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Dinosaurland and Eastern Utah Travel Guide

Plan Your Dinosaurland and Eastern Utah Vacation

The rugged beauty of Utah's eastern corner, wedged neatly between Wyoming above and Colorado to the east, is the reward for those willing to take the road less traveled. Neither I-80 nor I-70 enters this part of the state, so most visitors who pass through the western United States never even see it. That, of course, is part of its appeal. Small towns, rural attitudes,

and a more casual and friendly approach to life are all part of the eastern Utah experience.

Eastern Utah is most spectacular when viewed out-of-doors. It's home to great boating and fishing at Flaming Gorge, Red Fleet, Steinaker, and Starvation reservoirs. Hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails (often available to cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, or snowshoers in winter) crisscross the region. The Green and Yampa rivers entice white-water rafters as well as less ambitious float-trippers. The pine- and aspen-covered Uinta (pronounced You-in-tah) Mountains offer campers and hikers hidden, pristine lakes and streams. Even if you don't get out of your car, exploring this region takes you through vast red-rock basins, over high mountain passes, and between geologic folds in the earth.

The Uinta Basin, originally home to the ancient Fremont people, is a vast area of gently rolling land bordered by the Uinta Mountains to the north, the Wasatch Mountains to the west, and a series of high plateaus and cliffs to the south. In the late 1800s the Mormons thought about settling here, but decided the land was not fit for agriculture. At their suggestion, President Abraham Lincoln set aside several million acres of the basin as an Indian reservation, and moved members of Ute and other tribes here from their traditional lands in the Salt Lake and Utah Lake valleys. In the 1900s the U.S. government took back much of the Uinta Basin land that had been set aside as a reservation and opened it to settlers from the East. Following the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Northern Ute Tribe repurchased the majority of this land, which now constitutes the second-largest reservation in the U.S.

In the early 1900s an unbelievably rich trove of dinosaur fossils was discovered in the sandstone layers near the eastern Utah border. Since then, archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of tons of fossils, and the region encompassing Daggett, Duchesne, and Uintah counties has become known as Dinosaurland. An area particularly rich in fossils, straddling the Utah and Colorado borders, has been preserved as Dinosaur National Monument.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. One great gorge The most jaw-dropping spot in eastern Utah is the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The quite cold water under the gorge's reddish, steep walls is a serene place to fish and boat, and the surrounding open space makes for good camping and hiking.
  2. Dino-mite Come to Dinosaur National Monument to see the famous dinosaur fossils or just to camp in some truly remote country. For the most exciting introduction to the monument, take a guided river rafting trip through it.
  3. Frugal fun Vernal is a favorite for its low-cost entertainment. Head to a museum, go bowling, or go back in time at its quaint drive-in movie theater, which offers back-to-back films on weekends.
  4. Bike Vernal In the last few years almost 200 mi of former cow trails around Vernal have been converted for use by mountain bikes. The sport is still getting a foothold in the area, so that means the paths are often blissfully empty—for now.
  5. Alone in the swell The San Rafael Swell is one of the least crowded spots in a region that's already known for its sparse population. If you're looking to get away from everyone—all the while hiking, biking, and boating—these miles of domed rock might be exactly what you need.

When To Go

When to Go

In eastern Utah most museums, parks, and other sights extend their hours during the summer season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (Some museums ...

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