Easy hiking around Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument
I’ve already written about camping at Echo Park and what inspired our visit to this remote national monument in Northwest Colorado. In this post I wanted to share several of the hikes we took while camping in this beautiful spot.
We didn’t do any big treks as we had our old dog, Xena, with us and dogs can’t be on the trails around Echo Park, so we had to leave her in the car during our outings. Thankfully, it was cool and she loves being in the car. It’s one of her “happy places.”
We spent two nights camping at Echo Park. We arrived on a Thursday in the late afternoon and only had time to set up camp and make dinner before the sun was dipping behind the canyon walls.
On Friday, we took Xena on short walk down to the boat ramp area and let her get her paws wet. She loves the water and she would have jumped in headfirst if we’d have let her. She was leashed (it’s the law) so we prevented a total wet dog situation.
Back at camp around 9 a.m., we loaded her into the car and placed a blanket over the front windshield even though it wasn’t hot out. It’s best to take all precautions when leaving a dog in a vehicle.
And then we headed out to on a hiking mission to seek out what we had come to this park to see – the confluence of the Green River and the Yampa River.
We’ve been reading books recently in which the John Wesley Powell Expedition features prominently. That famous expedition came through here in the summer of 1869.
So off we went. The trail is level and easy and the scenery is breathtaking. In May, the newly green grass and the tree leaves were especially vibrant. We followed the Green River, stopping every once in awhile to check out wildflowers growing on the side of the well-worn path.
This is a good place to tell you that there are no established trails around Echo Park Campground and the National Park Services urges hikers to carry a map of the area and a compass and know how to use them. You should also carry plenty of water and appropriate gear for inclement weather.
After less than 30 minutes of walking, we found ourselves in a huge meadow with an ethereal view. We crossed it and arrived on the banks of the river, overlooking the confluence.
From the perspective on the bank the Green looks to be the smaller of the two rivers, but the muddy, brown Yampa merges here with the Green and this large body of water continues on as the Green until its confluence with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
We played around on the sandy banks of the river for a while where deer hoof prints greatly outnumber human footprints and then headed back. As we hiked back to the campground, past a grove of massive cottonwoods, the wind began to blow and by the time we got back to our campsite, a tempest had developed.
I’m not going to dwell on this windy afternoon, but let’s just say that we ended up taking our tent down in order to save the poles from being badly damaged. We also spent a little time huddled in the car with the dog, reading books to pass the time.
Finally, to escape the gales that swept through the campground like clockwork all afternoon, we decided to hike up Echo Park Road thinking it may protect us from the wind gusts and thankfully, it did.
Just 10 minutes up the road, Ryan began climbing up to a cave the local park ranger had told us about while I stood below surveying wildflowers. I’m not real good with heights.
We then made our way up a nearby arroyo named Pat’s Draw. An arroyo is a steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semiarid region. In this tight gully, sculpted by flash floods, there was warmth and stillness, although if a rainstorm had blown in I’d have been up those steep rock walls just as fast as I could scramble. Flash floods can be killers. Find good information on surviving flash floods here.
We hiked for about 30 minutes over rough terrain brimming with wildflowers and lizard life before turning back.
A word to the wise: The week before we arrived at Echo Park a camper had broken her ankle while hiking in the area. She’d been wearing flip flops. If you plan to leave your campsite during your Echo Park visit, be sure to wear a pair of good, sturdy hiking boots.
This trip was more about camping than hiking, but we loved exploring the area around Echo Park Campground in Dinosaur National Monument and can’t wait to go back and explore more.
For more information check out this cool page from the National Parks Service, Places to Go: Echo Park.