Thing to Do

Hike the Fossil Discovery Trail

A closeup of a fossilized femur of a long-necked dinosaur on the Morrison spur of the trail.
The Morrison Formation spur of this trail features many unexcavated dinosaur fossils.

NPS Photo

Distance: 1.2 miles (2 km) one way
Elevation Change: Approximately 200 feet (61 meters)
Level of Difficulty: Moderate, some steep and uneven rocky areas. Can be slippery when wet.
Type of Trail: Out and back, not a loop
Trailheads: Either the Quarry Visitor Center or the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

This 1.2 mile (2 km), one-way trail cuts through several tilted rock layers which expose a variety of rocks and three fossil areas as offshoots of the main trail. The Morrison Formation stop features an outcropping of several small fossil fragments and a few large pieces of dinosaur bones in their natural state, just as Earl Douglass found them in 1909. Trailheads are located at both the Quarry Visitor Center or the Quarry Exhibit Hall. When the shuttle is running between the Visitor Center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall, many visitors opt to hike the trail one direction and ride the shuttle the opposite.

A pamphlet for the trail is available at the Visitor Centers. Trail maps of Dinosaur National Monument are available from the park bookstore.

Rules and Regulations

  • Pets and animals who provide only comfort or emotional support are prohibited on this trail.
  • To protect fragile resources, off-trail hiking is not permitted in this area.
  • Carry out all trash.
  • Collecting artifacts, fossils, plants, antlers, rocks, or other objects is prohibited.
  • Do not feed or approach wildlife.
  • Biking on trails is not permitted in Dinosaur National Monument.

Your Safety

  • There is no shade on this trail.
  • This trail is not stroller friendly, and can be extremely slippery when wet.
  • Be prepared for desert hiking. Wear a hat and sunscreen. Take water. A minimum of 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water per person is recommended in summer.
  • Temperatures can exceed 100°F (38°C) in summer. To avoid the heat, hike in the morning or evening. Carry a headlamp if hiking near nightfall.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you are due back.
  • Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes, such as hiking boots or athletic shoes. Open-toed shoes or sandals are not recommended.
  • Watch for wildlife. This is bear and mountain lion country. Keep small children close.
  • All natural areas pose risks. Your safety depends on your own good judgement.
Details
Pets and animals who provide only comfort or emotional support are prohibited on this trail. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act, working service dogs may go wherever their handlers go.
Visitors must pay the park entrance fee or show a valid pass at the Entrance Station or Quarry Visitor Center. There is no separate or additional fee for this activity.
The Fossil Discovery Trail is an out-and-back trail that connects the Quarry Visitor Center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall on the Jensen, Utah, side of the monument. Trailheads are located at each of these two locations. 
Accessibility Information
This trail is a narrow path over a mix of gravel, dirt, and sand. There are numerous steps and dry stream crossings in several areas. There is no shade on the trail, and it can be hot during midday. Due to the presence of clay, this trail is slippery when wet. It is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.

Dinosaur National Monument

Last updated: August 25, 2022