Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway
In the land of dinosaurs
|Mileage||105 miles (170 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||3 hours, 56 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||Spring, Summer, and Fall|
|Roadways||Colorado Highways 119 and 64, and US Highway 50|
|PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.||America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Rangely, CO▼, Carbonera, CO▼, Fruita, CO▼, Grand Junction, CO▼, and Grand Mesa, CO▼|
4.5 average from 4 votes
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Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.
Channel your inner paleontologist while traveling a landscape boasting some of the world’s most significant dinosaur fossils. Wide open spaces, sagebrush covered plateaus, multi-hued rock formations, and historic Native American sites are a feast for the eyes. Bookended by Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, and the Colorado National Monument in Fruita, this remote, high desert region reveals a rich heritage and diverse flora and fauna as it heads to Grand Junction.
The drive is named for its diamond shape loop that spans both Utah and Colorado. Described here is just the section that passes through Colorado.
We begin in the small town of Dinosaur. Visit the Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado) (A1) Canyon Visitor Center for exhibits, film presentation and information. Harpers Corner Auto Tour is a 31-mile (one-way) scenic drive that explores the unique landscape with numerous overlooks along the way, hiking trails, picnic tables, and incredible photo ops. The route passes Plug Hat Butte, featuring a wheelchair-accessible trail and a picnic area. In winter, Harpers Road is closed from Plug Hat. At the end of Harpers Road, off-roaders will love Echo Park Road, a steep 14 mile one-way unpaved road, note, impassable when wet. Take a guided white-water or float trip from an outfitter on the Green and Yampa Rivers, both of which cut through Dinosaur National Monument, offering an incredible perspective from which to view the rock formations. Make it an overnight in one of 3 campgrounds on the Colorado side. There is a fee to enter both sides of the monument, or use your America the Beautiful Pass.
There are no dinosaur fossils on the Colorado side of the monument. To see fossils, you must visit the Utah side of the monument near Jensen, Utah which is about 35 minutes away on US-40 West. Here are a few highlights from the Utah side: Declared a National Monument in 1915, Dinosaur National Monument (Utah) (A2) is one of the most productive sources of dinosaur bones in the world. A number of trails explore the unique landscape where you can imagine what life must have been like with these giants of the Jurassic roaming the land. Stop at the Visitor Center to take advantage of all the monument has to offer including guided tours. At the Quarry Visitor Center (I3) see over one thousand dinosaur fossils including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus, and Stegosaurus embedded in a cliff wall.
The byway continues south on CO-139 to Rangely. Visit the Rangely Outdoor Museum (M3) which preserves local history, archeology, zoology, and ethnology. Located inside an original school house, learn about the geology, Native American history, the ranching and oil industries, and more. The museum is open from May to Labor Day Weekend.
This corner of Northwestern Colorado seems an unlikely place for a car collection, but a visit to the Rangely Automotive Museum (M2) will amaze. Opened in 2016, Owner Bud Striegel rotates his collection of cars and motorcycles, and there are usually 35 on view at a time. Among the treasures are a 1909-1912 Pierce motorcycle, 1930 Franklin, and 1935 Brewster. Open Thursday to Saturday. The museum asks for a small donation to enter. Bonus, a replica of Stonehenge sits in the parking lot.
The TANK Center for Sonic Arts (A3) is a re-purposed water tank that resonates with unique sound quality. The TANk is now being used as a concert venue and recording studio. The public is welcome to experience the sonic sound qualities on Saturdays from 9:00am — 1:00pm. No shoes allowed inside. Check schedule before heading out.
Canyon Pintado National Historic District (A4), includes hundreds of archaeological sites from the Fremont Culture (c. AD 0—1300) and Ute (c. AD 1300—1881). Discover Native American pictographs and petroglyphs at interpretive exhibits along CO-139. Look for roadside signs to Lookout Point, East Fourmile, State Bridge, Cow Canyon, White Birds, Kokopelli and Waving Hands. Self-guided tour, please take only photographs, even touching lightly damages the historic sites.
Enjoy winding roads and switchbacks before and after Douglas Pass.
Highline State Park (H6) is truly an oasis in the surrounding high desert. Two lakes, Mack Mesa Lake, and Highline Lake, offer ample water recreation, a designated swimming area, jet-boating, water-skiing, sailboarding, kayaking, and fishing. Named an important birding area by the National Audubon Society, over 200 species of birds have been observed here, including owls, bald eagles, and sandhill cranes that stop here on their annual spring migration. Hike the trails and keep an eye out for skittering lizards, skinks, cornsnakes, and desert hairy scorpions. Mountain bikers flock here to ride the Highline Trail, a challenging, curvy singletrack. If you’re here the first weekend of May, participate in the 18 Hours of Fruita at Highline Lake Trail endurance race. In winter, the park is open for cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating, and ice-fishing. Enjoy year-round tent camping and RV sites. All Colorado State Parks charge an entrance fee.
The welcoming and relaxed town of Fruita offers a wide range of adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventure that explores the surrounding landscape of unique rock formations, spires, plateaus, mesas, and gnarled trees. A premier mountain biking destination, Fruita is renowned for a network of trails for every level of experience. Off-roading takes on new heights across mixed terrain. Enjoy white-water rafting on the Colorado River, or hiking on trails galore. Seasonal festivals keep the town hopping such as the Fruita Fat Tire Festival in spring, or the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival in June which celebrates a headless chicken with music, a car show and more.
Visiting the Colorado National Monument along the awe-inspiring 25-mile Rim Rock Drive is a must. And we have an entire scenic drive dedicated to it. Traveling from Fruita to Grand Junction, discover an incredible world of gorges, glorious pinnacles of sedimentary rock, tunnels, sculpted red rock monoliths and unparalleled views. At the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center (I2), learn about the unique geology that surrounds the monument. From here, enjoy a picnic or hike through piñon pine forests on Alcove trail or head to the rim along the .75-mile round trip Window Rock trail, overlooking Window Rock. Be aware of the steep cliffs, especially if children are present. If you decide to spend the night, camping is available at Saddlehorn Campground on a first-come first-served basis.
The James M. Robb Colorado River State Park (H7) is made up of 5 distinct areas each about a 15 minute drive from one another. All the sections: Corn Lake, Colorado River Wildlife Area, Connected Lakes, Fruita, and Island Acres offer fishing, boating, hiking trails, and picnic areas. Island Acres is the only area that permits swimming. Camping only at Fruita and Island Acres.
McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (H8) reveals yet another extraordinary landscape. A mere 146-156 million years ago, this area was the basin of shallow lakes surrounded by tropical vegetation, the perfect conditions for creating fossils. Many dinosaur fossils can be seen embedded in the rock along the Trail Through Time, and at Dinosaur Hill. At Rattlesnake Canyon, don’t miss Rattlesnake Trail and walk amid the second largest concentration of natural arches in North America. Enjoy boating, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATV riding, and primitive camping. This untouched area doesn’t have a visitor center or services, so come prepared with water, food, a full tank of gas, and please pack out your trash.
The drive heads east on CO-340 towards Grand Junction, a great base for exploring the region with ample lodging, restaurants, shops, art galleries, nightlife, local wineries and special events year-round. Learn about local history at Museum of the West (M5) through well-presented exhibits on Native American Pottery, early Spanish explorers, a full size uranium mine, Thrailkill firearm collection, a re-creation of early Grand Junction, hands-on activities, and so much more. At the Dinosaur Journey Museum (M1), kids of all ages will be fascinated by authentic fossils, robotic dinosaur models, casts, interactive displays, and a working laboratory where dinosaur bones are prepared for display. Step back to Pioneer days with a visit to the Cross Orchards Historic Site (A5). Once part of a fruit orchard between 1896-1923, today you can walk through the kitchen, cook’s quarters, dining room and carriage room. Costumed-interpreters and a dizzying array of artifacts from household furnishings, farm implements, vintage road building equipment and a railway exhibit will delight. The barn/packing shed and bunkhouse are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All three museums have an entrance fee.
The byway officially ends here, but there is so much more to explore. Head south on CO-141 towards the Unaweep-Tebeguache Scenic Byway or west on I-70 towards the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. If you happen to be headed to Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District, stop at the Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument (A6) in Utah, off UT-211. Observe an incredible array of petroglyphs from the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont, and Pueblo cultures etched over 2,000 years ago. Please do not touch, or deface the site.