Dinosaur National Monument is a vast canyon wilderness sliced by the Yampa and Green Rivers, which join together at the center of the park. Many trips into the heart of Dinosaur require long drives from either of the two visitor centers or the main campground at Green River because there are no roads that cross the rivers in the backcountry of the park. The shortest of these drives into the park wilderness is the road to McKee Springs, Rainbow Park, and Island Park. If a visitor only had time for one excursion beyond the vicinity of the main park road, especially if staying on the Utah side of the park, then the Island Park Road is the one to consider.
There is little to prepare a visitor driving from Vernal, Utah, for the magnificent scenery ahead as the road travels through dry, remote ranch land for several miles. Soon, though, the rock formations loom larger as the heart of the park gets closer. About 0.6 miles after the monument entrance, begin looking up on the right (south) wall for petroglyphs (GPS location 40.507224, -109.201848). There is a very nice panel there just a short way before the larger group of rock art known as the McKee Springs Petroglyphs that is noted by a sign on the road (GPS location 40.50835, -109.19811). The short loop trail from the parking area on the left leads to some very nice Fremont-style art, and they are nicely-lit all day.
Rainbow Park is down a short turnoff, but it may be better to wait until the trip back to see if there is time to stop here as it is basically just a tiny campground and boat ramp. It is a magnificently-isolated and quiet spot to camp, however. Don’t miss the Island Park Overlook 1.5 miles past the Rainbow Park turnoff, which has a magnificent view of the Green River and Island Park. Island Park is downstream from the confluence of the Green River and the Yampa River, and the river is impressively large here. The trail along the rim makes a great short hike. As you continue the drive down to Island Park to the end of the road you'll find the historic and picturesque Ruple Ranch and many spots to access the river.
Note: This road becomes impassible after rains due to dry wash crossings that can become raging streams, so be sure to check with the visitor center for current road conditions before attempting this trip.