Dinosaurs, whitewater and severed heads: A weekend guide to Vernal, Utah
We're lucky to live in a state full of adventures, and summer is the perfect time to go exploring.
- So we're highlighting some of our favorite Utah destinations for short trips in a recurring feature called Weekend Warrior!
Our first stop: Vernal. Rawr! 🦖
Places to go
The petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch are like an action movie carved in stone. There are warriors in fantastic hats, kings toting ornate shields and severed heads dripping blood and tears. The artistry is phenomenal.
- A parking lot marks the trailhead at 6228 McConkie Road.
- The petroglyphs are on private property, and the family asks for $5 per carload.
Fantasy Canyon is a bizarro-land cluster of ghoulish sandstone formations in the middle of a natural gas drilling field about 40 miles south of Vernal.
- It's a little like Goblin Valley but much smaller — though the rock formations at Fantasy are more impressively intricate.
- Muse Harris, a member of the Ute Indian Tribe, told the Salt Lake Tribune of a legend that the figures are demons frozen by a god of the North.
Dinosaur National Monument is Vernal's main attraction, with its astounding cliff face of 1,500 fossils in the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
- The park has great hikes, too. Box Canyon is fantastic even when it's hot, and the Desert Voices trail is a lovely showcase for wildflowers in early summer.
- For more dino fun, the Field House of Natural History downtown has activities for kids and exhibits that thoughtfully illustrate the chronology of nature in eastern Utah over the eons.
Things to do
Whitewater rafting tour operators can guide you through Class III rapids on the Green River through Dinosaur, or Class IV rapids on the Yampa.
Eats and drinks
- Perfect pairing: Grab a few cans of She's a Peach wheat ale from VBC for a mellow treat under the cottonwoods at Josie Morris Cabin, the Box Canyon trailhead.
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