Expect limited service along some stretches of this byway.
When heading out into the high-desert plains, be sure to pack plenty of water.
Dinosaur sites only scratch the surface of this scenic byway; plan to visit prehistoric petroglyph sites and factor in exploration by foot.
Dinosaurs were prolific in this area and have since left their mark on the land in the form of fossils and footprints. Long after these massive animals disappeared from this part of Colorado, the Fremont Indians settled its arid landscape.
Though not technically on the byway, Grand Junction is a great jumping off point for your adventure. While you’re there, take your taste buds on a tour of Colorado Wine Country, of which Grand Junction is a part; the heavily agrarian region’s fruit growers and winemakers produce some of the finest products in Colorado. Or pause downtown for Grand Junction’s Certified Creative District, before heading to U.S. Highway 6 toward Fruita to officially kick off your cruise.
As you drive, you'll pass through an area that abuts some of the state's most colorful canyons, found at Colorado National Monument. A short detour from the byway leads you along Rim Rock Drive, a 22-mile route that skirts the precipice of Colorado National Monument's deep, red and ochre sandstone gorge. Rock formations abound in this element-chiseled natural sculpture. Drive this stretch of road for exhilarating views, then find yourself at your next byway stop — Fruita, a glorious mountain-biking mecca on the Colorado-Utah border.
As a gateway town, Fruita boasts an official Colorado Welcome Center, stocked with informational brochures and a knowledgeable volunteer staff. Next, pause for a mountain-bike ride along Fruita’s famed desert singletrack. Explore 18 Road Trails near town for a rugged two-wheel ride. If you have dinosaur enthusiasts in your family, Fruita boasts the Dinosaur Journey Museum, which showcases various fossils and provides in-depth information on each. There are plenty of spots to fill up after a long day of biking. Local favorites include Hot Tomato Pizzeria, Copper Club Brewing Company, Aspen Street Coffee and BestSlope Coffee Company.
Traveling north on Colorado State Highway 139, the Dinosaur Diamond byway dips between the steep walls of a scrub-brush valley and over Douglas Pass. Follow the route through this gorge-studded area; at times you'll find yourself in the depths of a wide valley and, at others, traversing the tops of canyons.
Just south of Rangely, Canyon Pintado National Historic District will present itself. Through petroglyphs and pictographs, the Fremont people — dating back 11,000 years — created numerous images of their world. No one has been able to positively identify the significance of the paintings, but educated conjectures revolve around religious and everyday themes. There are 18 information panels spread over 12 sites within the canyon that serve to help visitors understand the artwork they see. Kokopelli, the hunched flute player, is a commonly seen figure throughout Fremont rock art and reappears along the canyon's walls.
Plan for an interlude in Rangely, an oil-rich area used previously as a Ute trading post and ranchland. For a look at the inner-workings of an oil field, there is an informational kiosk and demonstrative derrick on display along the byway. If you're looking for a little water fun, the nearby Kenney Reservoir is a popular distraction for boaters and anglers of all levels. Delve into the area’s history by viewing the varied artifacts on display at the Rangely Outdoor Museum. And a stop at the TANK Center for Sonic Arts reveals an eclectic cultural landmark perfect for musicians.
From Rangely, continue northwest along Highway 64, to reach Dinosaur, a friendly small town that caters to road-trippers. After all, countless people are drawn to the area's numerous fossil excavation sites. A number of streets have dinosaur sculptures dotting their blocks, and local eateries have playfully named menu items to reflect the town's dino-connection. Thanks to its location as a waypoint into the state, Dinosaur also has an official Colorado Welcome Center, stocked with free coffee, friendly faces and information about nearly everything Colorado-related.
The region’s dinosaur connection comes to a head at Dinosaur National Monument, just north of Dinosaur, where nearly every type of dinosaur fossil is on display at the Quarry Visitor Center (Utah side). The monument is huge — showcasing fossils, petroglyphs, dig sites and the geology found throughout the area. The Canyon Visitor Center on the Colorado side is your jumping-off point for a scenic detour along Harpers Corner Road, leading to picnic areas, hiking trails and the Canyon Overlook.
Located near the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and the White River and Routt National Forests, Meeker is a gateway to northwest Colorado's expansive public lands. A roster of annual festivals awaits, including the Meekerpalooza Arts & Music Festival (June), the Range Call Fourth of July celebration, White River OHV Rendezvous (July) and the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials (September).
Head south from Grand Junction for hiking and camping in Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area; its gorgeous Canyon Country wilderness is appreciated for its geological and archeological treasures.