Get Old, Get Limber, Petroglyphs: McConkie Ranch, Vernal UT
“Get Old” doesn’t quite describe it, ‘cos for today’s outing we’re getting way older than old. We’re getting ancient. Never mind: you’re ready for a new adventure, right? And you just happen to be a gazillion miles from anywhere, namely way off an interstate on the border of Colorado and Utah? So, roll back the years: we’re gonna do petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch, Vernal UT.
Dusty Car Muddy Boots’s deservedly famous exercise component? No worries: this one puts a whole new spin on “active” adventuring. Enough exercise to feel appreciatively limber or comprehensively worn out by the end of the day.
“Local color”, of course
And…this adventure adds a whole ‘nother dimension to “local color”.
Let’s get situated first.
For the purposes of this adventure, Muddy Boots will assume you’re staying in the general vicinity of Vernal UT. “General vicinity” reflects the remarkable actuality that there are many many many budget-friendly places that you could be sleeping at within, say, 50 miles. Even though there’s not so much as a speck of interstate half a day’s drive away, especially the way Muddy Boots drives.
Camping or motel?
So there you are,
Late morning or so in Vernal, soaking up apparitions of improbably jolly dinosaurs, basking in the shimmer of flocks, baskets, bushes, falls, planters, lamp posts of more pink and lavender petunias than you have ever laid eyes on, doing chores at the marvie West End Laundromat (seriously), and hustling to refresh your picnic larder.
You MUST take water
You can anticipate that you’ll need a substantial drinking water supply as well as your favorite eats.
Suppose you thought you could just hang out with petunias all day….Sit around and twiddle your thumbs? Deprive your adventuring genome of its overdue perk quotient? Well, that’s a non-starter.
Say farewell to the pink dinosaur
And her colleagues, goodbye to retinitis-inducing petunias (didn’t Muddy Boots promise “local color”?), and take off heading north-west-ish out of town. You want Dry Fork Canyon Road.
“Dry Fork Canyon” sounds like a place that would benefit from map consultation. You are right. You sort yourself out and, as luck would have it, a picnic location soon comes up:
Remember the Maine Park.
Lollygag and enjoy the shade: you want to arrive at the next location after the day has begun to cool down, but with enough time to get an adventure buzz. Let’s say 2-3-ish.
Drive on down
Dry Fork Canyon Road. As instructed, you take a right-hand-side turnoff for McConkie Ranch, but immediately jump to the conclusion that—by some egregious ineptitude—you’re going to end up on a bull’s home turf.
Stink-eyed cattle, yes. Ineptitude, no.
In fact, bingo, you’re right on target at McConkie Ranch, Vernal UT
You come upon a dusty area labeled “Parking Lot” or some such thing. You like it: the signs are direct and imaginative, not official-looking federal, state, or county. Yours may well be the only car. You realize instantly that the adventure is already significantly underway because the parking lot is fenced in antlers.
More local color, as if fantastic dinosaurs and blinding petunias weren’t enough…
Go in the shack
A small shack will beckon you inwards. Now, you’re even more certain that you’re in full-bore adventure mode, because the entire inside of the shack is covered with notes from appreciative sightseers.
Leave some dollars in the kitty, as the sign suggests. You’ll soon be marveling at how much adventure can be had for so little. $5? $10? It’s up to you.
As you can see, this place is a labor of love. Enjoy every inch of loving: you’ve only just got started.
Double-back to your car
To get your sturdy shoes, 1 1/2 liters of water, (Camelbak?) an energy bar, your camera, hat, safari shirt, sunscreen, an emergency whistle, and perhaps an old pair of bicycling gloves. Take one trekking pole, but only if you can fasten it to your pack: you don’t want to encumber your hands.
You have until dusk
Remind yourself that you can be on-site only until dusk, and this is not a casual stroll.
Ready to scramble?
At the corner of the parking lot, a trail heads upwards. The trail is at least half the adventure. Do as it says, and follow the rope, wire, tape, whatever keeps you from falling off the cliff…
When you’re quite certain you’ve reached a dead-end, keep going.
You’re facing a rock wall? Part the bushes and see how the trail continues. A rock is in the way? Clamber over it. You’ve seen 3 petroglyphs and think that’s it? Ha! You’ve barely begun. There can’t possibly be any more? You’d be wrong: keep skirting the cliff. Stop to drink water. Take a selfie. Have a little sit.
Enjoy the signage details. Marvel at the view. Get moving again.
Convey Muddy Boots’s respects
To Big Foot. Puleeeze.
When your eyes and feet have had enough..
Pick your way
Back down to the parking lot. Take your time. Your one trekking pole may (or may not) be handy here to keep yourself upright. As you descend and smugly settle back into your car, thank the heavens once more that a private landowner, out of goodwill and generosity, has preserved this ancient art and helped you along on a remarkable adventure.
Need more or weren’t up for the cliff walk?
There’s another trail labeled “Three Kings”, that takes you on a longer but mellower walk with spectacular petroglyphs at the destination.
That’s it for today, but plan to Cozy Up To A Dinosaur And Camp at Dinosaur National Monument.
Photo credits for petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch, Vernal UT: Featured image, McKee Ranch Petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument: Public Domain by NPS. Petroglyph and McConkie Ranch photos from www.Dinoland.com, all rights reserved, used with permission, specifically: Top photo, 4th photo panel from top, 5th panel right and featured image, 6th panel left, 6th panel right (Big Foot). Inside the McConkie Ranch parking lot welcome shack: CC BY 2.0 by David Jones via Flickr.
Petunia panel…From left, #1: CC BY-SA 2.0 by MI 378 via Flickr. #2: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Leonora (Ellie) Enking via Flickr. #3: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Kaz Andrew via Flickr. #4: CC BY 2.0 by Liz West via Flickr. #5: CC BY 2.0 by Liz West via Flickr.
Direct link to Dinoland brochure for McConkie Ranch, Vernal UT Petroglyphs
All kinds of Vernal-area activities, places to stay, and eat at Dinoland.com.