Do you have a budding paleontologist in your family? Or, is your child obsessed with geology and fossils?
We have a couple of kiddos in our family who are. They spend hours looking at rocks they find in the riverbed behind our house, trying to guess what fossilized creatures they’ve discovered.
When I knew we would be passing through eastern Utah on a road trip, inspiration struck. Without a doubt, I knew we needed to add Dinosaur National Monument as a stop.
It’s one of those places I hadn’t heard much about, and none of our friends or family had visited. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s not close to any other attractions, but off by itself in the middle of nowhere.
Honestly, I thought it would be fun for our dinosaur-lovers, but I wasn’t prepared for how much ALL of us would love this little hidden gem.
Two States, One Monument
Dinosaur National Monument sits right on the border of Colorado and Utah. There are two areas of the park, the Canyon Visitor Center located in Colorado, and the Quarry Exhibit Hall located in Utah.
If you want to see dinosaur fossils (you do), you’ll want to visit the Utah side. A large building called the Quarry Exhibit Hall houses the fossils.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is built around a huge riverbed discovery. About 1,500 dinosaur bones are on display!
Quarry Exhibit Hall fossil collection (over 1,500 bones)
Get In Free If You Have a Fourth Grader
We had a fourth-grader when we visited, so we were able to use her “Every Kid Outdoors” pass to get the whole family in for free. If you have a fourth-grade student, you’ll definitely want to get a pass of your own! Not only does this pass get you into national parks free for one year, but it also grants you access to over 2,000 national monuments and federal recreation sites!
Quarry Visitor Center
The visitor center is small, consisting primarily of a theatre and gift shop. First, view a short film about the park and learn more about the history of Dinosaur National Monument.
Become a Junior Ranger
Also, while you’re at the visitor center, be sure to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for your young adventurers. Young explorers can complete activities in the booklet and earn a Junior Ranger badge–for free!
At the entrance to the Quarry Visitor Center in Utah
Ride the Tram
From the visitor center, guests can take a tram/shuttle ride up to the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Depending on the season (and COVID precautions), guests may take their own vehicle instead.
Obviously, the tram ride is a hit with kids. It made the trip to the Exhibit Hall more exciting and mysterious!
TIP: Bring plenty of water if you’re visiting during the summer. It was scorching hot when we visited in July. We had to wait for the tram for about 15-20 minutes.
Riding the tram to the Quarry Exhibit Hall
Dinosaur fossil heaven
Visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall
This is where the magic happens! Guests will get to see dinosaur bones up close and personal. They even get to touch them!
My eldest was especially in awe. “My mind is just blown. I just can’t believe it. It’s just completely blown! I’m looking at all these real dinosaur bones, AND I’m actually getting to touch them.”
Blissfully content after touching REAL dinosaur fossils
Explore More at Dinosaur National Monument
Turn your visit into a mini-vacation! If you have more than a day, you can explore even more at Dinosaur National Monument.
Visit the Canyon Visitor Center in Dinosaur, Colorado, and spend some time hiking, fishing, and discovering petroglyphs throughout the park. Some camping is available as well.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, go white-water rafting on the Green River!
A DINOSAUR-LOVER’S DREAM VACATION
Scheduling a stop at Dinosaur National Monument is a must if you’re passing through north-eastern Utah! This was a highlight for our kids, and they have asked to go back. They want to camp and explore more of the area.
However, if camping isn’t your thing, you can stay in the town of Vernal, Utah, just a little north of the park.
Do you have aspiring paleontologists in your family? Have you been to Dinosaur National Monument? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below!