In Vernal, Utah, locals like to brag the town was established 150,000,000 years ago.
And there are plenty of former ancient residents lying around to prove it, especially in Dinosaur National Monument.
But first, see some of them at 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.
Then head outdoors and visit Dinosaur National Monument. 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.
You'll find unmistakable dinosaur bones embedded in the monument's sandstone walls. You'll also find ancient Native American rock art in what is known as the "Classic Vernal Style:" animal-like figures, abstract designs and human-like figures whose meaning is still a mystery.
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.
When you get hungry, head to a local favorite, Betty’s Cafe, 416 W. Main St., for a reasonably-priced breakfast. 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 State Fieldhouse of Natural History Museum and Visitor Center
496 E. Main, Vernal, UT 84078