Dinosaur National Monument offers two distinctly different areas in which to enjoy your time visiting the park. Take the time to learn about the Quarry Area and the Canyon Country region of the park.
Dinosaur National Monument has two identities. It was originally established as a national monument to protect an area that was one of the most productive sources of dinosaur bones in the world. This original area is home to the famous Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall, a structure built over an actual quarry, displaying some 1,500 exposed bones from 11 different dinosaur species. Visitors are allowed to touch and feel the bones embedded in the rock. Aside from dinosaurs, the monument also includes pleasant scenic drives, Indian petroglyphs and the Tour of Tilted Rocks, which takes you to the preserved cabin of a female homesteader Josie Basset Morris.
Dinosaur National Monument includes 300 square miles of great high desert canyon country through which the Green and Yampa Rivers flow. Viewed from the top, you can see the end of the Rockies and the start of the desert. This area, the Canyon Country, offers good scenery and some hiking and whitewater rafting opportunities on the two rivers. You'll want to explore Dinosaur National Monument thoroughly indeed.
The Quarry Area
Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall
The quarry consists of an angular wall of sandstone in which are embedded thousands of fossilized dinosaur bones. The rock holding the bones has been painstakingly scraped away so that the bones stand in relief. The quarry is so concentrated that there are some nearly full skeletons and many "piles" of bones. The quarry itself is covered by a glass and steel structure. Though very interesting, the quarry is small and will only occupy a few hours of your time at most. The visitor's center is located half a mile from the quarry. The Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall was closed and completely rebuilt from 2006-2011, and was reopened in October of 2011. Visiting hours at the quarry are from 9:15am to 4:45pm (last trip up to the quarry at 4:15pm) daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The visitors center is open 9am - 5pm.
Past the quarry is a pleasant 10 mile long scenic drive (Cub Creek Road) that winds along the attractive jagged cliffs of Split Mountain and along the meandering Green River and Cub Creek. Cub Creek Road passes some interesting rock formations and good Indian petroglyphs. At the end of drive is the cabin of Josie Morris, who farmed and raised livestock alone on her small homestead during the early part of this century. The cabin is set beneath shear sandstone cliffs in a pleasant wooded area. You can picnic here or at Placer Point Picnic Area near the Green River.Hiking Trails
A small pamphlet entitled "Tour of the Tilted Rocks" identifies points of interest along the scenic drive. One can be picked up at the Quarry or at a roadside box just past the quarry.
There are two short hiking trails along the scenic drive in the Quarry Area. The Sound of Silence Nature Trail loop begins 2 miles past the quarry. It climbs up a wash to some fine panoramas of the area and descends over slickrock. (The trail is not very well marked so you'd be advised to pick up a trail guide at the visitor center.) The Desert Voices Loop Trail begins opposite the entrance to Split Mountain Campground and makes a loop through lower portions of the Split Mountains. It has trail signs made by kids for kids.
The Canyon Country
The Canyon Country is a much larger area of the park. Its beautiful, deep canyons were carved by the Green and Yampa rivers over hundreds of thousands of years. The rivers offer good white water rafting.
Harper's Corner Area
The canyon country area is most easily seen from Harper's Corner Scenic Drive. The scenic drive starts at Hwy 40, about 10 miles northwest of Rangely (CO). The monument's main Visitor Center is located here. Harper's Corner Scenic Drive winds north 31 miles to the Harpers Corner lookout. Along the way are several picnic areas and other lookouts over the canyons carved by the Green and Yampa Rivers.
At mile 25 of the drive a rough dirt road branches to the left for Echo Park. The 13 mile rough dirt road descends to a wonderful lookout over the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers.
A few short hikes can be made from points along Harper's Corner Scenic Drive:
• At the Plug Hat Butte picnic area (Mile 4) is an easy 1/2 mile nature hike through dry pinyon pine and juniper woodland.
• At Island Point Overlook (Mile 26), the Ruple Point Trail follows an abandoned road to a point overlooking Split Mountain Canyon and the Green River. The round trip distance is 8 miles.
• At the end of the drive at Harpers Corner, a trail leads one mile further on to a point overlooking Whirlpool Canyon and the Green and Yampa Rivers.
The other access points to the Canyon Country serve mainly as put in or take out points for river runners. Each has a primitive campground. At the Gates of Lodore is a 1-1/2 mile trail (roundtrip) along the river to a superb view of the canyon entrance.
Adventurous hikers may wish to set out on their own in the monument. Rangers can suggest possible routes and provide information on current conditions and sources of water.