In addition to the outdoor recreation areas described in this section, see the sections "Dinosaur National Monument" and "Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area," as well. Basin Sports, 511 W. Main St., in Vernal (tel. 435/789-2199), is a good place to stock up on gear.
Ashley National Forest
This vast forest encompasses more than a million acres of beautiful mountain country, including Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and the High Uintas Wilderness, which is home to Kings Peak, Utah's tallest mountain, at 13,528 feet. Throughout the national forest are numerous opportunities for hiking, backpacking, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, and other activities. The Forest Service also rents out its guard stations and yurts, which make an excellent base for exploring the mountains north of Vernal.
The two major access points are along U.S. 191 from Vernal and Utah 44 from Manila. Information is available from the Vernal Ranger District office, 355 N. Vernal Ave., Vernal, UT 84078 (tel. 435/789-1181; www.fs.fed.us/r4/ashley), open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm.
Ouray National Wildlife Refuge
Hundreds of species of migratory birds and waterfowl make their home in this 11,987-acre wetlands refuge, which lies south of Vernal along the Green River. A 12-mile car tour route begins at the visitor contact station, which also has hiking trails and an observation tower. In addition to a variety of birds, you're likely to see mule deer.
To get here from Vernal, take U.S. 40 west about 14 miles and turn left (south) onto Utah 88 for about 14 miles to the refuge entrance. The visitor contact station is about a mile from the entrance. Entry is free. The refuge is open daily year-round, from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset; camping is not allowed in the refuge. Contact the refuge office, HC 69, Box 232, Randlett, UT 84063-2042 (tel. 435/545-2522; http://ouray.fws.gov), for more information.
Red Fleet State Park
Located 10 miles north of Vernal, at 4335 N. U.S. 191, this scenic park -- which looks like a junior version of Lake Powell -- offers fishing, boating, swimming, and camping, plus about 200 well-preserved dinosaur tracks. The 750-acre Red Fleet Reservoir was named for three large deep-red sandstone rock formations that resemble the hulls of ships. You'll encounter sandy beaches, rock cliffs, and plenty of open water; wildlife such as rabbits, ground squirrels, mule deer, and the occasional bobcat; and good fishing for rainbow and brown trout, bluegill, and bass. On chilly mornings, golden eagles are sometimes spotted sunning themselves on rock outcroppings; other birds that frequent the park include hawks, vultures, owls, and bluebirds.
The dinosaur tracks, which are about 200 million years old, are found on a large slab of rock that slants down into the water and is located across the reservoir from the park's boat ramp. The greatest number of tracks can be seen when the water level is low, from late summer through winter. You can reach the tracks by boat or by swimming (wear a life jacket so you can return easily), or via a 1.5-mile hike (one-way) from a Bureau of Land Management road. To reach the BLM road, continue north along U.S. 191 1 mile past the turnoff to Red Fleet. Turn right (east) just past mile marker 212, cross a cattle guard, and drive 2 1/3 miles on the paved road to the trail head, a small turnout with a sign at the trail; a stock tank sits across the road, partly hidden by bushes and trees. Allow about 2 hours for the moderate hike over low, sandy hills. In winter, when the reservoir is frozen, it's a quick walk from the boat ramp across the ice to the tracks (provided it's thick enough to cross -- please use caution).
Park facilities include the boat ramp, fish-cleaning stations, an RV dump station, and a 29-site campground. Although the campground is essentially a parking lot, it does offer splendid panoramic views across the lake. There are also five sites with full hookups, grassy areas for tents, plus tables and fire pits, and modern restrooms but no showers. Camping costs $13 for tents or $25 for RV hookups; the day-use fee is $7 per vehicle. Gates are open daily from 6am to 10pm in summer, 8am to 5pm in winter. Call tel. 435/789-4432 for information, 800/322-3770 for campsite reservations. The Utah State Parks website is www.stateparks.utah.gov.
Steinaker State Park
Steinaker offers a sandy swimming beach, good fishing for rainbow trout and largemouth bass, and an attractive campground, just 7 miles north of Vernal at 4335 N. U.S. 191. This reservoir, which covers 780 acres when full, is also popular with water-skiers and boaters. Unfortunately, no rental facilities are nearby.
Wildlife here includes mule deer, jackrabbits, cottontails, ground squirrels, porcupines, and an occasional elk or bobcat. Migratory waterfowl are often seen in spring and fall, and the park also attracts American robins, pheasants, and golden eagles. The landscape is composed primarily of juniper and sagebrush, with cottonwoods and aspen trees near the lake. Spring usually brings out an abundance of wildflowers, such as Indian paintbrush, larkspur, and sego lily. Several unmarked hiking trails -- ask a ranger for directions -- and additional hiking opportunities are nearby on property managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Facilities include a boat ramp, fish-cleaning station, and RV dump station. The tree-shaded campground contains 31 sites (5 with RV hookups) and modern restrooms with hot showers. Picnic tables, barbecue grills, and fire pits are available. Camping costs $13 for tents or $25 for a site with RV hookups; the day-use fee is $7. Gates are open daily from 6am to 10pm in summer, from 8am to 5pm in winter. Call tel. 435/789-4432 for information, 800/322-3770 for campsite reservations. The Utah State Parks website is www.stateparks.utah.gov.