Nancy shares her family adventure in Dinoland and Flaming Gorge for a trip back in time and down a river. Eastern Utah, near Wyoming and Colorado offers an amazing playground for families. Learn how we enjoyed three days of sun, river, fish, dinosaurs, native American history, culture, great food and accommodations in an amazingly beautiful part of the country.
Day 1: The Drive Getting to Flaming Gorge and Vernal in Eastern Utah is easy. We drove 3 hours east of Salt Lake City, Utah. You can also access the area from Wyoming and Colorado. We stayed at the Flaming Gorge Resort which is perfect for families. The suites are essentially 1 bedroom apartments with a kitchen. There were enough beds for every member of the family to get a great night sleep. The resort has everything you need.
Day 2: The River Flaming Gorge is an incredible playground. The Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River has created a beautiful background for boaters, fishermen and lazy river rafters. We joined the later group and took three generations down the Green River thanks to help from Trout Creek Files Outfitters who hooked us up with a boat and even taught my son how to tie on a lour and how to cast. Thank you to the great staff for helping us have a wonderful experience! The Green River is an easy adventure for families to take on their own. I was a bit worried since I had three generations with me, but the river had many families and lots of helpful people who got us going. We had a very enjoyable time on the river looking down to see huge trout (lots of award-winning fish are caught here–up to 35 pounds) and looking up to see the rugged canyon walls circled by hawks and eagles. The rapids are just enough to be fun without being scary for the very young and the very old.
Day 3: The Reservoir Thanks to the great ladies at the Uintah County Travel and Tourism office, we learned about Red Fleet State Park, an incredible reservoir located just north of Vernal, Utah. The reservoir is an incredible boating destination but if you don’t have a boat, you can still enjoy its wonders. We were shown around by Park Ranger Jeff and enjoyed paddle boarding and swimming during our stay. One highlight of our Red Fleet experience was seeing ancient dino tracks in the rocks (check out the dino track next to my daughter’s hand). You can hike to them or rent a paddle board or kayak to make the trek to the tracks easier. The water was a wonderful 70 degrees and fun to swim in! We will come back to this water wonderland again.
After our great day on the water, we returned to Vernal to our great hotel Springhill Suites for some relaxation before heading out to McConkie Ranch to see ancient petroglyphs make by the Freemont Indians. Located just north of Vernal on private property, the rock carvings are incredible. My kids were pooped from the day’s adventures but perked up when they saw the first petroglyph. The hike is not hard but is not for people with difficulty climbing so we left Grandma at the hotel. Seeing the ancient art and discussing what they could mean was so much fun for the kids. They also loved seeing the lizards and bugs along the trail. For city kids, it was a great adventure.
Day 4: The Dinosaurs The Vernal Area is the richest dinosaur destination in the U.S. with more dinosaur digs and bones than anywhere else. A great place to start your dino-sized adventure is Dinosaur National Monument, located outside of Vernal, where an incredible wall of bones has been preserved and housed for easy exploration. The monument is not very large and not overwhelming so for a family not overly interested in dinosaurs, it was the perfect size. Check out our Al-osaurus with the state dinosaur of Utah Allosaurus. They have the same temperament and look strikingly similar.
We returned to Vernal and visited the Utah Field House, the perfect museum for kids and families who want to learn about dinosaurs. With many hands-on learning exhibits, the museum teaches kids and parents how dinosaur bones are located and why the Vernal area is one of the richest locations in the world for dinosaur bones. Don’t miss the movie–it is very educational and quite engaging. Even my pre-teen sat through it with interest. And remember to go out to the gardens and see the to-scale dinosaur sculptures. You will know what it would be like to be chased by a T-rex or by the imaginary dinosaurs from Jurassic Park (see the first picture above).
We highly recommend the Uintah County and Dagget County areas for a wonderful unplugged family adventure.
- Flaming Gorge Resort
- Trout Creek Files Outfitters
- Red Fleet State Park
- Dinosaurland Tourism Website
- Dinosaur National Monument
- Utah Field House
- McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs
- Springhill Suites