You really don't need any incentives beyond the spectacular beauty of Dinosaur National Monument's river corridors, fossils, and geology to convince yourself to visit this intriguing unit of the National Park System. But there are more incentives now that the park has added a variety of public programs from guided hikes and campground evening programs to the very popular Junior Ranger Program.
Several popular activities from last year have returned and several new ranger-led programs have been added to the schedule, including programs that highlight the diversity of things to do and see beyond the fossil bones.
New for this summer are two hikes, a photo workshop, and a collection of evening programs on the Colorado side of the monument, accessed three miles east of Dinosaur, Colorado. You can meet a ranger at the Canyon Visitor Center at 2 p.m. each Sunday afternoon for a short introduction and then drive five miles to Plug Hat Butte for an easy mile-long guided hike. Topics alternate each week between gaining photography tips that will make your visit more memorable and exploring cultural connections between people and the land. Plug Hat Hike programs will last 1.5 to 2 hours.
Photography workshops, led by a ranger who is also a professional photographer, will explore photo tips in greater depth, using views along the Harpers Corner Trail to practice techniques that can turn plain old snapshots into visual poetry. These free, five-to-six-hour photography workshops begin at 3 p.m. at the Canyon Visitor Center on Saturday July 19 and August 16, and 2 p.m. on September 20. Follow the ranger in your own car along the 32-mile scenic Harpers Corner Road, hike with your own personal ranger and photo coach along the two-mile round trip Harpers Corner Trail, and then conclude with an optional picnic dinner and sunset photos at the Plug Hat Picnic Area. Contact the Canyon Visitor Center (970-374-3000) for reservations and more details. Bring your own camera.
Campers who find themselves at the Echo Park Campground on August 8 and September 5 can meet a ranger at the program benches for an evening of exploring. Echo Park evening programs begin at 8 p.m. with Junior Night Explorer activities, followed by a ranger talk at 8:30 p.m. For the adventurous, a ranger-led night hike will depart the campground benches at 9 p.m. for an approximately mile-long, hour-and-a-half stroll along the river to experience the canyon by moonlight. Because of unpaved roads, this program is weather dependent. Please note it is a 90-minute drive from the Canyon Visitor Center to Echo Park. Campground information can be found at this page.
On the Utah side of the monument, rangers continue to offer Fossil Discovery Trail hikes at 10 a.m. daily and Junior Ranger Programs in the Quarry at 2:30 p.m. daily, plus 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Campground evening programs are offered at 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Green River Campground. Dinosaur's night sky program with stargazing and telescopes called Stories Behind the Stars begin on July 16 and take place every Wednesday and Saturday evening through September 6 at the south end of Split Mountain Campground. Start times vary with the sunset.
Near the end of summer, two special events will celebrate Dinosaur's dark and wild side. The second annual Skies Over Dinosaur weekend, August 22-24, will offer views of nearby planets and faraway galaxies through telescopes and other activities. The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act will be celebrated over Labor Day Weekend and through the actual anniversary date of September 3, 2014.
The entrance fee to the monument is $10 per vehicle or $20 for a Dinosaur Annual Pass. There is no additional charge for ranger programs. Ranger programs may be added, altered or cancelled due to staffing or weather conditions. Check for updates in person at our visitor centers, call (435) 781-7700, go online at nps.gov/dino or follow DinosaurNPS on facebook or twitter.