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Dinosaurland: Ruple Point to the Yampa Bench

Friday – Sunday, April 30 – May 2, 2021

After spending last weekend backpacking in Salt Creek Canyon I was looking to take it a little easier this weekend, especially since that trip didn’t start out so great. I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go, but I did know that I was done with driving through Moab this season and didn’t want to deal with that traffic again for a while. Late in the week I made a last minute decision to head north to Dinosaur National Monument and planned to spend my time in the eastern portion of the park, which is mostly in Colorado. I figured this part of the park away from the Dinosaur Quarry probably wouldn’t be very crowded and it would be a good opportunity for me to spend some time hiking the remaining trails in the park that I have not been on before. Hopefully I will be able to complete them all in the near future like I did in The Needles and the Island in the Sky. It’s been a little while since I last visited Dinosaurland, especially on the Colorado side, so I was looking forward to getting back again!

I left from work on Friday afternoon, grabbed a bite to eat in town, and then headed north through the Book Cliffs. Wow! This drive was so much more relaxing and enjoyable than the drive through Moab has become. It was a nice change of pace. I topped off my fuel tank in the little town of Dinosaur and then made my way into the park on the Harpers Corner Road.

Although the Plug Hat Trail is very short, it’s one of the trails I have not hiked before and I happened to be driving right by it, so I quickly hiked out to the overlook of Plug Hat Butte before continuing on down the road to Harpers Corner.

Edge of the Mesa

The view over Plug Hat Rock and the road was nice.

Plug Hat Rock

Looking to the west was a nice view over the upper forks of Bull Canyon.

Bull Canyon

Bull Canyon Rim

Bull Canyon Rim

After returning to my Jeep I finished driving to the end of the road and hiked out to Harpers Corner to watch the sunset. The sunset did not dissapoint!

Harpers Corner Trail

The light was looking very nice this evening!

Light Across the Landscape

The setting sun over Whirlpool Canyon.

Whirlpool Canyon

Amazing geology!

Harpers Corner Sunset

Cliffs & Trees

Cliffs & Trees

Looking straight down on the Mitten Park Fault.

Mitten Park Fault

Harpers Corner Point

Harpers Corner Point

There was a nice view of Buena Vista Peak as I followed the trail back to the trailhead.

Buena Vista Peak

When I returned to my Jeep I drove back outside of the park boundary and found a place to camp since I was planning to hike nearby in the morning.

One trail in Dinosaur National Monument that has eluded me for years is the Ruple Point Trail. I have planned to hike this trail a number of times over the past ten years, but something has always come up and changed my plans. Well, today was going to be the day that I finally hiked that trail, and I hoped to make it out to the overlook at the end in time for sunrise! My alarm went off at 4:30am and I quickly got ready, drove over to the trailhead and was hiking under the moonlight by 5:00am, with some help from my headlamp. The temperature out was very comfortable this morning, but it was a bit too humid for my taste. I didn’t give myself much time to hike the 4.75 miles before sunrise, but I figured I could make good time across the rolling sagebrush hills as long as I kept moving quickly. The trail was a little hard to follow in a few places, especially in the dark, so that slowed me down a couple of times. Thankfully, I was able to keep my pace up and made it to the amazing overlook of Split Mountain Canyon just before sunrise…barely!

The top of Split Mountain in the distance as I quickly hiked to the overlook.

Across The Sagebrush

This was my first view of Split Mountain Canyon. What a sight!

Split Mountain Canyon

Ruple Point Sunrise: The fast hike (there may have been a little jogging involved) was well worth this amazing payoff at the end!

Ruple Point Sunrise

Here’s a wider panorama showing more of Rainbow Park on the right side.

Split Mountain Panorama

Light on the Ridges


After watching the sun come up and eating a small breakfast, I turned around and hiked back the way I had come. Of course, I took it a little slower on the way back, especially since it was warming up quickly! I spent most of the rest of the day exploring canyons and overlooks of the Yampa River from the Yampa Bench Road.

Hells Canyon Road

Hells Canyon Road

Castle Park Overlook

Castle Park Overlook

Yampa River Bend

Yampa River Bend

I think the view from the Harding Hole Overlook is one of my favorites.

Harding Hole Overlook

Wagon Wheel Point

Wagon Wheel Point

The Bull Canyon Trail is another one that I have not hiked before, and it would take me down to the shore of the Yampa River. I was actually a little surprised to find a sign here at the trailhead.

Bull Canyon Trail Sign

Parts of the upper trail were narrow and washed out in places as it descended into the canyon.

Bull Canyon Trail

I was also kind of surprised to find a couple of wooden steps constructed on the trail further down, especially since parts of the upper trail were in bad shape. Someone went through a lot of trouble to build this trail in the past.

Wooden Stairs

Descending further into the canyon…

Canyon Descent

Even more steps along the trail.


I sat on a rock and listened to the Yampa River flow by me for a while. I wish I had gotten a permit to float this river this year…

Yampa River

Here’s a small petroglyph panel I have passed by a number of times before yet somehow failed to notice until now.

Missed Petroglyph Panel

I went on one last short hike along the Bull Canyon Rim this evening before finding a campsite, eating dinner and taking a nap. I was pretty tired from the early start.

Bull Canyon Rim Overlook

While relaxing in camp this evening, a couple of thunderstorms moved through the area bringing some rain, wind and even a couple rainbows!

Camp Rainbow

I spent the rest of the evening watching the storms and rainbows come and go.

Campsite Rainbow

Rainbow & Clouds

Rainbow & Clouds

The light on this cloud looked very interesting just before sunset.

Evening Storm Cloud


A Couple Quick Stops in Cañon Pintado


After a night of storms and rain with more in the forecast for the rest of the day I decided to alter my plans on Sunday since I wasn’t sure how bad the roads in the area were going to be. I slept in a little later than usual since I was tired from my early start on Saturday and then started the drive back home. However, I planned to make a few quick stops in Canyon Pintado along the way since I haven’t been to many of these sites in quite a while.

My first stop was at the State Bridge Site where I saw this nice little Fremont petroglyph.

State Bridge Petroglyphs

Then I checked out the Ute petroglyphs at the Cow Canyon Site.

Cow Canyon Petroglyphs

I climbed up to the pictographs of the White Birds Site and saw this figure that kind of looks like candy corn with wings.

Candy Corn

I hiked to these two arches near the Waving Hands Site.

Douglas Creek Arch

Hole In the Rock

Little Red Guy

Little Red Guy

Then the Waving Hands waved goodbye to me as I headed back home early.

Waving Hands

When I arrived home and was getting into the shower, I found a tick on the back of my leg! I’ve never even seen a tick before, let alone found one on me. Thankfully it had not attached itself yet and I was easily able to pick it off. I guess I’ll have to keep a better eye out for them in the future and try to be more careful about bushwhacking through sagebrush in the spring.

>> Ruple Point to the Yampa Bench Photo Gallery


  1. Steve Riggs
    Steve Riggs June 7, 2021

    Especially like those evening storm images! How busy was that area of Dinosaur? When we stayed for 2 nights at Echo Park in mid-September 2011, there was only one other group of 2 in the campground, and we met only a handful of people on the trails, even at the Harpers Corner overlook.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat June 7, 2021

      The only place that was busy was Echo Park, and I only quickly drove through that area this time. Otherwise, I didn’t see many other people all weekend.

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