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.
You can see some of them at the 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 how dinosaurs roamed the area and how to tell fossils apart from pebbles. Step into the Fossil Lab to discover how scientists work with dinosaur bones. And don’t miss the Dinosaur Garden where 17 full-sized replicas of prehistoric animals loiter.
For those who truly want to get their hands dirty, plan ahead and sign up for the museum’s five-day fossil field program to dig for dinosaurs in the beautiful Uinta basin and mountains.
From there, head 13 miles north of Vernal on 191 to Red Fleet State Park where you can walk a 1.5-mile trail (made more challenging by its up-and-down terrain) 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 great camping here, and the park rents kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to explore the Red Fleet Reservoir.
More dinosaurs can be found east of Vernal, on the state border with Colorado, at Dinosaur National Monument with its Wall of Bones, a unique formation with more than 1,500 dinosaur bones. Two separate visitor centers, one in Colorado and one in Utah, both have interactive displays and real-life dinosaur bones for little ones to drool over.
Take a Refreshment Break in Vernal
Want in on the local food scene? Head to Betty’s Cafe, 416 W. Main St., for a reasonably-priced breakfast. For dinner, head downtown to the Vernal Brewing Co. for craft beer and a gastro pub menu. You’ll notice the beers are named after area attractions like Little Hole Lager [a boat takeout in the Green River] and Allosaurus Amber.
For more information
Uintah County Travel and Tourism
152 East 100 North, Vernal UT, UT 84078
Utah Field House of National History State Park Museum
496 East Main St., Vernal UT, UT 84078