From ancient artifacts and ruins to dinosaur remains, Utah wears its rich history on its sleeve. One of the oldest parts of its story are the dinosaur footprints scattered across the sandstone. A variety of locations in the state are home to large, defined tracks. It is hard to deny these markings came from enormous reptilian creatures that once roamed the land. One well preserved, easily accessible set of dinosaur tracks is located just off Highway 89.
The unmarked trailhead for these dinosaur tracks is located about three miles north of Kanab, Utah, right beside the Port of Entry. A porta potty at the south end of the parking lot marks the start of the trail. Cars can park in the lot beside this bathroom. Multiple deer trails lead from the parking lot heading south, parallel with Highway 89 toward the direction of Kanab.
The trail weaves through the brush to the foot of the mesa. Head left as the trail meets the rock to find the way up. A lower ledge beneath the plateau prevents hikers from climbing straight up. The ascent can be steep and slippery, making solid hiking shoes with firm grip a must. The climb is gradual until the path loops back around to the same side as the highway. Here it slopes upward, leading hikers to the top of the mesa.
The tracks are located atop the summit of the mesa. While not officially marked, hikers have placed several cairns beside the most prominent ones. They are believed to be from a Grallator, a bipedal carnivorous dinosaur. Please do not touch or walk on the prints. To help preserve the markings, it is best to keep dogs on leash (it is also safer due to the trail’s close proximity to the highway) and children supervised.
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In addition to the tracks, the top of the trail offers a striking view of the red cliffs and nearby Hog Canyon. The trail is about 0.7 miles round trip with 250 feet of elevation gain. Hikers should allow about an hour for the trip. It is rated as moderate, with a steep ascent and an area where many find it easier to descend on hand and knee. Watch out for loose rocks and maintain enough space in between hikers if in a group.
The dinosaur tracks trail is a great option for individuals who are on a limited time schedule or wish to stay close to civilization. A variety of tracks and lovely views of the surrounding area are a great reward for the trek to the summit. It’s not every day that we get to be up close and personal to a piece of history.
Written by: Lauren Kehoe