Magazine article Sunset

Can't-Miss Monuments: It Was a Tough Call, but If You're Going Only Visit Two This Summer

Magazine article Sunset

Can't-Miss Monuments: It Was a Tough Call, but If You're Going Only Visit Two This Summer

Article excerpt

Dinosaur

Utah/Colorado

If there's one national monument that makes people ask themselves Why isn't this a national park?, it's Dinosaur. This 210,000-acre national monument is 180 miles east of Salt Lake City and about 150 million years in the past. Back then, these rugged mountains were a lush, fern-lined plain, home to some of the largest creatures to tromp around North America: allosaurus, stegosaurus, diplodocus--a fearsome concentration of Jurassic beasts that makes Dinosaur one of the most important paleontological sites anywhere in the world. With its dramatic prehistory and children's programs, this monument is a no-brainer for travelers with kids. But the park also holds non-prehistoric thrills: a view-filled drive on Harpers

Corner Road; hiking on the spectacular Ruple Point Trail, and world-class river rafting on the Yampa and Green rivers.

ACCESS: It's a scenic 3-hour drive from Salt Lake City to Vernal. Once you're there, this is a civilized experience, with ample car camping in the monument. There are hotels and restaurants in nearby Vernal, which has its own excellent dinosaur facility, the Utah Field House of Natural History. The Dinosaur Inn and Suites gets our vote for its incredibly cool neon-dino sign (from $95; dinoinn.com).

MUST-SEE: The 1,500 fossils and reconstructed dinosaurs featured in the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

MUST-DO: Dinosaur has some of the darkest night skies in North America, perfect for summer stargazing. …

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