If you’re traveling to Vernal, Utah, you’ll want to check out these 5 family friendly activities to do in Dinosaurland. Plus find a bonus activity at the bottom of the post!

If you're traveling to Vernal, Utah, you'll want to check out these 5 family friendly activities to do in Dinosaurland. Plus find a bonus activity at the bottom of the post!

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If you are heading to Vernal, UT, also know as Dinosaurland, it’s probably because you want to explore and learn more about the history of dinosaurs and the areas where their fossils have been found. In this post, I’ll share 5 family friendly activities in Dinosaurland. This includes Vernal and the surrounding area. Some are specific to dinosaurs, while others are a great way to spend time outdoors in this unique part of Utah.

5 Fun Family Friendly Activities in (and around) Dinosaurland

Moonshine Arch

Moonshine Arch is located about 8 miles north of Vernal, UT. It is 40 feet high and 85 feet long and made from a lighter colored sandstone than the arches seen at Arches National Park.

Moonshine Arch in Vernal, Utah

Directions to Moonshine Arch

While Google Maps is usually pretty accurate, we had a little trouble finding the turn off from the main road. My best recommendation for getting to the Moonshine Arch Trailhead is to follow the directions given on the official Dinosaurland website.

The parking lot is dusty but there is a portapotty available which was definitely a plus for a family with 4 kids. When you get to the main trailhead, you will see that you can get to Moonshine Arch two ways: a longer and shorter route. The right trail is a shorter hike and is about 1.3 miles roundtrip.

Difficulty Level

I wouldn’t consider the hike to be difficult but it can be a little tricky for younger kids due to how sandy the trail is. Combine this with navigating sandstone and it was a bit slippery in a few places. At the time of our visit, our kids were 11, 9, 5 and 3. It took us about an hour total, including letting the kids climb around and take water breaks.

What to Bring

No matter what time of year you visit Moonshine Arch, always remember to bring sunscreen, snacks and water. We went in mid-October and it was clear, sunny and about 60 degrees. The sandy trail kicked up dust and there is not much shade along the way except for a few scraggly trees. In the summer months, there are more people in the area recreating and some have off road vehicles.

A small backpack with a water bladder and space to hold extra water bottles, snacks and sunscreen is the minimum I would recommend for this hike.

[Visit Arches National Park for more amazing hikes and unique arches]

Dinosaur National Monument

We took advantage of my son’s 4th grade park pass, which allowed us to get into Dinosaur National Monument for free. If you have a 4th grader and are planning on visiting any National Parks or National Monuments, definitely grab your pass. It’s good for a full year! You can find more details at Every Kid Outdoors.

Visitor’s Center and Fossil Bone Quarry

Dinosaur National Monument has two buildings to visit: the Visitor’s Center and the Fossil Bone Quarry. While the Visitor’s Center is great for grabbing a souvenir and using the bathroom, the fossil bone quarry is where you get to see real dinosaur bones. That’s right. Real. Dinosaur. Bones.

The Fossil Bone Quarry is part of the area that was originally discovered to have the dinosaur bones in it. It’s called the “Wall of Bones” and it’s pretty amazing! Some of the side displays are replicas, or castings, of fossils found in the area. However, there is a portion of the wall they have left open where you can touch the dinosaur bones.

In order to get to the Fossil Bone Quarry, you have to take shuttle to and from the Visitor’s Center but they run regularly. There are bathrooms and shaded benches outside the building.

Fossil Bone Quarry in Dinosaur National Monument

Hidden Dinos

On your way back down from the Bone Quarry to the Visitor’s Center, look to the left side as you go around the corner of the first bend. There is a grouping of rocks that looks like a stegosaurus!

Additionally, if you look to the right as you are going back to the Visitor’s Center, there is a post at the top of a big hill. The post indicates they’ve found dinosaur bones there but have not made any attempt to excavate them.

Jr. Ranger Program

While at the Visitor’s Center, be sure to pick up a Junior Ranger’s booklet. There are a lot of pages, but the good news is that you only have to do the number of pages for how old you are. This makes it a lot easier to complete the booklet and earn the Junior Ranger’s badge (available at the Visitor’s Center).

Visitor's Center at Dinosaur National Monument

Josie Morris Ranch

The Josie Morris Ranch is the farthest point you can go on the road in Dinosaur National Monument. This ranch was home to a woman who enjoyed homesteading and wanted to own her own land. The cabin and other structures still exist on the property. They also have picnic tables and pit toilets here.

If you want to do a little hiking, you can choose one of the two hikes that branch off from the parking lot: Hog Canyon and Box Canyon. Hog Canyon is shorter–about .5 miles–and shaded for part of it. We opted not to go on the Box Canyon hike due to the longer length and a toddler in need of a nap.

Josie Morris Ranch in Dinosaur National Monument

Petroglyphs

Another unique feature of Dinosaur National Park is the number of petroglyphs in the area. There are signs on the side of the road indicating where they are. We stopped at a few of them on our way back down from the Josie Morris Ranch, including the lizards and Swelter Shelter.

Stargazing

Did you know that Dinosaur National Monument is one of the darkest places on earth? For this reason, it is a certified Dark Sky Park. During the busiest times of the year (late-May thru mid-October), the Visitor’s Center offers dark sky programs hosted by the rangers at Split Mountain Campground. You can always call the Visitor’s Center or check their calendar to find out if and when they are running the program.

However, we went in October and there were no programs. This didn’t stop us from planning our own dark sky activity for our family.

Tips for A Successful Dark Sky Activity at Dinosaur National Monument

  • Get there early so you can set up before it gets too dark. This also allows your eyes time to adjust to the dark which actually allows you to see better as it gets darker.
  • Bring a telescope. (We rented one from our library.)
  • Bring snacks and drinks (and remember to clean up before you leave).
  • Check the weather for clear skies and moon phase. A cloudless sky and new moon will give you the best experience.
  • Download an app to show you the location of stars and planets.
  • Bring a red light lantern and avoid turning on, or looking, at lights, including cell phones.

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum

The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum is a great place to explore for a couple of hours because it is so hands-on. It has a variety of exhibits that talk about the history of Vernal and the area surrounding it, as well as indigenous people. Of course, there is an emphasis on dinosaur fossils. There are many life-size casts of fossils that have been found in the Vernal area and a kids area with a place to “dig” for bones.

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal, Utah

The outdoor area has more life-size dinosaur replicas as well as a small pond in the middle. There are a few barriers around some of it, but they aren’t very effective for keeping small kids from falling in. We didn’t have any accidents but I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on your little ones.

Be sure to check the price before you go. We discovered that while the admission fee listed online was $6 for adults, it was $8 when we got there. Kids 5 and under are free though.

Ashley Community Park

To take advantage of the nice weather during our visit, we went to Ashley Community Park. It is a huge park! They have a ton of play structures for all ages, which was great for us with kids ranging from 3-11. We ate lunch at one of the pavilions but could have easily found a shaded spot on the grass, as the trees are large. Ashley Community Park also has bathrooms, but they were a little far from the playground.

Ashley Community Park in Vernal, Utah

*Bonus Activity* Go to the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument

Did you know that Dinosaur National Monument extends into Colorado? It’s true! Dinosaur, Colorado is about 34 miles from Vernal so it’s not too far out of the way. There is no connecting road between the Utah and Colorado sides, so the only way to visit this part of the area is to drive there.

While the Colorado side doesn’t have any dinosaur bones, it does have some hikes with amazing views.

3 Things To Do in Dinosaur, Colorado:

  • Visitor’s Center is small but a good place to stop if you need to use the bathroom or stretch your legs.
  • Get ice cream at Bedrock Depot. Check their hours, as they are only open seasonally.
  • Drive up Harper’s Corner Road and do the Plug Hat Trail. It’s paved and short–only .5 miles out and back.
Harper's Corner Road Plug Hat Trail in Dinosaur National Monument

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6 family friendly activities you should know about when you visit Dinosaurland, Utah (Vernal, Utah)
From how to get there and where to look for a hidden dino, here's what you need to know about the Fossil Bone Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument.
If you are in the Vernal area, be sure to check out these 3 family friendly hikes.  Each one is different and shows off the unique landscape in and around Vernal, Utah.
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Hi! I’m Shani,

A stay-at-home mom of 4 and wife. I love sharing easy to follow craft tutorials, kid activities, family-friendly recipes, organization, travel and motherhood. I hope you’ll feel uplifted and empowered by each post, regardless of what kind it is. Join me as I raise my little munchkins and share the sunshine in this beautiful, crazy thing called life! Read more...

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