Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail: Easy To See Dinosaur Bones In Moab, Utah

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Last year we made it to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracks, but it was way too cold and windy to do the bone trail, so I went on our end of the season Moab trip instead.  While you don’t get to see full bones just sitting out, you do get to see quite a few of them in the rock along the trail.

The whole trail is about a mile round-trip and has signs full of information along the way.  At the trailhead, it looks kind of like the trail could go to the left or the right, but it really just goes down into the wash and up the other side.  It’s kind of a loop, but not really?  We just turned around and followed the trail back to the car.  The trail is easy to follow and well-marked.  This is a great addition to a southern Utah road trip or Trail of the Ancients road trip.

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Along the trail, you can see fossilized wood (petrified wood) which was pretty cool because it’s like the tree fell over and rock formed around it, so it looks like a hole in the rock almost?  There is also a packrat nest, which I never actually thought of being a real thing for some reason.  It’s just under an overhang and looks more like a pile of dried grass.  Just make sure you don’t touch it to avoid Hanta Virus.

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Finally, the highlight of the trail: the dinosaur bones!  There are 16 stops along the trail where you can learn about the bones in front of you, the dinosaurs they are from, the environment, and the geology.  Most of the bones are pointed out on the signs, but not all of them.  Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to spot them throughout the rest of the boulders along the trail.  It’s fun to look for them when you get to each stop before reading the sign.

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What kind of car do you need?

We took a Chevy Equinox and made it in one piece, but there was some deep sand that made me pretty nervous, so I would recommend at least four-wheel-drive.  I don’t think high clearance is necessary though.

I would not take a regular passenger car all the way to the trailhead.  In that case, I would just walk there from the track site parking area.  It is 0.8 miles from the parking to the bone trail, so it’s not too far.

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Things to keep in mind when visiting dinosaur sites:

While I’ve got the short version here, you can see more in-depth ways to respect these sites at the trailhead.  This is general advice for all dinosaur sites, not just this one.

  • 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 to fo sho.

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What to bring camping in the area

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry!  I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese.  There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the strong desert sun.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking.  This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one.

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Tent – I love the REI Passage 2 tent for one or two people.  It’s small and fairly light.  If you need a four-person tent, I’d go with this one, the REI Half DomeYou can check out my tent here.

Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy!  The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way.  Buy the sleeping pad here.

Sleeping Bag – I have the Nemo Viola 35 and love it because it’s not as restrictive as the mummy bags.  It has ventilation slits for those warmer nights.  Check out my sleeping bag here.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts here.

Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow.  This is a good non-inflatible option.  Here is a good inflatable option.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it.  Buy the LuminAID lantern here.

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Where is the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

How to get to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trailhead

From Moab, head out towards the Interstate on Highway 191.  After about 15.4 miles you’ll want to turn left onto Mill Canyon Road.  The road will cross over rail road tracks right away and then through some private property.

Along this road you will see signs for the dinosaur tracksite and the dinosaur trail.  They are different.  You can find out about the track site in this post.

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How long for the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

The trail is 0.9 miles from the trailhead but if you have to walk from the track site parking, it will be just under three miles round-trip.  I would plan1-3 hours depending on everything you want to see and where you’re hiking from.

This is a good way to spend a few extra hours between other activities.  The best time to do the hike would be morning or evening when it’s a little less hot, at least in the summer.  The rest of the year, anytime would be ok.

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Other things to do in the area:

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Overall, if you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend this trail.  It’s great if you have any interest in dinosaurs or geology and especially for kids.  It’s just a cool way to see something new that you might not be able to see this easily out in the wild.

Have you been to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail?  What did you think of it?  Do you like seeing fossils and dinosaur tracks?

 

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