Dinosaur National Monument Day Hiking Overview

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Dinosaur National Monument Day Hiking Highlights

  • Hike the mild, four-mile path down to the shores of the Green River on the Jones Hole Trail. Ancient rock art and a nearby waterfall make this a popular hike. There is more shade here than on other trails in this rugged desert area.
  • Island Park Trail is a longer and more difficult hike. This is an out-and-back path, eight miles there and eight miles back. Wide open views of Dinosaur National Monument are the main attractions here. The hike travels through exposed and rugged desert terrain.
  • If you are on the north side, far away from the visitor center, try the Gates of Lodore Nature Trail. Start from the Gates of Lodore Campground, and hike toward the dramatic mouth of the Lodore Canyon. The trip is less than two miles round-trip.
  • View seekers will enjoy the following two trails on the Harpers Corner Road. An easy mile on the Harpers Corner Trail takes you to the Echo Park Overlook. Or, travel four miles through sagebrush country on the Ruple Point Trail, where you will be rewarded with views of Split Mountain Gorge.
  • It is called Dinosaur National Monument for a reason, and the millions of years of geology are exposed throughout the park. For a close-up look, hike the three-mile Sound of Silence Loop. There are a few difficult sections that put this on the intermediate hiker's list.

There are only a few trails in this rugged, high-desert park, but they provide the most intimate look at the landscape. Check with a ranger for information about trails and backcountry permits. For any hiking, always carry plenty of water and let someone know where you are going and when you'll be back. Here are descriptions of some of the trails.

Harpers Corner Trail (2 miles round-trip) starts at the end of the Harpers Corner Scenic Drive, 31 miles north of monument Headquarters. The trail has moderate inclines, but pinyon-juniper woodland provides intermittent shade along the way; the walk takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The trail follows a ridge affording spectacular views of the Green and Yampa River canyons and Echo Park, 2,500 feet below. Self-guiding leaflets are available at the trailhead or at Headquarters. Photography is best in the late afternoon.

Plug Hat Trail (1/2-mile loop) is adjacent to the Plug Hat Picnic Area, 4 miles from Headquarters on the Harpers Corner Scenic Drive. Exhibits along this easy, level trail describe local history and geology.

Gates of Lodore Trail (1-1/2-mile round-trip) follows the Green River from Lodore Campground to the dramatic entrance to the Canyon of Lodore. Most of the trail is fairly easy, and it can be walked in 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Self-guiding leaflets are available at the trailhead or the Lodore Ranger Station. Morning light is best for photography.

Jones Hole Trail (8 miles round-trip) leads from the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery to the banks of the Green River in Whirlpool Canyon. The trail, much of it easy walking, follows Jones Hole Crook through a deep, picturesque canyon, shady most of the way. Short spur trails lead to prehistoric Indian pictographs (please do not touch, even gently) and a small waterfall on Ely Creek. This is an excellent day hike.


Published: 16 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 9 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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