We have spent a few different school breaks exploring Vernal. Of course, we put a lot of time into coming up with family friendly adventures and then sharing about them right here. Recently, a friend asked us, “Is there anything fun to do in Vernal?” Yes! Yes, there is!
We decided to create this summary post for anyone searching for information on Vernal. There are a lot of fun things to do in the area, and enjoyed both Spring and Fall in Vernal. Here are the highlights of our trips.
This is the main reason people go to Vernal. They’ve reopened the quarry, which has hundreds of fossils all in one place. There are also several hikes, petroglyphs, and a historical cabin to visit at Dinosaur NP.
As big time birders who’d rather spend the day looking at Sandhill Cranes than the beach (unless the cranes happen to be on the beach) we find ourselves stopping at many NWRs. Birds weren’t the main highlight of Ouray, though. We really liked the lazy porcupines hanging from the trees. Just west and south of Vernal, Ouray is a great place to view rabbits, birds, small rodents, and of course, porcupines.
Located right in Vernal, this museum is what you probably remember from visiting Vernal as a kid. Large dinosaurs inhabit the gardens outside, and inside there are fossils and displays. No trip to Vernal is complete without a stop at this museum.
A long way from civilization, this ranch is hidden way up near “3 corners” (where Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado meet). Turn of the century cabins and artifacts look the way they did over 100 years ago in this untouched gem that once served as a busy river-crossing. This one is for the truly adventurous!
Most people go to these twin parks for the water activities, but we highly recommend a hike. One of the best hikes we’ve done takes you through beautiful scenery down to the edge of the lake. A huge slab of rock is imprinted with hundreds of dinosaur footprints. When we get back to Vernal, this hike will be on the top of our list to do again.
Fantasy Canyon is amazing. The rock formations are so unique and you can walk right through them. We had a great time wandering along this 0.6 mile trail and finding cool rock formations. Fantasy Canyon is about an hour from Vernal.
There are some pretty amazing petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch. You can walk along the short trail and see many different petroglyphs. Free admission, but $5 donation asked and appreciated.
The Uintah County Heritage Museum has lots of pioneer and Native American artifacts. We loved the history in this museum, and the scavenger hunts for kids. This is a great indoor stop right in the town of Vernal.
If you are looking for a place to let the kids burn off some energy, make sure to let them play at Ashley Valley Community Park. This park has tons of fun stuff and an amazing playground. We had fun as a family playing here.
Moonstone Arch is a fairly easy trail to an amazing arch that you can walk right underneath. We enjoyed the trail, but we really enjoyed exploring around the arch. There are fun caverns behind the arch to check out as well. This trail is 2.0 miles RT.
We decided to hike the Jones Hole Trail out to Ely Creek Waterfall. Luckily this trail begins at the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery. We had a blast checking out all the fish and seeing the different sizes of fish, too. This adventure is free, but it’s a long drive out to the hatchery, so make sure to pair it with a hike.
Ely Creek Falls
Ely Creek Falls likes along the Jones Hole Trail in Dinosaur National Monument. This trail is beautiful, especially in the Fall. We loved walking along the creek, and beneath the towering rock walls. The waterfall is small, but pretty, and a great destination on this hike. There are also some petroglyphs along this trail as well.
We have added a few stops to our list for the next time we visit Vernal. If you check out any of these spots (or somewhere else that needs to be on the list), let us know.
Remember the Maine Park–we drove past this park on the way to McConkie Ranch, but did not have time to stop.
Vernal DUP (only open in the summer)
Flaming Gorge (dam tour, hikes, water activities). We have never visited Vernal in the summer, and that is when Flaming Gorge would be the best time to visit.