make reservations at the park. They only have about 25 spots that you can reserve and the rest is first come first serve. The spots are nice and large, shady, close to water and fairly cheap. Entrance and camping ran $18 a night. Ran into some other CO peeps who said the mountain biking is pretty good and running the Yampa or Green river in kayaks is pretty easy also. Since I already have mountain bikes it seemed like a good time to buy the family kayaks also. But that will be a whole other trip report......coming soon though.

We did the Utah Field House museum which is a great place for all kinds of dinosaurs that they have recreated, they have a full working lab for dating fossils and some local artists that have done some paintings.

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The city of Vernal has gone all in on the dino thing. Tourism is big but oil is where the money is being made. New houses, apratments, hotels are going up all over town. The resturant selection on the other hand...no so much. There are 2 breweries in town. Just remember this is Utah so there are some crazy liquor laws to deal with.

The Utah side of DNM is fairly small. It is made up of visitor center, 2 camp grounds and The Quarry. The Quarry dates back to early 20s when the first dinosaur fossils were found. It is now an enclosed site with air condition, interactive programs and ranger programs. My kids are into collecting National Park Jr Ranger badges so this was the last one needed for CO. Now only 3 more to go for Utah.

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All in all, its always good to get away. This trip was kinda quick at 3 days and 360 miles one way. It would be a great way to go if you are going to head north to Flaming Gorge, up 191 into Rock Springs and then up to the Tetons and Yellowstone. Would have to be more scenic that driving through Cheyenne, Casper and Sheridan right?
 
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Overland1

Administrator
Staff member
Looks like another great time. Before overlanding replaced our road trips my wife and I would jump in our old Miata and take a road trip every 4th of July. Years ago we decided to go to Steamboat and then Dinosaur before heading back on I70. The Miata was black, stripped down with no A/C. The drive to Dinosaur was brutal, we had the windows down but the hot air kept things roasting. We got to the Colorado entrance and asked the ranger about fossils etc. We were disheartened to find out the Colorado side had nothing and the building built into the side of a cliff we saw in pictures was condemned. They did tell us that there were a few fossils on at the west entrance. We figured since we came this far we might as well continue on so made the 1.5 hour drive to that side.

The "fossils" were 3-4 bones in an open air pavilion, the saving grace was a double wide trailer in the parking lot selling souvenirs. They didn't have any water, which we were out of by this time, but did have A/C. We must of walked circles in that trailer for an hour trying to cool off. We watched with envy as other people drove in, windows up, A/C on enjoying the trip. I think we made it down to Grand Junction that night and took a cool shower.

Needless to say I'm glad your trip was better then ours.
 
Ben, it rained almost every night at dinner time. Cooking dinner in the rain, sitting inside a 10x12 tent with 2 kids and no electronics....not always my kind of fun.
 

Morris Yarnell

Well-Known Member
I went there when I was about 11 with my Dad. The side of the hill was available and it seemed (in my memory at least) that I enjoyed the place. I was a kid and all that stuff was gold to me.
Based on your report and not my memories, I might not take the trip. It is a long way to see a few bones at this stage of life. Rather save the dollars and strain of a long single purpose trip.
Thanks for the pics and the write up.
 
Morris, it is a long ways for not alot of substance. But these trips are for my kids to talk about to their friends and brag about going to see things. Soon I will get to take "my trip" and to brag to my friends about how cool it was. Good seeing you last night.
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
I looked briefly into a dinosaur loop tour that went through Wyoming and Montana. Several stops along the way, all accessible by pavement pounders. I don't remember too much though as I didn't get too far into the planning.