Explorer | 30 pts
We had a great time over the Columbus Day weekend driving the length of these trails. Although there was a threat of rain in the early morning on our way to Dinosaur National Monument, it had lifted by the time we got there, which was to our great good fortune because this trail is listed as impassible when wet. The initial drive down from the Park Service road was very steep and repeated switchbacks, but the surroundings were beautiful sandstone canyon walls, Pinon Pines and sagebrush. The descent seemed to go on for a long time before we reached the bottom and started across to the "T" where Echo Park road turned to the left and Yampa Bench turned to the right. First we took the Echo Park road and stopped at the Indian petroglyphs, the Chew Ranch and Whisper Cave before winding up at the Echo Park campground and boat ramp. We were practically the only vehicle on the roads over the weekend, which made for some very nice, quiet off-roading time.
After we relaxed awhile at Echo Park campground, we reversed our direction and moved onto the Yampa Bench trail, stopping at the Castle Park and Wagon Wheel Point overlooks, both of which provide spectacular views of the Yampa River winding its way eastward through the canyons. We had hoped to also see Haystack Rock but were unable to find the turn-off to it. We figured it was possible, since it is a favored nesting place for falcons throughout most of the summer months that the Park Service might have removed the marker in order to prevent tourists from bothering the nesting birds. Nevertheless, we found the drive all the way across to highway 40 to be (for the most part) very pretty and easily passable. We want to go back again and do the road from the opposite direction to see all of the views that had unfolded behind us as we drove east, and also to make the climb back up through the steep canyon descent so we can get a greater enjoyment of the scenery from the reverse direction:-)