At the northeast edge of the Beehive state lies a city that will bring you back to the prehistoric past: Vernal, Utah.
The city is dubbed the Dinosaurland because of the many bones and marks left by these extinct reptiles.
Surrounded by mountains, parks, and other ancient land features, Vernal also offers many outdoor activities that are perfect for your family.
From whitewater rafting to ATV rides, you’ll have tons of options to roam around the scenic locations all around the city.
It’s one of the best outdoor getaway destinations this side of the US.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Vernal, Utah:
Touch Fossils at Dinosaur National Monument
No trip to Vernal would be complete without a visit to the Dinosaur National Monument.
Within the ancient rocks of this 210,000-acre park, the remains of ancient dinosaurs lie exposed for everyone to marvel at and touch.
Complete skulls, large claws, and long spines are maintained by paleontologists so that kids and adults can come and be amazed at the sheer size of these long-gone reptiles.
It’s as close to a real-life Jurrasic Park as you can get.
But the area offers more than just sights for dinosaur lovers.
The majestic mountains, rugged deserts, and fast-flowing rivers offer many opportunities for further exploration.
Make sure that Dinosaur National Monument is part of your itinerary to find out what other wonders await you at this magnificent location.
Shoot Epic Photos at Fantasy Canyon
You might have already seen Fantasy Canon in some office computer wallpaper or within the pages of a photography magazine.
This 10-acre area is home to some of the most unusual rock formations in the world.
Rocks that seem to shift and change right in front of your eyes within the small canyon abound.
These are made of sandstone and have been eroded by wind and rain for millions of years, resulting in smooth curves and unique protrusions.
It’s no wonder landscape photographers have made this place into their playground.
You’re welcome to take pictures, too!
It’s the perfect place to take a unique photo that will get you many likes and reactions from your followers.
Explore the Exhibits at Uintah County Heritage Museum
The city of Vernal is part of Uintah County, a region brimming with colorful histories.
This vibrant past is curated at the Uintah County Heritage Museum, a facility dedicated to preserving Uintah Basin's heritage.
Within the museum's halls, you can visit the galleries containing artifacts of the first peoples who inhabited the mountain regions thousands of years ago.
There is also a gallery that displays some works of local artists, as well as highlights from past community events.
If you’re lucky, you can catch the photography events, where some of Vernal’s attractions are captured in stunning images.
Trace Dinosaur Steps at Red Fleet State Park
Red Fleet State Park is another place to follow the ancient footsteps of dinosaurs—literally!
It’s the location of fossilized footprints from these fierce reptiles, preserved in the sandstones that are common to this region.
Discovered accidentally during excavations for new buildings, these prehistoric relics are thought to be more than 200 million years old.
But these are only half of the things you can explore in Red Fleet State Park.
It is home to a scenic reservoir, nature-sculpted sandstone cliffs, sandy beaches, and other natural wonders.
You can set up camp here and stay for a few days if you want to get a better look at the numerous sights that this park has in store.
Visit the Majestic Ashley National Forest
With a whopping 1,382,346 acres of total land area, Ashley National Forest is one of the largest forests in this side of the United States.
And it just so happens that Vernal serves as the headquarters for this forest.
The city is the gateway to the many wonders of this attraction, with huge swaths of wooded areas, towering mountains peaks, lakes, and many other wonders.
As expected in a land of this size, there are numerous activities to do with your friends or family.
You can never go wrong with hiking and camping within the forests, but you can try conquering the highest peaks of Utah or go whitewater rafting in the rivers winding in between the mountains.
You can also try spotting the many animals that call Ashley National Forest their home, with mountain lions, antelopes, bighorn sheep, elk, and other mammals roaming the area.
Hunting is permitted in some areas, so if you want to bring home a large trophy, this forest is the place to be.
Have Fun at Ashley Valley Community Park
The Ashley Valley Community Park is the largest recreational facility within the city limits of Vernal.
It’s an ideal destination for family and community fun!
There are wide, grassy spaces and play structures like slides and swings for kids.
For those who want more sporty activities, there are baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, and biking trails that traverse the entire park.
The shady trees offer cool spots where you can rest, read a book, or take your family for a picnic.
For special events or simple celebrations, there are two beautiful gazebos within the park that can be reserved.
Explore McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs
Dinosaur fossils aren’t the only things ancient in Vernal.
At McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs, you’ll see prehistoric remnants of past humans etched on rockfaces.
The attraction is on private property and is accessible by walking around some rugged terrain adjacent to sandstone cliffs.
These petroglyphs showcase complex drawings of humans with unique features and adornments, geometric animals, and other abstract figures created by prehistoric Fremont societies.
Chipped into the rock, these have lasted for thousands of years, with their original meaning and purpose now unknown.
It’s a fascinating glimpse of these long-gone cultures.
Just remember not to touch the markings during your visit so they won’t get damaged!
Take Landscape Photos at Moonshine Arch
Moonshine Arch is another one of the unique sandstone features in the rugged mountains around Vernal.
By itself an already beautiful natural structure, the arch also serves as the perfect framing device for the sky's uninterrupted views or the area's panoramic vistas.
View it from different angles and take stunning landscape photos that will awe your friends.
The road to the area has mild terrain, but it’s best to follow local maps instead of apps like Google Maps, as these can sometimes prove inaccurate.
During your hike, make sure to bring bottles of water and sunscreen, as the trail can get hot, especially during summers.
Go Camping at Vernal/Dinosaurland KOA
While camping in the many parks around Vernal may sound like the ultimate outdoor adventure, it may be too harsh or remote for those who are bringing their kids.
So for those who want to go camping but want to stay in a place with modern conveniences, then Vernal/Dinosaurland KOA is the perfect spot for you.
The site has spacious grounds, with areas for RVs and tents and cozy cabins available for rent.
Within the location, there are many recreational activities to try, such as biking, miniature golf, movie nights, and volleyball.
It can also serve as your base as you explore the many attractions of Vernal for a few days.
Treat it as your second home in the city!
Go Stargazing at Steinaker State Park
Another scenic spot near Vernal is Steinaker State Park, known for its water-related recreational activities as well as winter sports.
However, one of the lesser-known attractions of this place is the beautiful night sky that is free from light pollution.
In 2018, Steinaker State Park earned its designation as a Dark Sky Park.
This means that lighting within and around the area is controlled to preserve the quality of the starry nights and nocturnal surroundings.
Astronomers, astrophotographers, and night sky lovers will surely have a great time admiring the moon and stars from this park.
You can go camping and make a nice setup where you can view meteor showers, the Milky Way Galaxy, and many other nighttime wonders in peace and comfort.
It’s an unforgettable experience that many city dwellers may have never realized possible.
See the Marvels of Green River
This body of water is one of the tributaries of the Colorado River, and it snakes its way along the rugged landscapes around Vernal.
It’s one of the best ways to easily access some of the hidden natural attractions near the city, with many boating tour businesses ready to have you on board.
During your trip, you can spot birds and mammals roaming around the river banks and take gorgeous photos of the rock formations.
Among the gentler streams, you can go paddleboarding, kayaking, and swimming.
Whitewater rafting on the more chaotic rapids is a great option for those who want more adventurous activities.
The river is also known for its abundance of game fish, so bring a line and try catching some hefty trouts, catfish, carps, and so much more.
Tour Vernal’s Backcountry Via ATVs
Ready for some off-road adventures?
Many businesses in the city offer ATV tours where you can explore the backcountry of Vernal.
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’ll have a grand time onboard these powerful vehicles as you explore the many attractions around.
The destinations include Green River, Steinaker State Park, Red Fleet State Park, and Dinosaur National Monument.
During your trips, the vehicle operators will also share the park's histories, wildlife, and other notable features.
It’s a thrilling experience that is a must-add to your vacation plans.
Visit Utah Field House of Natural History State Park
If you want to get up close with dinosaurs without having to endure the hot summer days at Dinosaur National Monument, then Utah Field House of Natural History State Park is an ideal alternative.
This museum houses many ancient artifacts, fossilized skeletons, and historical collections documenting the region's past.
Visit the Geology Hall and see excavated dinosaur bones reconstructed to mimic how these ancient reptiles once stood.
The Anthropology Hall contains records of ancient humans who settled the area, including photographs and rock art samples seen at McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs.
Lastly, the Natural History Hall showcases the diverse flora and fauna living in the region.
Science and history lovers will have a grand time exploring these galleries.
Make a Stop at Ouray National Wildlife Refuge
Ouray National Wildlife Refuge is a must-see destination near Vernal, perfect for wildlife lovers.
This protected area lies on the Green River, and it serves as the home to more than 350 species native to the region.
Roaming around the grassy hills are elks, pronghorns, moose, and other large mammals.
Birds like black-necked stilts, eagles, and great horned owls also take shelter within the woodlands and along the shores of Green River.
While visiting, you can spot these animals hunting for prey, eating grass, or making nests.
There are also opportunities for hunting, which is an important part of conservation efforts in the area.
Try Extreme Activities at Buckskin Hills
Get your adrenaline pumping by visiting Vernal’s premier outdoor recreation complex.
Buckskin Hills offers a wide range of extreme sports for beginners and professionals alike.
The large facility has race tracks, shooting ranges, hilly terrain, and various power sport vehicles that you can use at any season.
Ride an ATV, a dirt bike, or a mountain bike and satisfy your need for speed across the bumpy tracks.
There is also a shooting range, where you can test your skills at various targets and distances, with high-grade guns for you to play with.
If you want to stay for a few days, then set up camp at one of the designated sites in the facility.
There are many amenities available, as well as professional staff ready to cater to your needs.
Dinosaur fossils, scenic rivers, rugged mountains—all these you can find in Vernal!
It’s one of the best destinations for those who live for outdoor adventures.
So for your next trip, make sure to check out this list and add the most idyllic spots around the city to your itinerary.