Dinosaur National Monument

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 16-22, 1996
Adventure-of-a-lifetime trips
Rapid transit on the Kern River
Trekking in India
Dinosaur National Monument
Puerto Rico's El Yunque rainforest
Red Rock west--of Vegas, that is

Dinosaur National Monument
Question: I'm looking for information on a family camping vacation in the Dinosaur National Monument area. Do you have any suggestions on where to stay, and what kinds of different activities there are?

Tosha Begley
Monrovia, IN
[email protected]

After a day of touring fossilized bones at the monument's Dinosaur Quarry,
a brain-clearing bike ride
is clearly in order

Adventure Adviser: At first glimpse of the sprawling, 200,000-plus-acre monument, you may feel like you've stepped onto the set of Jurassic Park. Not to worry, though: The only screeching, bloodthirsty raptors around here are the two-inch toy-variety in the kitschy souvenir shops near the monument's entrance. All that's left of the real dinos now are thousands of petrified bones embedded in the canyon walls.

The good news is that even though dinosaur dodging is out of the cards, there's still plenty to do in the area. From the Headquarters Visitor Center, near Dinosaur, Colorado, pick up the 30-mile scenic drive into the spectacular red rock canyon country. Be sure to stop at Harpers Corner, a vertigo-inducing overlook 3,000 feet above the churning, roiling whitewater that marks the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers in Whirlpool Canyon.

From there, head out to the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center, about seven miles north of Jensen, Utah, where you can watch workers chiseling away the barren rock to expose fossilized bones. About 11 miles beyond the Quarry is the Josie Morris Cabin, a deserted pioneer homestead on the banks of a small spring.

For a good out-and-back day hike, take the BLM trail that begins on the far side of the cabin and winds its way up through Daniels Canyon. Pitch your tent at primitive Echo Park campground, near the confluence of the Green and the Yampa, Split Mountain Campground, or Deerlodge Park--all of which have first-come, first-served sites that usually only fill up on holiday weekends. If you opt for backcountry camping, know that in this neck of the woods, it's not terribly official: It usually means merely traipsing at least a half-mile off any established paved or unpaved road or trail. Be sure, though, to pick up a permit from the visitor center before heading out.

Rafting companies such as Adventure Bound River Expeditions (800-423-4668) and Don Hatch River Expeditions (800-342-8243) do big business leading one- to five-day trips on the Green and Yampa. Both rivers are runnable from May through July, but the rapids are at their most hair-raising during the high-water period in late May through early June. For more information, refer to the National Park Foundation's guidebook page on Dinosaur National Monument, or call the monument headquarters at 970-374-3000.

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