Memorial Day Weekend | Thursday – Monday, May 24-28, 2018
After four years of going on our annual Maze Memorial Weekend trip we decided it was time to move that trip up into early April for cooler temperatures and less bugs, which meant that we needed to find somewhere else to explore over the Memorial Day weekend this year. After some thought we settled on visiting Dinosaur National Monument because we hoped it would be a little cooler at this time of the year and I felt it was time to finally start getting to know this area of Utah and Colorado a little more intimately. Plus, there are a lot of places around Dinosaur that I’ve wanted to revisit and I was pretty sure that the park wouldn’t be too busy away from the main Dinosaur Bone Quarry. Little did we know that this weekend was going to be pretty warm all over the Colorado Plateau!
We did a lot of driving on this trip and saw quite a bit of the park in both Utah and Colorado, from down along the rivers to the high viewpoints from Harpers Corner and along the edges of Blue Mountain. Besides warm temperatures throughout the weekend there was also a lot of wind during the day. Since we were away from camp for most of the days we would return in the evening to find our sleeping bags and everything else inside our tent covered with sand. Thankfully, our tent was always still upright and in place when we returned, but when we took it down on Monday morning we did notice that one of the poles was a little bent. I had originally planned a pretty ambitious weekend, but the warmer than normal temperatures during the days slowed us down quite a bit, so we didn’t get to do everything I had hoped to, but that’s OK since we are already making plans to return again in cooler weather!
Welcome to Dinosaur National Monument!
We left right after work on Thursday afternoon and headed north through the Book Cliffs and straight to Echo Park along the Green River and grabbed one of the last remaining sites in the campground where we setup our base camp for the rest of the long holiday weekend.
Here’s our base camp below the sheer cliffs of Echo Park along the Green River on Thursday night.
The next morning I took this photo of a few nice petroglyphs that were right behind our campsite.
We hiked the trail from Echo Park to Mitten Park along the Green River on Friday morning. Even though it was early in the day and the temperature had not yet started to climb, this wall heated up quickly from the early morning sunlight!
A pair of petroglyphs we spotted along the way.
We would see plenty of Claret Cup Cactus throughout the weekend.
Arriving in Mitten Park.
The sun coming up over the Mitten Park Fault.
Diane walks along a nice sandy beach in Mitten Park.
After our morning hike we spent a few hours searching for the Cockelburr Wash Petroglyphs and were not having much luck. We were about to give up and move on when Diane spotted them through the binoculars. We hiked over to them for a closer look and found an impressive panel high up on a narrow ledge.
We tried to access the ledge from the top, but there was too much exposure for us to get across to the panel. These are my favorite petroglyphs from this site.
Next we headed into Rainbow Park in search of another petroglyph panel that I’d been unsuccessful at locating in the past. This time I was able to find them! Not only that, but I was actually able to get across the narrow ledge to get right in front of this panel.
These are my favorite figures found at this site.
An evening view from the Island Park Overlook with Wild Mountain in the distance.
Since Diane had never been out to this part of Dinosaur before, we stopped to visit all of the great petroglyph panels found near McKee Spring before heading back.
Is it just me, or does this look like a cat mask?
We caught the last light of the day above the Buffalo Panel.
While leaving Island Park on our way back to camp, there was a low cloud of smoke to the west that made the evening light really strange when the sun was behind it. It doesn’t really come across in this photo, though…
We started out Saturday morning with a hike past Steamboat Rock to Sand Canyon.
We passed through this grassland and under these cottonwood trees near the confluence of the Yampa River and Green River.
The narrows of lower Sand Canyon were very nice.
I didn’t climb up any further because of this deep pool.
Diane hikes ahead of me as we were leaving Sand Canyon.
On our way back we tried to visit the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers, but we couldn’t see much from the river level, just this rocky beach below Steamboat Rock.
We stopped to check out the unusual petroglyphs found along Pool Creek as we left Echo Park this morning. Many of these petroglyphs were created by drilling holes into the sandstone.
Next we went in search of the Blue Mountain Petroglyphs, which I really didn’t think we’d find since I didn’t have much information to go on. Surprisingly, they were much easier to locate than I thought they’d be!
All of the petroglyphs found here are located on the ground facing up. It’s a very unusual site!
Diane’s favorite part of this site were these sandal prints.
After driving over Blue Mountain and stopping for lunch at the edge of Cliff Ridge at a hang glider launch site, we went searching for some more petroglyphs near the Utah side of the Monument and found quite a few new sites.
Diane even spotted this little granary.
Faded figures in the corner.
Just another hunting scene.
The Chew Panel was pretty cool, but hard to see in the direct sunlight. Not to mention all the graffiti found here…
A Fremont figure found inside the park.
As we were driving along Cub Creek Road, we had to stop by these lizard petroglyphs since they are pretty cool.
A view over Daniels Canyon as some clouds started moving into the area after a clear day.
We finished the day with a hike out to the Harpers Corner Overlook. From up here we could see the Pine Ridge Wildfire on the horizon that was burning to the west. We could also just barely see the mouth of Jones Hole, which was one of my favorite overnight backpacking trips from last year.
The amazing geology of the Mitten Park Fault.
A closer look at Mitten Park from above after hiking down there the previous morning.
We also got a good view of the Pool Creek canyon along the trail, which we had driven through a few times already this weekend to get to our campsite in Echo Park.
Fire on the horizon, both literally and figuratively…
I woke up early on Sunday morning to photograph Steamboat Rock over the Green River at dawn.
This old cabin along the Echo Park Road has a roof that is covered with dirt with cryptobiotic crust growing on top.
I stopped for a photo of the old wagon at the Chew Ranch as we drove by.
This morning we were hiking down Red Rock Canyon from the Yampa Bench Road into Castle Park. This hike, while not long or steep, turned out to be a much worse bushwhack than I had anticipated and the temperature outside got warmer than expected, so it wasn’t very fun for us.
We found this inscription left by Bert Hadfield in 1919.
Next to the inscription were a few petroglyphs including this elk or deer.
We found the remains of a pair of granaries in a small alcove above the Yampa River.
Faded petroglyphs right along the Yampa.
A few red pictographs at the turnaround point of our hike.
The Yampa River flowing through Castle Park.
Since it was getting pretty hot out, we stopped and rested in the shade a few times during our hike back up Red Rock Canyon.
Diane hiking ahead of me through one of the easier parts of Red Rock Canyon.
Thankfully, there were a few nice shaded alcoves to rest in along the way.
After returning to my Jeep we had a late lunch and then finished driving the Yampa Bench Road. We stopped at the overlooks along the way including the Harding Hole Overlook pictured below.
Returning to Echo Park one last time…
For the first time this weekend, we actually returned to camp early enough to have a fire. After camping 37 nights this year, this was actually my first campfire of the year, which isn’t unusual since I rarely have a fire.
When I saw the moon rising above the canyon rim, I grabbed my long lens for a quick photo.
I walked over to the boat ramp just after sunset to take a few more photos over the Green River.
Steamboat Rock Reflection
One last photo of Steamboat Rock at dusk before I returned to camp for the night.
I had originally planned a few more hikes outside of the park on Monday morning, but the high temperatures the previous days and our bushwhack through Red Rock Canyon the day before had sucked all of our energy and we just wanted a day to relax, so we slept in late, packed up camp and headed home early. We still had a pretty great holiday weekend!