Jones Hole

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 8.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5658 - 5068 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Jones Hole
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, rock art, bighorn sheep




The Jones Hole trail is located in a semi remote area of the Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah. The trail begins at the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery where it follows a fast moving creek through a scenic canyon to the Green River. Enroute the trail passes the Deluge Rock Shelter where the sandstone cliffs are decorated with numerous pictographic images that were painted upon the rocks many hundreds of years ago by earlier inhabitants of the area. A side trail near the halfway point of the hike provides a short excursion to the scenic Ely Creek Falls. While hiking the Jones Hole trail it is also not uncommon to encounter a few of the areas bighorn sheep.


The trailhead is 45 miles from the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center and about 40 miles from downtown Vernal. From the Visitor Center head back out on the entrance road and turn right onto the Brush Creek Road at the intersection of 9600 E and 3500 S. Follow the Brush Creek Road to the Diamond Mountain Road and then take the Jones Hole Road for the remainder of the distance. From Main Street in Vernal head north on Highway 191 and turn right onto 500 N. Continue following 500 N as it transitions to the Diamond Mountain Road and then to the Jones Hole Road. The roads are all paved but there are a few areas at present that are a little rough.


From the parking area the trail follows the signs that lead past the remainder of the fish hatchery and into the canyon.


As the trail enters the confines of the canyon it travels along the bank of the creek where fly fishermen are often seen casting into the fast moving current. Near the half mile point from the parking area the trail crosses the boundary into the Dinosaur National Monument.


The entire length of the trail is very easy to follow and mostly easy to hike. There are a few places where the trail climbs higher than the creek that involve very short climbs. Several of them include stone steps that form staircases. Near the 1.5 mile point the trail makes a sharp turn around the point of a cliff at a narrow spot in the canyon.


About an easy half mile of hiking later the trail crosses the creek on a well built bridge.


As the trail continues on the other side of the creek there are a lot of side trails that head toward the cliff where there are numerous pictographs to look at that stretch along the cliff for several hundred feet. The Deluge Rock Shelter is also found here.


There are a few petroglyphs mixed in with the rock art but the majority of the images are pictographs that are in varying stages of decay. Come see them while you can and be sure not to touch them so they last as long as possible.


At the 2.2 mile point the Ely Creek Falls trail branches off on the right. That trail is part of the longer 8 mile Island Park trail that stretches between Jones Hole and the Ruple Ranch. Just past where the 2 trails meet there is a primitive backcountry campsite that includes a bear box for stowing food and gear. The campsite would come in handy for backpackers that want to break the Island Park trail up into a 2 day event. As part of your preparation note that fires aren't allowed within Dinosaur National Monument. More information is available online about the Island Park trail as well as access to get the free overnight permit that is required.


The trail continues down the canyon for another 1.8 miles where it reaches the Green River and comes to an end. On this day there was a large group of river rats that had tied off and hiked up to the Deluge Rock Shelter and back.


It is common to see bighorn sheep while hiking the full length of the Jones Hole trail. On this day the ewes were down near the Green River end of the trail while this group of 7 rams was right smack in the middle of the upper end of the trail on the return trip. If the bighorn are blocking the trail you can usually wait a few minutes and they will wander far enough off to the side for you to pass. Be sure not to approach them or harass them in any way. They never stay in one place very long and they are very unlikely to approach you.


One other thing that some hikers might find interesting is a large boulder that is next to the main trail in the area of the Deluge Rock Shelter that displays a large number of dinosaur fossils. It appears that the boulder fell from the upper reaches of the canyons rim. The boulder is reminiscent of the dense collection of bones at the Quarry Site near the Visitor Center.


There are patches of poison ivy in several places. We only noticed it right next to the trail in one place but if you are fishing along the creek or have to step off the trail for a bio break you will want to be sure to watch out for it. Other than that the Jones Hole trail is one of the most pleasant hiking experiences that you can find. The portions of the trail that are close to the creek are relatively cool even on a hot day and with rock art, waterfalls and wildlife there is a lot to enjoy along the way. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.