Dinosaur National Monument comprises 210,000 acres (325 square miles) of northwest Colorado and northeast Utah, straddling the border of these two states at the northeast extremity of the Great Basin Desert. About two-thirds of the park is in Colorado. The Monument is situated on a high plateau ranging in elevation from 4,500 to 7,000 feet. In 1938 the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers were added to the original 80 acres. These colorful canyons, carved into spectacular geological formations, expose much of the Earth's history and provide numerous activities for outdoor enthusiasts, including river rafting.
Climate & Weather
Local conditions vary greatly with geology and other factors. Summer afternoon showers may limit access to or from specific sections of the monument because a normally easy drive crosses a section of Mancos shale or Mowry shale. When wet, these formations create roads that are greasy, impassable and often dangerous. Usually, given the sporadic nature of summer storms, the roads dry out within several hours and again become passable.
The monument is located in a Cold Desert region, characterized by low humidity, hot summer days, with occasional violent afternoon thunder storms; summer evenings are cool because skies are clear and there are no moderating large bodies of water nearby. Most moisture falls as winter snow, and winter temperatures are often cold. Elevations vary between 4,500 feet and 9,000 feet. Thus, a hot summer day at the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center can be pleasantly cool at Harpers Corner.
People unaccustomed to high elevations should take some time to acclimatize, and drink plenty of water. The arid, often hot summer climate means you should always carry and drink water. In the clear air, and higher elevations less of the sun's ultraviolet rays are filtered out. During summer, it is wise to wear some form of head gear and carry sun screen. Because of the arid climate, your skin can dry out. Consider the value of moisturizing lotion. Insects occur, primarily in riparian habitats, during some seasons. Spring and summer afternoons can spawn strong winds and locally violent lightning storms. Stay away from exposed places and high ridges during lightning storms.
Wear clothing appropriate for the season and activity in which you are participating. Suitable footwear for hiking in rough terrain is important. It is even important to have suitable footwear and clothing available when traveling, especially when exploring the more remote areas of the park. Motorists are well advised to carry and know how to use a jack and spare tire. A small shovel, first aid kit, additional water and other emergency supplies are good ideas.
CAUTION: The river water, released from the depths of Flaming Gorge, is COLD. River currents are deceptively dangerous and swimming is not advised. Diving into rivers is extremely dangerous as sandbars move and obstacles are hidden.
Getting There by Auto
Monument Headquarters Visitor Center is one mile east of Dinosaur, Colorado, just off US 40. This is the center for information on the canyon country of the park. There are no dinosaur bones in this area.
Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center is 7 miles north of Jensen, Utah, on Utah State Highway 149. Many people miss the turn onto UT 149 in Jensen, from US 40, so be alert. This area of the park contains the only place where dinosaur bones can be observed.
There are daily scheduled flights to Grand Junction, Colorado,130 miles south.
Bus service from Grand Junction, Colorado to Vernal, Utah is available.
The nearest railroad terminals are Grand Junction, Colorado, and Thompson, Utah.
Within the Park
Commercial highway transportation is available within the park through T-Rex Taxi (801) 790-7433. Trailers or RVs should not be taken on the Echo Park or Yampa Bench Road.