8.0 miles (round trip)
4 3/4 hours
540 ft. loss/gain
Jones Hole Trailhead (start): 5,560 ft.
Green River: 5,020 ft.
Easy, year-round trail descending along Jones Hole Creek
to the Green River.
Spring, summer, fall. Hiking is also sometimes possible
in the winter, if the road is open. For more information
call the Visitor Center, Dinosaur National Monument, at
Dinosaur National Monument, near Vernal
Hole is the name given to a 2,000-foot-deep gorge that
runs along the border between Utah and Colorado in Dinosaur
National Monument. Jones Hole Creek, in the bottom of
the gorge, is fed from a number of small springs at the
head of the canyon and along its sides. The trail begins
just below the first spring, at the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery,
and winds pleasantly along the creek for about four miles
to join the Green River in Whirlpool Canyon. The creek
bed is a lush green oasis surrounded by the semiarid land
of Dinosaur National Monument. At times the trail climbs
away from the water into the sagebrush and pinion-juniper
forest that surrounds it, but mostly it stays very close
to the canyon floor where boxelders, cottonwoods, and
other water-hungry trees prevail. The creek is also an
important source of water for the monuments wildlife,
and it is not uncommon to see deer-especially in the early
hours of the day.
the visitors parking area of Jones Hole Fish Hatchery
walk downstream for a few hundred feet, past the fish
tanks, to the southern end of the complex. Here you will
see a sign on the east side of the creek marking the trailhead.
The trail stays on the same side of the creek for just
over a mile. For most of the way the path is very near
the water, although at one point it leaves the creek to
meander briefly through the pinion-juniper forest on the
left bank. The vegetation changes dramatically just a
short distance from the water's edge.
After a half-hour walk the
trail crosses a small footbridge, giving hikers the opportunity
to see two interesting archeological sites on the west
bank. Excavations at the Deluge Shelter site in 1965-67
showed that Jones Hole has been occupied intermittently
by at least fifteen separate Indian cultures over the
past 7000 years. The cultural layers exposed by the excavation
proved to be unusually well defined, and the information
gained has contributed significantly to the puzzle of
America's prehistoric past.
Both of the Jones Hole archeological
sites contain well preserved examples of prehistoric Indian
rock art, which, in view of the many hikers that use the
trail, are remarkably unvandalized. Enjoy the centuries-old
art, but please watch that no one in your group does anything
to deface the precious remnants of our past. Don't even
touch them, as the oils in our fingers can cause significant
Shortly after passing the
second archeological site you will come to the confluence
of Ely Creek and Jones Hole Creek. There is a small camping
area here for overnighters. This is the only place in
Jones Hole where camping is permitted, and permits must
be obtained in advance from the Dinosaur National Monument
Visitors Center. Open fires are not permitted. Ely Creek
is also worth exploring. It flows out of an area known
as the Labyrinths, a rugged maze of backcountry canyons,
only about a mile northwest of the confluence.
Sharp-eyed hikers may notice
a change in the geological structure of Jones Hole as
they pass Ely Creek. Above this point the canyon cuts
through the Weber Sandstone formation, while below Ely
the canyon floor enters an older formation of limestone
and shale. This 200-million-year-old sedimentary formation
bears testimony to the existence of an ancient sea that
once covered the area, and fossil remains of the seas
inhabitants can often be found in the limestone.
The trail ends two miles
below Ely Creek where Jones Hole Creek joins the Green
River. If you are hiking in the summer you will probably
see at least one party of river runners here. The Green
River is very popular with rafters, and Jones Hole is
a favorite overnight stop. There are several camp sites
nearby, but the sites are reserved for rafters and are
off limits to hikers.
An interesting extension
to this hike, for those wishing to sample the semidesert
environment above Jones Hole, is the trail connecting
Jones Hole to Island Park. This trail leaves Jones Hole
from the backpackers campground and follows Ely
Creek for about a half mile. It then climbs 800 feet up
the south side of Big Draw Gulch to the plateau above
and continues in a generally southwesterly direction.
Beyond this climb the trail is not difficult, but ample
water should be carried as it is a hot, dry walk. The
trail ends in Island Park near Ruple Ranch, 6.5 miles
from the Ely Creek Campground. With a little advance planning
a car can be spotted at Ruple Ranch for the drive back
to the trailhead at Jones Hole Fish Hatchery. An 18-mile-long
gravel road leads from Ruple Ranch to the paved Jones
Hole Road, and from there it is another 33 miles back
to the fish hatchery.
The first two miles of the
trail from Jones Hole to Island Park are well defined.
Unfortunately, however, the Park Service no longer maintains
the trail, and in a few places above Big Draw Gulch it
can be difficult to follow. If you want to do this hike
I recommend you take along a compass and a good map of
the area (the USGS Jones Hole and Island Park quadrangles
are ideal). The area is fairly flat and obstacle-free,
so loosing the trail is not a serious problem if you have
a compass and a good map.
One of the things that makes
the Island Park hike so interesting is the extremely large
number of deer in the area-especially in the spring. In
the spring of 1995 I counted more than 50 deer (mostly
doe with their newborn fawns) within a mile of Ruple Ranch!
One final note: Their seems
to be a large disagreement over the distance from Jones
Hole to Ruple Ranch. One Park Service signs says 8.0 miles,
another says 4.7 miles, and a popular map says 7.7 miles.
I stand by my estimate of 6.5 miles.
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.