The Dinosaur Diamond, or as it is officially known, the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic and Historic Byway, is not the kind of excursion you take in just one day. This 512-mile loop is located in Western Colorado with parts extending into neighboring Utah, where it is called the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway.
The diamond offers opportunities for history buffs, science nuts and dinosaur lovers of all ages. If you’re interested in hiking Dinosaur National Monument, this is the guide for you.
The Grand Junction
The rock starts on Interstate 70 in Grand Junction, the largest city in western Colorado. You will see stunning red canyons and mesas as you travel down I-70 on the way to our first dinosaur adventure, the Museum of Western Colorado.
The Museum of Western Colorado features Dinamation’s mechanical animated dinosaur replicas. You can view Fossil Preparatory at work in the museum’s paleontological research program. Grab an early lunch before you head off to our next destination in Dinosaur, CO.
At Grand Junction, you will find the winding CO Rd 161, and its sweeping canyons and rock formations awe inspiring. Once you arrive at the Dinosaur National Monument, you will see the 160-foot-long wall, displaying more than 1600 dinosaur bones and houses the largest Jurassic era dinosaur quarry in the world.
The Dinosaur National Monument is so big that they renamed the town after it! A dinosaur is also a perfect place for nature lovers and geology buffs. A side trip to the park to the Steamboat Rock is not to be missed. This prism-shaped expanse of rock looks over the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers that flow through the park.
Need to Know
Location: Mesa County, Colorado 398 km southwest of Denver.
Getting there: Grand Junction can be accessed by air through the Denver International Airport or the Great Junction Regional Airport. You can also get there using a train, car, bus or even your bike.
Getting around: To get around the Grand Junction especially the downtown area, you will need a car or a bike. However, there is public transportation a bus system known as the Grand System Transit to help you move around.
Hiking Trails: Grand Junction and its environs offer plenty of hiking trails that will leave you spoilt for choice. The Visit Grand Junction website gives detailed information on each trail that might interest you.
Further Info: The Grand Junction is the best place for outdoor enthusiasts. There are plenty of activities to do from golfing, horse riding, skiing, to rock climbing and hiking. If you love hiking, you can stroll the beautiful scenic paths on your own or take on a guided hiking tour.
The Red Fleet State Park in Naples, UT
Before resting for the night, you’ll want to take the time to visit Red Fleet State Park in Naples, UT. You may camp at Red Fleet State Park for the evening or turn around to stay for dinner and a hotel in the nearby town of Vernal.
While at the park, you will want to watch the sunset play on the astounding natural beauty of lakes, rock formations, and forests. Looking eastward, canyons become a golden yellow. Looking west, they are turned into dark gray silhouettes against a rainbow sky. You will never forget this sunset.
Need to Know
Length: The hiking trail is 1.5 miles long equivalent to 2.4 km.
Grade: Grade 3. This is according to the National Walking Association of NSW (https://www.npansw.org.au/index.php/bushwalking/walk-with-us/walking-grades). The area is characterized by hills and valleys which can be strenuous especially for beginners.
Park: Red Fleet State Park.
Access: Hiking in Red Fleet State Park is possible all year round. The starting point depends on your guide. All you need is to dress for the weather and have your hiking boots on.
Further Info: The Park is open between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. in summer and between 8am and 5pm in winter. Apart from hiking to the 200 million old dinosaur tracks, there are other fun activities at Red Fleet State Park such as camping, going to a picnic, boating, and fishing.
Arches National Park, Moab
Arches National Park, also in Moab, is named for the natural red rock arches and other unusual rock formations you can see there. You’ll also find preserved art drawn by ancient natives and dinosaur tracks.
You can spend an entire afternoon in the Arches on one or two of the four short hiking trails. Moab also has many fine dining establishments, so get an early dinner before continuing to the last stop on tour.
Need to Know
Length: The Canyonlands has a hundred miles of hiking trails.
Time: Time taken to travel from one district to the other usually by car is 2-6 hours since the rivers have few places to cross.
Park: The Canyonlands National Park.
Further Info: Due to the large size of the Park, the hiking trails are very many to be discussed individually. The National Parks Service website gives detailed information about each trail, the Grade, Style, and the time taken to access it. It is a complete hiking guide to the Canyonlands National Park.
The Vernal, in northeastern Utah
Vernal, in northeastern Utah, is known as “Dinosaur land,” and is home to the biggest quarry of ancient Jurassic dinosaur bones. Albeit right now shut for repairs, the Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument has in plain view more than 2,000 dinosaur fossils inserted and uncovered in sandstone.
The Quarry gloats that they give a whole skeletons, skulls, and bones of dinosaurs than some other quarry on the planet. Guests to The Dinosaur National Monument have more than 200,000 sections of land of arriving on which to climb, fish, camp and waterway flatboat.
You can also see various showcases of old fossil skeletal propagation, archeological and topographical displays, fluorescent minerals and different parts of the nearby Uinta Mountains and Uinta Basin.
While Dinosaur land near Vernal is regarded as ‘the” dinosaur excursion spot, there are different zones. Likewise situated in Northeastern Utah is the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, one of the world’s best fossil locales. Framed around 147 million years back, the quarry is open day by day amid the late spring and on a shorter calendar amid the spring and fall.
Need to Know
Getting there: You can fly to Vernal using the Great Lakes airlines that fly from Denver through Moab. Also, you can use buses that connect Denver and Salt Lake City and which pass via Vernal or use a personal car.
Getting around: The best to get around the town is by car, but still, there is public transportation, the Uintah Basin Transit Association system of buses.
Hiking trails: Dinosaur land is full of excellent hiking trails for hiking enthusiasts. To understand the style, Grade, and time of each trail, check out Utah.com.
Further Info: Plenty of information regarding places to visit and other fun activities in Vernal can be found at WikiTravel.
Our tour is complete as we return to Grand Junction to see the great Colorado National Monument. The stone monoliths look down on you as you visit the winding roads of the Scenic Rim Rock Drive within the park. The Monument also offers schedule ranger tours, letting you get the most out of your visit.
Have you visited Dinosaur National Monument? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.
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