You already know I love all things dinosaur, and if you didn’t, now you do. Last year I made sure to see the Trail Through Time in Colorado and got to see some dinosaur bones, but I decided I needed to see some dinosaur tracks in Moab on our last visit there for the 2018 summer.
Que the Mill Canyon dinosaur track site. Before that though, we took a little side trip to the Willow Springs dinosaur tracks by the Klonzo area. These are further out and you either need a 4-wheel-drive vehicle or to walk a mile or so, but more on that in a minute. There are so many dinosaur tracks in Moab, it’s crazy. I’ll definitely be seeing more, so stay tuned for those.
Willow Springs Dinosaur Tracks
Our first stop was the Willow Springs dinosaur tracks. We accidentally passed the turnoff and had to turn around to get to it. Willow Springs is a pretty popular area with boondockers, or people living in RV’s for a few weeks or months at a time in various spots. This is a free camping area which makes it more popular for that.
We passed the Willow Springers and made our way to the tracks, which you can see in the first picture. It’s not a road, but the track is lined with rocks and pretty easy to spot as you’re driving.
Some of the tracks are pretty prominent, but others just look more like roundish indents in the sandstone. We didn’t walk too far down the track because it was pretty cold that day, but I still saw some really nice tracks. There is a sign at the site telling you a bit about the tracks made by Therapod dinosaurs over 165 million years ago.
Where are the Willow Springs Dinosaur Tracks
To get to the Willow Springs dinosaur tracks from Moab, head towards the Interstate for about 12 miles and turn right onto Willow Springs Road. If you’re coming from the Interstate, it’s about 18 miles in and a left turn.
Once you’re on the road, follow it for about 2.7 miles, following signs toward the Klonzo area. There is a sandy wash that you will probably need 4WD for. I would avoid stopping in the wash so you don’t get stuck. The tracks are about 3/4 of a mile past the wash on the right.
If you have a smaller passenger car, don’t worry, it’s not far to walk if you can’t cross the wash. I wouldn’t try it without 4WD. You’ll pass parking area A before the wash. You can park here and walk the last 3/4 mile to the tracks.
Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracks
I didn’t really know what to expect before we got to the Mill Canyon dinosaur tracks. I knew there were a lot but didn’t think about what it would actually look like, but it was pretty cool. If you like dinosaurs, you need to stop here.
There is a short dirt path then a boardwalk to take over the tracks so they aren’t disturbed. I think what surprised me the most about this track site was that it was only discovered in 2009! How crazy is that?
There are over 200 tracks in this one spot from around 10 different species about 112 million years ago, You’ll see tracks from Theropods of all sizes, Sauropods, Ornithopods, Nodosaurs, and possibly Ankylosaurs. There is also a crocodile slide where you can see its body, tail, and footprints. The best time to see the tracks is sunrise.
An hour should be plenty of time to take in all the tracks. There is also the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail here that you can do to see some dinosaur bones. I haven’t done this yet, but I would like to before we leave this year.
You can see the tracks overlapping, like this used to be a watering hole. The tracks were probably made over a period of a few days. This is also the largest and most diverse Early Cretaceous track site in the Cedar Mountain Formation as of right now.
According to the BLM brochure, this is how the tracks were formed: “The dinosaurs and other animals here walked on a mat of algae that formed in a shallow lake. The animals left tracks after the lake water receded, but before the mat dried up. The mat was then buried by layers of sand and mud.
The buried mat hardened and became limestone. At a later time, the still buried limestone was replaced by chert. The texture of the rock surface preserves the remains of this once living mat of algae. “
Where are the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracks
The Mill Canyon dinosaur tracks are about 15 miles outside of Moab, just a couple miles past the Willow Springs dinosaur tracks. The turnoff will be on the left (if you’re coming from Moab) near some railroad tracks.
The road is dirt but any car will make the short drive to the parking area. After the first parking area, stay to the left and you’ll come to a pretty good-sized parking area for the track site and dinosaur trail.
Things to keep in mind when visiting dinosaur sites:
- Don’t take the bones. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I do because people have dug out some of them. While there aren’t any marked here that I’m aware of, if you do find some, leave them where they are.
- Just look at the tracks, don’t fill them with water. While it makes them easier to see, it can damage the tracks.
- If you find artifacts, do not take them. Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
- And finally, don’t carve in or write on the rocks! I don’t want to have to say this, but I need do.
Want to read about dinosaurs before your trip? Check out some of these books!
- The Sixth Extinction
- The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
- Jurassic Park
- The Tyrannosaur Chronicles
- The Dinosaur Artist
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Have you been to the Mill Canyon dinosaur tracks? What about the Willow Springs dinosaur tracks? What are your favorite dinosaur tracks in Moab?