Dinosaur National Monument

Continuing this trip’s theme of “out of the way places only,” I hit up Dinosaur National Monument on the way out the state. The monument straddles the Colorado and Utah border very close to Wyoming. In other words, a couple hours away from the closest airport in Grand Junction, in the middle of nowhere.

The park’s two claims to fame are the dinosaur fossils, which are housed in a visitor center that is (until later this week) still under reservation-only for capacity limitations and dramatic petroglyphs on the Utah side — a separate entrance. Which I will have to make another trip for. I got to the east entrance much later than originally intended owing to another “oh my atlas and Google Maps both were sure this was a public road, but some well-armed yokel has put up a fence and No Trespassing signs” incident.

On the Colorado side, I had a long overland drive on Yampa Bench Road along the dramatic canyon rim that ended at a 1800s homestead.

Nothing about who lived here, but whoever they were, they had a killer view along the start of the bench.

Yampa Bench ends into the main road from the Colorado entrance, which I had expected to be paved and wasn’t. And the section headed up toward the highway had some stoutly rocky switchbacks, which probably explains why I had this end of the park mostly to myself. But before heading back, a few stops along the way down to Echo Park.

Faintly visible in a cliff face are petroglyphs created by the Freemont people about a thousand years ago. They’re about 30 feet off the canyon floor now because the creek has worn away the sandstone below.

In 1910, Jack and Mary Chew moved here to Pool Creek and established a homestead, initially a one-room cabin but the eventually built out more buildings as they established the ranch. By the 20s, two of the sons maintained the ranch with their mother and increased the holding to 2,250 acres. They held the ranch until 1966, when Rial Chew sold the 1,900 acres within Dinosaur National Monument to the National Parks Service.

At the end of Harper’s Corner Road was another dramatic bend in the river, with a boat launch, trailhead, and beach.

After making my way out of the park, I headed out toward a brief overnight in Pinedale. The route went through the Flaming Gorge National Rec Area over the dam and up US-191 into Wyoming.