We arrived in the tiny Utah town of Manila (population 331) ready to explore the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Our campground was the local KOA. We’re not really fans of the KOA campgrounds – they tend to be overpriced and cramped. However on this trip, they’ve been the most convenient for us, and we’ve stayed at several.
The Flaming Gorge / Manila KOA was wonderful. The owners do an excellent job maintaining the campground. From the cabins and teepee to the RV sites, everything was spotless.
We had a pull-through site, and it was close quarters with the next site. Thankfully we did not have a direct neighbor, so it felt a little more spacious. The only negative to this campground was the nearby street noise. Other than that, this was a great spot to stay for a couple nights. Highly recommend it if you’re in the area.
Red Canyon / Flaming Gorge
We thoroughly enjoyed hiking the rim at Red Canyon in the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area. Flaming Gorge is just beautiful. Well worth the trip.
We headed down the road to the city of Vernal, Utah to explore the Dinosaur National Monument. At the campground office, they had a brochure about a local landmark that is off the beaten path, so we thought we’d venture out to try and find Moonshine Arch.
We drove out a bumpy dirt road, then hiked a relatively unmarked trail until we came upon the Arch.
Overall, the Arch was a bit underwhelming. The natural formation is impressive and the hike is not too bad, but we’ve been spoiled at the Arches, Bryce and Zion National Parks. The views were pretty though.
Dinosaur National Monument
Our next stop was to visit the Dinosaur National Monument. The park crosses the Utah border into Colorado, and there are two visitor centers. The Colorado center caters primarily to hiking and other recreational pursuits, while the Utah center is where they display the dinosaur fossils. That’s what we wanted to see.
From the visitor center, we boarded a shuttle for a short ride to the Quarry Exhibit Hall. The hall is built along a long wall of actual dinosaur fossils – 1,500 fossils is what they told us.
While many natural history museums display “casts” of dinosaur fossils, and Dinosaur National Monument has some casts, it also exhibits real dinosaur fossils from the Jurassic Period that you can actually touch.
Noted paleontologist Earl Douglass found these fossils in 1909 and established the dinosaur quarry that would later become the Dinosaur National Monument.
One of the most fascinating exhibits in the Quarry Hall is of the Abydosaurus mcintoshi, a dinosaur that was discovered in the 1990s. Amazing! What’s more, there were fossils of four skulls which is very rare because the skull bones are very fragile and rarely survive fossilization. Below is one of the skulls.
We had planned to hike the Fossil Discover Trail where we were told we’d see a few large pieces of dinosaur bone, as well as petroglyphs on rock walls, but the weather turned bad, so we wrapped up our day early.
We had a fun and interesting experience exploring Utah. Now, we’re in Wyoming and soon off to Montana. Watch for the next update!