The Jones Hole Creek trail is a wonderful 8-mile (round trip) hike located in the northwest corner of Dinosaur National Monument. Vernal is an unapologetic mining town surrounded by flat gray desert, so a vivid green trout stream is a nice, unexpected surprise. This 2,000-foot-deep gorge runs along the border between Utah and Colorado. The trail starts just below the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery, and meanders pleasantly along the creek for about four miles to join the Green River. The trail is fairly flat and easy to follow.
This lush, green oasis is teaming with plants and wildlife. Seriously, after living in the desert for five years, I'm pretty excited by clear water and critters! I'm the world's worst fly fisher, but even I could tell this was a great trout stream. The water was crystal-clear, and you could see trout swimming and mayflies hatching. A herd of five bighorn sheep let me watch them graze for a while. I also saw deer, a pair of mergansers, and a rusty-colored marmot.
About 1.7 miles south of the trailhead, you'll see a short spur trail that heads to the base of the western cliff. This takes you to the Deluge Shelter rock art with a really vivid elk pictograph. A little further south, there's a 0.5 mile side trail to the Ely Creek Falls.
Finally, after 4 miles of hiking, I reached the Green River. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was really impressive. The river was surrounded by soaring 2,000 foot cliffs and actually lived up to its name and looked green, instead of the sediment-laden brown I usually see back home. I felt a weird sense of satisfaction knowing this same water would eventually flow by my home in Green River, UT -- a 4-hour drive and 226 river miles away. I feel an epic whitewater trip brewing ...
To get to the Jones Hole Creek trail, drive east out of Vernal on 500 North Street. When the road forks, go left and follow the signs that says Jones Hole. Follow the paved road for another 33 miles to the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery. The trail starts at the south end of the hatchery, about two hundred yards from the visitor parking lot.