Utah Road Trip: Dino Drive
Take a spin through one of the most fossil-rich regions in the world
THE ROUTE: Salt Lake City > Vernal, UT > Dinosaur National Monument > Fruita, CO > Price, UT (460 miles).
WHY GO: This drive delivers what most family vacations merely promise: fun and education. It’s proof that ancient history—really, really ancient history—is anything but boring, as the route leads you through one of the most fossil-rich regions in the world, former home to titans like Allosaurus and Apatosaurus. Added bonus: gorgeous red rock and mountain scenery, world-class museums, and inexpensive motels and restaurants.
WHO IT’S FOR: Mesozoic-minded kids and the parents and grandparents who love them.
WHERE TO STAY: This route isn’t big on posh resorts, but if you want a dino-themed motel, Vernal’s Best Western Dinosaur Inn is hard to beat. From $98; bestwestern.com
Natural History Museum of Utah. Set in the foothills overlooking Salt Lake City, the two-year-old, copper-wrapped museum shows off Utahceratops, Utahraptor, and other local residents from 100 million years ago. $11; nhmu.utah.edu
Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. Inside, at Vernal’s go-to attraction, impressive skeletons; outside, the Dinosaur Garden’s dino replicas will answer your question: Where do we take our holiday card photo? $6; stateparks.utah.gov
Dinosaur National Monument. This 325-square-mile monument straddles the rugged land along the Utah-Colorado border. Start in Utah at the redone Quarry Visitor Center just down the hill from the fabled (to paleontologists, anyway) Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry; discoveries here helped shape modern paleontology. But Dinosaur is more than old bones: In Colorado, follow Harper’s Corner Road to Echo Park Overlook to see the canyons carved by the Green and Yampa Rivers, one of the most beautiful vistas in the West. $10/vehicle; nps.gov/dino
Dinosaur Journey Museum. In Fruita, a branch of the Museum of Western Colorado that focuses on ancient history, Dinosaur Journey displays little dinosaurs like Fruitadens and giant dinosaurs like Apatosaurus, not to mention moving, roaring robotic versions of Triceratops and Stegosaurus. Kids can dig for bones in a simulated quarry; if that’s not enough paleontology for you, the museum sponsors one- to three-day digs that hone your fossil-finding skills out in the field. $8.50; wcmuseum.org
Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. Near tiny Price, Utah, a quarry holds the densest concentration of dinosaur bones ever found, more than 12,000 in all, many of which are now on display at the quarry and adjacent museum. $5; open Thu–Sat; (435) 636-3600.
DETOUR: Ride the rapids. The one-day and multiday voyages down the Green and Yampa Rivers through Dinosaur National Monument are among the best river trips in the West. For outfitters, visit nps.gov/dino.
BEST SOUVENIR: Genuine Dinosaur Hunting License. Free at Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal.
BEST ROAD FOOD: Ray’s Tavern, Green River, UT. Big, tasty burgers and Utah microbrews. $$; (435) 564-3511.