Friday – Sunday, April 29 – May 1, 2022
It has been almost exactly one year since I started working towards my goal of finishing all of the ‘official trails‘ within Dinosaur National Monument that I had not hiked yet, and this weekend I planned to head back so I could finally complete it. Although the two trails left on my list probably wouldn’t be considered official trails by most people, I guess I’m a completist when it comes to hiking and thought they were important enough to be included. Plus, they would bring me into new parts of the park I had not explored yet, which is always an added bonus. However, they each also happened to be located on completely opposite ends of the park, so I’d have to cover a lot of ground this weekend! I left a little early from work on Friday afternoon and drove over Douglas Pass as I made my way to Island Park on the Utah side of Dinosaurland to get my weekend started.
After a very windy drive I made a quick stop at the Island Park Overlook before heading off on my first short hike of the weekend. While it’s always a nice view, I’m not sure I’ll ever catch the amazing conditions from here that I did this past October!
I walked along the base of some light-colored cliffs searching for petroglyphs and found quite a few, but many of them were hard to see and photograph. There were a number of horses present in the carvings, so I assume they are most likely Ute, but it also seems like some of them could have been older.
I wonder if this inscription was left by Pat Lynch, for whom Pat’s Hole (Echo Park) was named? It wouldn’t surprise me since he was known to leave his inscriptions around the area.
After my short hike I did a little exploring by Jeep on some two-track roads I had not driven before.
Then I spent the rest of the evening revisiting the McKee Spring Petroglyphs, which happen to be some of my favorites!.
Shortly before sunset I left the park and found a place to spend the night nearby.
Across The White Sage Flats: Island Park Trail
After a good night of sleep I woke up before sunrise on Saturday morning so I could get an early start on the Island Park Trail beginning from the old Ruple Ranch. Although this particular trail is not shown on current park maps, it was the historic route that rangers used to access Jones Hole before the construction of the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery and its access road in the late 1960’s, so I thought it was worth including on my list even though the trail is no longer maintained and can be hard to follow in places. This past October I had already hiked a short part of this trail to the rim of the canyon when Diane and I spent a night in Jones Hole, so today I only planned to hike to the rim of Big Draw and then return the way I had come, which would be about 12 miles round-trip. There was quite a bit more elevation change along the way than I was expecting, but I still managed to make it back to my Jeep well before lunchtime.
Leaving Island Park behind as the trail quickly climbed a steep ridge. The first light of the day was beginning to strike Split Mountain in the distance.
The trail followed the top of a ridge for a while on the way to Red Wash.
The view looking back to Ruple Point.
There were expansive views of Diamond Mountain to the north along the way.
Split Mountain over Island Park
The trail followed this red ridge for a short distance.
Crossing The White Sage Flats
A view looking across a grassy meadow down to Sage Creek and its junction with Whirlpool Canyon.
There was a nice view into Big Draw as I followed the trail near the rim.
Looking down into Big Draw from my turnaround point just before the trail started its descent.
Steamboat Rock Overlook from Jenny Lind Rock
After returning to my Jeep in Island Park it was time to drive all the way to the eastern end of Dinosaur National Monument for the final trail I needed to hike this weekend, which I planned to do on Sunday morning. However, since I still had plenty of daylight left today I decided to take a detour into Echo Park so I could hike to an overlook of Steamboat Rock and the confluence of the Green River and Yampa River. While this is not any kind of official trail in the park, it is a hike to a viewpoint that I’ve wanted to do for a long time and today seemed like a good opportunity to give it a shot. I drove back to Dinosaur across the state line in Colorado to top off my fuel tank and then stopped at Plug Hat Rock to eat lunch before heading down to Echo Park.
Shortly before reaching Echo Park I stopped along Pool Creek and then hiked along the rim of Jenny Lind Rock until I was above the confluence of the Green River and Yampa River. The Green River is the smaller, green-colored river on the left and the Yampa River is the larger, muddy river coming in from the right.
Then I followed the rim back a little ways for a better overview of Steamboat Rock. I think I will definitely need to return to this viewpoint in better light the next time I camp in Echo Park!
The Yampa enters the Green from the east. At a point opposite its mouth the Green runs to the south, at the foot of a rock about 700 feet high and a mile long, and then turns sharply around the rock to the right and runs back in a northerly course parallel to its former direction for nearly another mile, thus having the opposite sides of a long, narrow rock for its bank. The tongue of rock so formed is a peninsular precipice with a mural escarpment along its whole course on the east, but broken down at places on the west.
Major John Wesley Powell,
June 17, 1869
Deerlodge Park: The Steps Trail to Disappointment Draw
After returning to my Jeep along Pool Creek it was time to head over to the Deerlodge Park section of Dinosaur National Monument so I could hike The Steps Trail on Sunday morning. This is actually a part of the park that I have never been to before, most likely since I have yet to win a Yampa River permit in the lottery, so I was looking forward to checking it out for the first time. After driving around as an introduction to this part of the park, I left and found a spot to camp on a mesa above Lily Park overlooking the confluence of the Yampa River and Little Snake River.
This was an evening view from my campsite above Lily Park.
I slept well again on Saturday night and was up before sunrise on Sunday morning, except this time the sky was mostly overcast and I was pretty sure there wasn’t going to be a sunrise. I drove over to the trailhead and started following The Steps Trail to Disappointment Draw and then continued on to an overlook of the Yampa River entering the canyon. I was hoping the clouds would clear a little and the sun would come out, but that never happened.
Entrance to the Yampa River Canyon.
Looking up the Yampa River with the Vale of Tears on the left, Disappointment Draw on the right, and Cross Mountain straight ahead.
Although the sun never made an appearance, the clouds did get a little more interesting.
I passed by an old dugout and outhouse in Disappointment Draw along the way.
Dugout & Outhouse
Following The Steps Trail back to the trailhead.
Before starting my drive back home I stopped and ate breakfast along the river. I can’t wait to get back on the river again, and hopefully it’s going to be soon!
On my way back home I took a shortcut through Coal Ridge between US40 and Rangely.
Although I have now hiked what I consider every ‘official trail‘ in Dinosaur National Monument, there are still plenty of places in the backcountry that I want to explore, so I still have plenty of reasons to continue returning to Dinosaurland again and again!