The Jones Hole Trail follows the clear, spring-fed waters of Jones Hole Creek. In the summer when it is warm, you can wade in the creek, but do so with care. The rocks are covered with algae and are slick and sharp. Brown and rainbow trout make their home in the creek, feeding on the abundant supply of aquatic insects that graze upon the algae clinging to the rocks. I've seen muskrat in the creek, attracted to the abundant aquatic vegetation and mink hunting for trout. After the sun sets Yuma myotis and silver-haired bats snatch aquatic insects that have hatched and are flitting about looking for mates. Keep an eye out for mammal tracks left the night before in the mud by striped skunk, raccoon, ringtail, and mountain lion. The life in Jones Hole is an intricate web of interdependence between plants and animals.
If you fish the creek you will need a Utah fishing license. State fishing regulations require the use of flies and artificial lures only; bait is not allowed. Special catch limits apply and you are responsible for knowing the regulations.
As you begin your hike, the trail enters the riparian woods. Riparian is a name applied to the community of plants and animals that make their home in the creek's flood plain. Music from the creek and from the many birds in the canopy will serenade you as you walk. Riparian communities are one of the rarer, but most productive wildlife habitats in this arid landscape.
In a number of places the trail rises out of the flood plain onto the open and warmer benches in the canyon bottom. The canyon benches are above the creek and therefore, have drier soils. This more arid environment supports bunch grasses, mountain mahogany and squawbush shrubs, and juniper trees; good habitat for mule deer and bighorn sheep. If you keep your eyes open you may see them.
The variety of rock found in close proximity to one another here at Jones Hole and throughout Dinosaur National Monument, weather into different types of soil, to which plants are adapted. This increases the biological diversity of Jones Hole and the monument.
A little beyond the bridge is an archeological site, Deluge Shelter. Wayside signs explain some of what we know about the prehistoric Indians that have lived beside the creek for over 7,000 years. When you first see the Indian rock art, resist the urge to touch it. Touching rock art abrades its surface and leaves behind oils from your fingers which accelerate the erosion of these 1,000 year old works of art.
When you reach the junction with the Island Park Trail at Ely Creek, approximately 1.8 miles from the hatchery, you have several choices. You can continue hiking the remaining 2.2 miles to the Green River, or you can walk up the Island Park Trail about 1/4 mile to Ely Creek waterfall. This is a wonderful spot, shaded by Douglas fir and birch trees, with background music of cascading, splashing water. This is a great spot to cool off and take a break.
From the waterfall you can continue up the Island Park Trail another 1/3 mile to the fork in the trail. The left fork continues on for 7 1/2 miles, up and out of Jones Hole to the historic Ruple Ranch in Island Park. The right fork takes you another 2-3 miles up into the box canyons of the Labyrinths. The "trail" eventually peters out as you penetrate country far less traveled. In the Labyrinths you are on your own; keep tabs on the landscape as you go so you know how to get back.
As you continue down the Jones Hole Trail a short distance you will cross Ely Creek and come to the Ely Creek Campsite. This is the only designated backcountry campsite in the monument. A free backcountry permit is required to stay overnight at one of the two campsites. You must reserve one of these sites at the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center. No fires are permitted. Camping is not permitted elsewhere in Jones Hole Canyon or the Labyrinths.
When you leave Ely Creek and head toward the Green River you cross the Island Park Fault. The creek continues to cut ever deeper into the Madison Limestone beyond this point. Near the Green River you will walk past a rock outcrop that looks strikingly different from the Madison Limestone. This is the red sandstone of the older Lodore Formation, Cambrian Age rock (510-570 million years old). Trilobites crawled about the ancient Lodore sea floor amongst their neighbors, brachiopods and marine worms in the mud.
The trail ends in the Jones Hole Campground. This campground is for river running parties only. Respect the privacy of river runners in their campsites as you approach the river. Keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep. They often hang out in this area beside the river.
Directions: From Dinosaur Quarry,, Drive 1 hour along the Brush Creek Road and Diamond Mountain Road to the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery has parking, restrooms, and an information kiosk for your convenience.
Distance: 8 miles
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