Last week, when I left the Wind River Range, my plan was to go to the Echo Park campground in the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument. The description and pictures were appealing. But there was a warning from the Park Service:
The last 13 miles requires driving on unpaved roads. These roads are impassable when wet and are recommended for high clearance vehicles only.
Okay. I checked the forecast. Thundershowers likely. Hmmm. So I stopped for a night at Flaming Gorge to kill time.
The next day's forecast still called for rain. Alright, where else in the general area might I go? How about Uinta Canyon? (Route 1 in red below)
The next day? Still rain. So I backtracked south then headed farther west and north again to Moon Lake. (Route 2 in blue)
Finally, yesterday's forecast was all sunshine and happiness. I hit the road south again, then east through Roosevelt and Vernal to Dinosaur, Colorado, where I headed north again (looping back into Utah and out again) to Echo Park.
The first half mile or so of the unpaved road the Park Service warned about is steep and lumpy, with loose rocks from the size of walnuts to, oh, peaches, and some patches of bad washboard. I crawled down in first gear and still needed the brakes. I would not want to try getting up that road when it's muddy. But from there on, it's hard packed gravel, relatively flat and smooth, with three paved stream crossings. I've been down much worse roads that no one felt compelled to warn about. High clearance is not necessary. In fact, a compact sedan passed me going the other way. Large rigs should stay away, though. The road is narrow and some turns are sharp. And there aren't many places to turn around even a short rig.
This much room
The drive is visually dramatic, though. For part of it you're in narrow canyons with sheer cliffs on one side and a tree-lined stream on the other. I love those kinds of places.
The road goes between that gap in the mountains
Echo Park Campground is seventeen tent sites surrounded by cliffs on three sides with the Green River on the forth.
Who says Dinosaur National Monument is all about fossils?
It's a great location. I might have stayed a few days (even with zero cell signal). But, as you can see from some of the photos, the sky started clouding up. Then there was distant thunder. Then a smattering of raindrops. I started thinking about the steep climb turning to mud. Damn. So I packed up and headed out. I'd go to one of the other campgrounds. One with pavement. That meant going back out the Colorado entrance and around to the Utah entrance, because there isn't a connecting road within the park. (See route 4) That's good in a wilderness preservation way, but it's more driving for me. Whee.
The climb back to civilization was bad enough with a dry road. I chugged, bounced and slipped my way up in first gear. The engine temperature kept climbing. The warning didn't mention that part.
By the time I got to the Green River campground, the weather looked fine. The sky was clear overhead. So it goes. I got a site just through the bushes from the river. It wasn't as scenic, but the peace-of-mind factor compensated for it.
Now, today, I'm headed west again. I'm visiting my sister in Salt Lake City. Then it's on the road again. More driving. Because there are places to go, things to see, things to learn.