Dinosaur National Monument Trails
One of Colorado's largest wild areas is also one of its least known. Dinosaur National Monument first gained fame for its fossils, but the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers encompass wilderness of remarkable character. Cutting through brilliant sandstone and quartzite formations, these two rivers flow through Colorado’s longest undeveloped canyons, creating river journeys of unsurpassed serenity and excitement. Dinosaur fossils were first discovered here by a paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum in 1909, leading to the designation of the quarry site as an 80-acre national monument in 1915. Congress later realized the significance of the two unspoiled rivers and greatly expanded the monument in 1938 to include both canyons. After passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, the National Park Service studied Dinosaur for its wilderness potential and, in 1974, recommended more than 200,000 acres for official designation. Since that time, Congress has occasionally considered (but never acted on) the proposed recommendation. When combined with adjacent BLM wilderness study areas, Dinosaur ranks a close third as Colorado’s largest block of wildland. Dinosaur National Monument includes 44 miles of the Green River and 48 miles of the Yampa. Surprisingly, the two rivers possess distinctively different characteristics. The Yampa cuts into thick sandstone formations, most notably the bright tan Weber Sandstone. Water streaming over sheer cliffs where great slabs have calved off the canyon walls leaves manganese mineral deposits that stain the light sandstone with vertical black stripes. This so-called “tiger striping” greatly enhances the already substantial beauty of the canyon. The Yampa is a fast river, dropping quickly from its canyon entrance at Deerlodge Park as it skims past ponderosa and pinyon-juniper forests. Cottonwoods and box elders shade the banks at times, offering welcome shelter from sweltering summer heat. Douglas fir thrive in cool pockets, generally on north-facing slopes, and provide a surprising contrast to this arid environment. This trail guide includes descriptions of Lodore Nature Trail, Harpers Corner Nature Trail, Ruple Point, Jones Hole, Johnson Canyon/Bull Canyon, Jones Hole Creek to Island Park, Canyon of Lodore, and Yampa River.
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Directions to: Dinosaur National Monument Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Skill Level||Easy to Moderate|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||4,700 ft|
|Top Elevation||9,000 ft|
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