Is Vernal Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On July 9, 2024
Vernal, United States
Safety Index:
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Vernal, Utah, is known as Dinosaurland for all the fossils of the prehistoric behemoths that are scattered throughout the region.

There’s really no place else like Vernal in Utah, and that’s for better and for worse.

Whether you imagine Utah as a ski resort destination or for the colorful canyons and formations of Southern Utah, Vernal is in a league of its own.

It’s in a valley on the eastern edge of the Uinta Mountains, 50 miles south of Wyoming and 30 miles west of Colorado.

At 5,300 feet and in the shadow of the mountains that peak an additional 8,200 feet, the weather, air quality, and even visibility can be much different than you’ll find in places like Moab or even Salt Lake City.

Vernal also breaks historical standards in Utah, where most cities were founded by Mormon settlers and displaced the Indigenous people.

While Mormon pioneers did scout the area, they returned, stating it was only good for “nomads” and to “hold the world together.”

The city also strays from history in that the railroad never made it to town.

In fact, were it not for the oil boom that came in the mid-1900s and the establishment of Dinosaur National Monument and Ashley National Forest, who knows if Vernal would even still be worth discussing today?

Warnings & Dangers in Vernal

Overall Risk


There's a low risk in Vernal by crime standards, but you must love the outdoors to even consider enjoying your time here. While it doesn't offer the most stunning scenery, especially in town, it does have a wealth of geological anomalies.

Transport & Taxis Risk


Basin Transit Association runs a bus system throughout the valley, but it does look like it's only for residents, and it's designed to get people to work, school, doctor's appointments, grocery stores, etc. While you might find a few taxi or rideshare options, a rental car is really the smart choice here. Plus, there's no other way to get to Vernal than by car, and it's hours from anywhere.

Pickpockets Risk


This is a low risk, with just one pickpocket reported in 2023. However, don't let that cause you to let your guard down. Keep your stuff with you and secure. Don't carry valuables you don't need, and keep purses and wallets as hidden as possible.

Natural Disasters Risk


Vernal faces natural disaster risks, including earthquakes, flash floods, and wildfires. Its proximity to fault lines makes it susceptible to seismic activity, while its dry climate and rugged terrain heighten wildfire dangers. Flash floods can occur in low-lying areas, particularly during heavy rainstorms, posing significant threats to safety and property. Less than two feet of snow falls on average each year, but an occasional snowstorm shouldn't be ruled out.

Mugging Risk


The city averages one robbery a year, and that's usually a business robbery, like a convenience store. Given how many people travel through here, you should still keep your guard up.

Terrorism Risk


This is another low risk, with the remote nature of the area making it a less-than-desirable location for even terrorists. Now, the presence of the oil reserves might cause some concerns, but there's plenty of security in place to protect that valuable resource.

Scams Risk


Check local law enforcement social media sites for the latest scams. The most recent scams involved fake law enforcement calls demanding money to avoid jail time and social media posts of missing children that are not real. The risk is low, but you keep it that way by learning the most common tactics.

Women Travelers Risk


Women have the same low risk as anyone else, but please note the remoteness of this area and plan ahead, especially if you're traveling with children.

Tap Water Risk


The U.S. has strict standards for tap water per the Safe Water Drinking Act. Communities are required to provide a Water Quality Report (Consumer Confidence Report) once a year by July 1. The 2022 report in Vernal shows full compliance and no violations.

Safest Places to Visit in Vernal

Vernal really hangs its hat on the Dinosaurland nickname, as the region’s tourism website is

Look for the Wall of Bones Area Guide, which is the tourism guide.

The Uintah County Heritage Museum showcases the region’s pioneer and Native American history through a variety of exhibits, including artifacts, photographs, and local artwork.

You can also learn about the best places to find petroglyphs in the region.

At the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, you’ll find fascinating exhibits of dinosaurs, including life-sized models and fossils discovered in the region.

The museum also offers insights into the geology and human history of the area.

Of course, the real dinosaur hot spot is Dinosaur National Monument 20 miles west.

The Quarry Exhibit Hall features a wall of dinosaur fossils, where you can see the remains of these ancient giants still embedded in the rock.

Beyond the fossils, the monument offers stunning landscapes, with hiking trails that wind through canyons and along the Green and Yampa Rivers.

For outdoor adventure, Red Fleet State Park is a great choice.

The park’s namesake reservoir is ideal for boating, fishing, and kayaking.

One of the park’s unique attractions is the Dinosaur Trackway, a hiking trail that leads to a series of well-preserved dinosaur tracks embedded in the rock.

Steinaker State Park is also nearby, and it offers similar recreational opportunities during the day; it’s also an International Dark Sky Park.

That means it has some of the clearest night skies in the country.

The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, 41 miles north, is worth the trip to see the dramatic landscapes and enjoy Green River recreational opportunities.

While rafting, hiking, and paddling are popular here, anglers will love the epic trout fishing.

No visit to Vernal would be complete without taking in the region’s natural beauty at one of the nearby scenic byways.

The Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway, for example, offers a picturesque drive through some of the most geologically interesting areas of Utah and Colorado.

While it’s 500 miles long, it does include the option of adding Grand Junction (CO), Arches National Park (UT), Moab (UT), and many other public lands to your adventure.

Places to Avoid in Vernal

You won’t find dangerous parts of town in Vernal, but it’s best to stay on the main roads and highways.

Always have a paper map when you leave town since mobile service is spotty at best.

Stay away from any of the oil fields or company offices, as those are private property.

Some trails here are designed for ATV riding, not hiking.

Some hiking trails don’t allow ATVs.

With a mix of public lands, including national forests, state parks, and National Park Service property, you should know the allowances and restrictions of each.

Avoid touching, shading, or interacting in any way with the petroglyphs.

It’s a federal crime.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Vernal

  1. Vernal has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @vernal.pd. Feel free to send them a message or call (435) 789-5835 if you have specific safety questions.
  2. Sign up for CodeRED emergency notifications through the police department’s website. You’ll be able to get severe weather alerts, road closure notices, and other public safety hazards. You must stay aware of these risks while visiting.
  3. Vernal can be very foggy, and in winter, an inversion layer can cloak the valley and impact air quality. Use an app like IQ Air to check the air quality before you head out.
  4. Consider purchasing an America the Beautiful pass for $80, which will get you access to federal public lands for up to a year. Otherwise, you’ll pay an entrance fee at each location, and they all have different costs.
  5. Download the NPS app to get information and alerts about Dinosaur National Monument. You can also download offline maps so that you don’t risk getting lost while you’re exploring and out of cell service range.
  6. The city won’t plow the streets unless four inches of snow or more falls. Apparently, the locals got upset by plowing, which caused blocked driveways and mailboxes. Also, you should avoid parking on the side of the street when plows are working.
  7. Anglers need a license from the Utah Division of Wildlife Services. You can purchase that license online, and it will give you access to fishing anywhere it is legal in Utah, including federal lands.
  8. This area of Utah has rapids between Class II and Class IV, and you should be honest with a rafting guide about how much experience you have. This will help them find the right route for you.
  9. Don’t assume that just because a road exists on a map, it means that the road is paved. There are dirt and gravel backroads throughout this region. Some are also only designed for ATVs.
  10. When you go stargazing, bring a red flashlight instead of a white one, as the red beams allow you to see without exposing others to light pollution. Be sure to give your eyes about 20 minutes to adapt to the darkness to enjoy the full beauty of the night sky. Also, stargazing during a new moon offers the best views without the light of the moon masking anything.

So... How Safe Is Vernal Really?

Vernal’s crime rates over the past few years seem about as volatile as the oil industry.

In 2022, the city had a 25-year-high number of violent crimes, coming in at 57 – about five per month.

Before then, the number bounced annually from as low as three to an average of 33.

Now, some of that could be a lack of reporting or other bookkeeping issues, but after tracking down the 2023 crime rates, the numbers dipped to just 14 violent crimes.

That rate works out to be about half of the state and national averages.

In reality, that’s about one a month.

On top of that, just 6% of violent crimes were against a stranger between 2018 and 2022.

In 2023, theft rates were 20% lower than the national average.

Shoplifting made up 70% of that theft rate, and surprisingly, just one car break-in was reported.

In addition, just two cars were stolen.

Despite the low crime rates, there are some headline-grabbing stories in Vernal.

One in particular involved a man who grabbed a teenager from a hotel hallway and sexually assaulted her.

The man was arrested, but he is not from Vernal.

That brings up another point: many people who come to Vernal are here for temporary work in the oil fields.

You can’t know with any certainty how safe the newest group of temporary workers might be.

You also can’t assume there is an inherent danger.

It’s just another reason to always use basic safety precautions when visiting a new city.

Vernal is statistically a safe town, but it is remote and requires a basic level of understanding of personal protection tactics, wilderness safety, and survival skills if you’re visiting the mountains.

How Does Vernal Compare?

CitySafety Index
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
New Orleans57
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60

Useful Information



All international visitors need either a visa defining the purpose of the trip (tourist, work, school, etc.) or a visa waiver. Start the process using the Visa Wizard module on the U.S. State Department website. Also, keep in mind that your passport must be valid for at least six months after your trip, or you’ll need to apply for a new one.



Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is accepted in the United States. International airports usually have a currency exchange desk on site, while regional airports won’t. It is worth noting that Salt Lake City International Airport does not offer the service. Your home bank offers the lowest fees. For those using credit cards, check to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee before you start racking up charges.



Vernal has bitterly cold winters and warm but not too hot summers. Highs might get into the 90s, but there's low humidity. Winters aren't as snowy as you might expect, since the mountains create a rain shadow effect over the Vernal valley.



Vernal's location isn't ideal for those who need to fly. Salt Lake City International Airport is three and a half hours away, Denver International is almost six hours away, and even the small Grand Junction, Colorado, airport is two and a half hours away. Vernal does have a small airport with flights to Salt Lake City just twice a week, which costs $200 for a round-trip ticket.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance was designed for places like Vernal, which are remote and could result in dangerous situations or inclement weather that cause delays. Comprehensive travel insurance is the best option, but be sure your rental car has roadside assistance coverage.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Vernal Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -8° C
Feb -4° C
Mar 4° C
Apr 9° C
May 14° C
Jun 19° C
Jul 23° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 16° C
Oct 9° C
Nov 2° C
Dec -6° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Utah - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Brigham City82
Bryce Canyon City82
Cedar City86
Green River83
Park City78
Salt Lake City55
St. George94
West Jordan94
West Valley City65

Where to Next?

Share Your Experience

Facebook Pinterest