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Dinosaur Memorial Weekend

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!

Dinosaur National Monument Sign

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.

Echo Park Campsite

The next morning I took this photo of a few nice petroglyphs that were right behind our campsite.

Camp Petroglyphs

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!

Mitten Park Trail

A pair of petroglyphs we spotted along the way.

Antenna Men

We would see plenty of Claret Cup Cactus throughout the weekend.

Dinosaur Claret Cup

Arriving in Mitten Park.

Mitten Park

The sun coming up over the Mitten Park Fault.

Faulty Sunstar

Diane walks along a nice sandy beach in Mitten Park.

Mitten Park Beach

After our morning hike we spent a few hours searching for the Cockleburr 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.

Big Panel

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.

Cockleburr Wash Petroglyphs

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.

Ledge Panel

These are my favorite figures found at this site.

Nice Little Petroglyphs

An evening view from the Island Park Overlook with Wild Mountain in the distance.

Island Park

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.

An Old Friend

McKee Petroglyph Panel

McKee Petroglyphs

Shield Man

Is it just me, or does this look like a cat mask?

Cat Mask

We caught the last light of the day above the Buffalo Panel.

Buffalo Panel Sunset

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…

Under A Cloud of Smoke

We started out Saturday morning with a hike past Steamboat Rock to Sand Canyon.

Steamboat Morning

We passed through this grassland and under these cottonwood trees near the confluence of the Yampa River and Green River.

Confluence Hiking

The narrows of lower Sand Canyon were very nice.

Lower Sand Canyon

I didn’t climb up any further because of this deep pool.

Sand Canyon

Diane hikes ahead of me as we were leaving Sand Canyon.

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.

Near The Confluence

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.

Pool Creek Petroglyphs

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!

Blue Mountainglyphs

All of the petroglyphs found here are located on the ground facing up. It’s a very unusual site!

On The Ground

Diane’s favorite part of this site were these sandal prints.

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.

Dots & Dashes

Diane even spotted this little granary.

Little Granary

Cracked Panel

Faded figures in the corner.

In The Corner

Just another hunting scene.

Hunting Scene

Hidden Designs

The Chew Panel was pretty cool, but hard to see in the direct sunlight. Not to mention all the graffiti found here…

Chew Panel

A Fremont figure found inside the park.

Fading Warrior

As we were driving along Cub Creek Road, we had to stop by these lizard petroglyphs since they are pretty cool.

The Lizard Petroglyph

A view over Daniels Canyon as some clouds started moving into the area after a clear day.

Daniels Canyon

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.

Wildfire On the Horizon

The amazing geology of the Mitten Park Fault.

Mitten Park Fault

A closer look at Mitten Park from above after hiking down there the previous morning.

Mitten Park from Above

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.

Pool Creek

Fire on the horizon, both literally and figuratively…

Fire On The Horizon

I woke up early on Sunday morning to photograph Steamboat Rock over the Green River at dawn.

Green River Dawn

This old cabin along the Echo Park Road has a roof that is covered with dirt with cryptobiotic crust growing on top.

Dirt Roof

I stopped for a photo of the old wagon at the Chew Ranch as we drove by.

Chew Ranch Wagon

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.

Through The Sage

We found this inscription left by Bert Hadfield in 1919.

Bert Hadfield, 1919

Next to the inscription were a few petroglyphs including this elk or deer.

Petroglyph & Cobwebs

We found the remains of a pair of granaries in a small alcove above the Yampa River.

Yampa Ruins

Faded petroglyphs right along the Yampa.

Old Petroglyphs

A few red pictographs at the turnaround point of our hike.

Yampa Pictographs

The Yampa River flowing through Castle Park.

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.

Red Rock Canyon Alcove

Diane hiking ahead of me through one of the easier parts of Red Rock Canyon.

Hiking Red Rock Canyon

Thankfully, there were a few nice shaded alcoves to rest in along the way.

Red Rock Canyon Shade

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.

Harding Hole Overlook

Returning to Echo Park one last time…

Driving To Echo Park

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.

Around The Fire

When I saw the moon rising above the canyon rim, I grabbed my long lens for a quick photo.

Echo Park Moonrise

I walked over to the boat ramp just after sunset to take a few more photos over the Green River.

Jenny Lind Rock Sunset

Steamboat Rock Reflection

Steamboat Rock Reflection

One last photo of Steamboat Rock at dusk before I returned to camp for the night.

Steamboat Rock at Dusk

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!

>> Dinosaur Memorial Weekend Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne June 5, 2018

    Love the land formations and rock art. Big horn with what looks like a bird inside! I don’t know much about Freemont or Classic Vernal style. You have me searching for more info. since these glyphs are different in lots of ways from the southern Utah ones. I love to read about your and Diane’s ramblings. Thanks so much.

  2. Nhi Casey
    Nhi Casey June 5, 2018

    Love reading about your adventures, and love all the sunbursts shots!

  3. Lee C.
    Lee C. September 11, 2018

    Hey guys, I have been trying to find the Cockleburr Wash Petroglyphs a few times myself and I was wondering if you all have any tips as to where they are?

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