Looking to avoid the crowds and see one of the country’s most spectacular national monuments?

Head to Vernal, Utah, to see Dinosaur National Monument. You can explore this special place by foot, but don’t miss the opportunity to experience the monument by water. The Green and Yampa Rivers cut through this monument. And 150 years ago, in 1869, explorer John Wesley Powell took four boats and nine men with him down the Green River to where it joins the Colorado River in what is now Canyonlands National Park in Utah. From there, they rowed and navigated perilous rapids through the Grand Canyon.

Raft Dinosaur National Monument

Rafting on the Green River inside Dinosaur National Monument

Rafting on the Green River inside Dinosaur National Monument

You can raft the gorgeous Green River on a one-day or multi-day trip that cuts through the monument, passing gorgeous striated sandstone walls and lush coves.Then head outdoors and visit Dinosaur National Monument

On foot, you’ll see ancient Native American rock art of animal-like figures, abstract designs and human-like figures whose meaning is still a mystery. You’ll also find unmistakable dinosaur bones — more than 1,500 — in the monument’s sandstone walls.

Visit McConkie Ranch in Vernal

Petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch near Vernal, Utah

Petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch

Beyond the park, head to the McConkie Ranch just a 15-minute drive from Vernal to see hundreds of Fremont Indian rock art panels , most dating from 1 AD to 1300. Owned by Jean McConkie McKenzie, the 500-acre property may have more ancient drawings on a one-mile-stretch than anywhere else in Utah, says Lesha Coltharp, Uintah County travel and tourism director.

“It’s an authentic experience,” says Coltharp, noting it’s a $5 per car suggested donation to visit the ranch. “It’s Jean’s homestead and if she’s home, she’ll show you the pottery she’s collected. She just wants people to experience the area’s history.”

You’ll see the Three Kings, a set of intricate drawings that tower above you on the cliff’s walls. You’ll also catch a glimpse of an ancient artist’s sense of humor when you spot a drawing of a frightened hunter being chased by a deer.

Rent an ATV and See Dinosaurs in Vernal

Riding ATVs near Vernal, Utah

Riding ATVs near Vernal, Utah

To explore the Vernal area by ATV, head to Dinosaurland KOA, 930 North Vernal Ave., to rent an ATV and explore trails that cater to all levels and leave from the property. Or take your mountain bike to McCoy Flats, Dry Fork Flume Trail, which is 10 miles from the McConkie Ranch, or Red Fleet State Park. 

Mountain biking at McCoy Flats near Vernal, Utah

Mountain biking at McCoy Flats

Then, cool down in the  Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. A giant Diplodocus stretching 90 feet from tail to tip will greet you at the door. Inside, get an engaging hands-on primer on what’s been going on for the last several million years. Learn about the area's dinosaurs and how to tell fossils apart from pebbles. Step into the Fossil Lab to discover scientists working with dinosaur bones. And don’t miss the Dinosaur Garden where 17 full-sized replicas of prehistoric animals loiter.

But don't miss Red Fleet State Park 13 miles north of Vernal on Hwy. 191 where you can walk an up-and-down, 1.5-mile trail to 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks. Go early in the morning or later afternoon as the tracks are difficult to see when the sun is directly above you. There’s camping here, including a couple sites with teepees. The park rents kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards, so you can cool down and explore the Red Fleet Reservoir.

Dinosaur track at Red Fleet State Park in Utah

Dinosaur track at Red Fleet Reservoir

When you get hungry, head to a local favorite, Betty’s Cafe, 416 W. Main St., for a reasonably-priced breakfast. For dinner,  head to The Quarry Steakhouse that offers great steaks and indoor and outdoor seating. Don’t miss its mosaic floor that contains a map of the area’s rivers, state parks and more.

For craft beer and a gastro pub menu, head to Vernal Brewing Co. Beers are named after area attractions like Little Hole Lager [a popular Green River boat takeout in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area] and Allosaurus Amber. 

For more information
Uintah County Travel & Tourism

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
496 East Main St., Vernal UT, UT 84078


Paddleboarding in Sheep Creek on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir

Flaming Gorge Country's Desert Oasis

Take a break from the desert heat by jumping in the sparkling water and spend several days exploring this 91-mile-long reservoir.

Cliff Palace Tour in Mesa Verde National Park

7 Four Corners Gems Surrounding Mesa Verde National Park

From a thriving restaurant scene to rare opportunities to learn about our nation’s ancient history, Cortez, Mancos and Dolores offer more than just uncrowded trails in one of Colorado’s most undiscovered corners. Here are the top 7 things to do in Mesa Verde country.

Opera House in Central City, Colorado

Hidden Colorado Gems in Central City

Strike gold in Central City, a historic Gold Rush town south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Moab's Top Seven

From a walk past life-sized dinosaurs to rafting the Colorado River, your family trip will be full of adventure.

Park Avenue rock formations in Arches National Park, Utah

5 Stops on Arches National Park's Scenic Drive

Don't miss these five awe-inspiring formations in Arches National Park that can be seen after a short stroll from their parking areas.

Steamboat Rock in Dinosaur National Monument

A Jurassic Journey through Moffat County, Colorado

Rugged and wild, Moffat County is Colorado’s last frontier where wide open spaces hold treasures too rare to be missed.

Aerial view of Salt Lake City

12 Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah

From a thriving performing arts scene to the world's largest collection of genealogy records, it's a fantastic place to start your Rocky Mountain adventure.

Glamping at Under Canvas near Zion National Park

Why Glamping is Great for Non-Campers

Want to sleep under the stars but prefer to skip sleeping bags, dirt and pit toilets? Try glamping near national parks across America.

Interior of glamping tent at Under Canvas Smoky Mountains

Why Glamping is Great for Families

Elevate your national park vacation when you and your family spend the night at a glamping camp.