A trip to Dinosaur National Monument over Memorial Day Weekend
Some trips are done for a backcountry experience. Other trips are done to see a unique area or contain much deep history.
Dinosaur NM? A little of everything. It is a trip that a past partner esp wanted to see.
So over Memorial Day Weekend, we packed up the car, drove out to this remote corner of Utah/Colorado and explored the area.
A trip Dinosaur National Monument can be divided into four distinct sections IMO:
- The Cultural (Fossils and Petroglyphs)
- The Canyon views
- The River
- The Backcountry
On this trip, we explored the first three but not the last part. By all accounts, the backcountry of Dinosaur is supposed to be pretty special. Remote, largely un-populated and rivaling anything found in other parts of the Colorado Plateau. It is something I’d love to explore….but this was not the trip for it.
Instead, we saw a lot of the first two and some of the third.
First place to visit was the Quarry Museum with its very impressive fossil exhibits.
After the exhibit, we did a short stroll that had other fossils. We ended up playing windshield tourist a bit along Cub Creek Rd and enjoyed the petroglpyphs from the Fremont Culture.
The views from the short hike (more of a stroll) from the petroglyphs area were rather nice.
At the end of Cub Creek, we were able to take another stroll to a neat box canyon.
After the hustle and bustle of the Utah side, we went to the quiet Colorado entrance of the monument and drove up Harpers Corner Rd.
The Utah portion of the park felt a bit like Mesa Verde: Very regulated, crowded but something worth seeing. Two things in life that make me feel ill at ease are crowds and traffic. The Utah portion had both. The Colorado portion? Much more mellow.
The views along the road were rather lovely. Could see the canyons and river below and the mountains in the distance.
A short stroll on a 2 mile trail, even let us see the famous Echo Park and ground zero for the modern environmental movement.
There was also further evidence of the landscape that existed several million years ago. (Well for most people anyway. 😉 )
Sea shell fossil. Cool..no?
We found a lovely campsite off in the BLM land surrounding the park and had one if the quietest, most serene and remote feeling campsites I’ve had in a while.
The following day, I did a ‘real’ hike to Ruple Point. A friendly ranger said this was her favorite trail. Getting the point itself, I could see why.
On the way back, saw some of the local wildlife.
After this hike, we drove to the famous McKeee Spring Petroglyphs. Among the best known the the world.
Once there, easy to see why. Visually impressive, artistic in designs and very well preserved.
A final drive on the way back to a campsite had us go to the quiet waters of the Yampa River. A fitting end to our Dinosaur NM adventure.
IF YOU SHOULD GO
When to go: As expected, Memorial Day Weekend was rather (too!) busy for our tastes. Earlier in the Spring or in the Fall (post-Labor Day Weekend) would have been ideal. Then again, that seems to be what works well for a past partner and I in almost all national parks and monuments we visit. 🙂
Maps: Trails Illustrated Map #220 will do the trick for general navigation. I’d want a more detailed topo(s) for off-trail, though
Camping: Backcountry campsites are of the dispersed variety and are (generally) not regulated except in more high use areas. The designated sites along the river fill up quickly in the high season. However, the majority of the land on the Colorado side of the park is actually BLM land (except for the narrow corridor along Harpers Corner Rd itself until Island Park View) and primitive camping is allowed. It was a much quieter option than the improved camp grounds in the monument proper. Having said that, I’d love to camp at Echo Park someday.