A hearty thanks to our new friend, travel blogger Allison Laypath (whom we met at TBEX last month) for sharing the top 10 dinosaur sites in Utah, her home state!
Does anyone in your family love dinosaurs? I have a five-year-old son who loves them so much, he once helped a paleontologist with the pronunciation of “parasaurolophus.” It impressed the scientist enough that he invited us into his lab for a backstage tour.
Fortunately, we live in Utah – a place so rich in fossils that this same paleontologist told us they no longer bother to dig up the Allosaurus bones because they are so common. Utah is home to half-a-dozen top-notch dinosaur museums, as well as opportunities to see dinosaur footprints and fossils in nature.
These are the top 10 dinosaur sites in Utah:
You probably won’t find Dr. Scott from “Dinosaur Train” here, though this is where he works. You will find many complete dinosaur skeletons, interactive exhibits, and play areas. This is the place to find some of the newest dinosaurs discovered in Utah, such as the Utahceratops and Cosmoceratops. Dinosaurs are just one floor of several in this beautiful new museum in Salt Lake City.
2. Museum of Ancient Life
Located at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah, the Museum of Ancient Life claims to be the largest dinosaur museum in the world. This museum is the home of 60 complete skeletons, and many exhibits that encourage families to touch and explore. My son could have spent all day with the dinosaur toys at the huge sand-and-water table.
Ogden’s Eccles Dinosaur Park has a museum full of bones too, but what sets this attraction apart are several acres of realistic dinosaur statues in a park setting. Wide paved paths, lots of photo ops, and a large dino-themed playground make this park a great destination for families.
This museum on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah is the home of one of the largest and most valuable Jurassic collections in the world. Most of it is stored under the football stadium, but that means you’ll see only the best stuff in this small museum. It won’t take a lot of your time and admission is free.
The newly refurbished Quarry Exhibit Hall is what most dinosaur lovers are looking for at Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah. Its main feature is a “wall” of over 1,500 bones from several species, including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camerasaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus. This surprisingly diverse National Monument is also a great place to find beautiful scenery, wildlife, and history.
This new State Park museum in Vernal, Utah is an excellent companion to Dinosaur National Monument. The outdoor Dinosaur Garden, with its full-size replicas of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and others, is sure to catch the attention and imagination of dinosaur lovers of all ages. Indoors, visitors will find a 90-foot diplodocus skeleton, among others, and many opportunities for learning and discovery.
7. Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry
This is where paleontologists found many of the fossils that fill Utah’s dinosaur museums. The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry contains “the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found.” Visitors to this site will find a museum, access to one of two buildings that protects the bones still buried here, and three short hiking trails. This site is located about 30 miles south of Price.
This short and uncrowded trail is located just a few miles outside of Moab, Utah. Get an up-close look at dinosaur bones exposed in the rocks along the trail. Signs along the way help visitors know what to look for. The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail is an easy side trip from Arches or Canyonlands National Parks.
9. St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site
In 2000, a local resident was leveling his property in St. George, Utah when he discovered an enormous sandstone slab covered with exceptionally well-preserved dinosaur tracks. A museum was built around this site, which has been called “one of the ten best dinosaur track sites in the world.” It’s a relatively small, but worthwhile family attraction.
The geologic “wrinkle” that created Capitol Reef also contains some of the oldest pre-historic tracks in North America. Our family took a ranger-led hike to see some of these tracks. Fossils and other fun activities for children can also be found in the Ripple Rock Nature Center, which is open seasonally.
I have read enough dinosaur books with my children that I enjoy visiting these places too. Sometimes, I’m even more excited about our dinosaur discoveries than they are.
Allison Laypath is a family travel writer at tipsforfamilytrips.com, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She and her husband took their first child on a two-week road trip at four weeks old and they have been traveling as a family ever since. Allison loves all types of travel, but especially road trips, national parks and travel within her home state of Utah.