Adventure of the Week: Outlasting mosquitoes and snakes deep in Dinosaur National Monument
July 17, 2014
If you go
How to get there: High-clearance vehicles are highly recommended when driving to Echo Park. The road becomes impassable when wet. Take U.S. Highway 40 west to Dinosaur, a two-hour drive from Steamboat Springs.
Turn right at Harper’s Corner Road, just 2 miles east of Dinosaur. There is no entrance fee here.
After driving 25 miles, make a right at Echo Park Road. Go down the switchbacks and drive for about 10 miles until at a fork. Go left for a few miles to the campgrounds.
Camping: The Echo Park campground has 22 sites and rarely fills up. The cost is $8 per night.
Before going, plan your trip here.
Steamboat Springs — The visitor comment book at the Echo Park campground contained many dire warnings on June 27.
The last comment on the page ominously read “If you don’t have bug spray, run!”
I did have a can of bug spray, but I didn’t have nearly enough to fend off the hundreds and hundreds of mosquitoes that hunted me all weekend.
One of my favorite campgrounds in Colorado was buggy on my second visit.
Wait, let me correct that.
My grandparents’ farm in Michigan is buggy.
Echo Park was bug headquarters.
If you arrive at this beautiful place deep in Dinosaur National Monument and find yourself being hunted as relentlessly as I was, here’s how to survive and still have fun.
All activities should be preceded by generous application of bug spray.
Take a hike:
Run quickly to the Mitten Park Trail that starts near campsite No. 10. You’ll have to outrun the mosquitoes for just about a quarter of a mile before you start hugging a cliff and gain enough altitude away from the river to escape the bug zone. A look at the marvelous petroglyphs on the canyon walls along the way will help take your mind off the itchy bug bites. The real reward lies about one to two miles ahead where the trail ends at a white sandy beach. If you wait long enough, you could get lucky and see a group of rafters float by. Steamboat Today Evening Editor Vicky Ho, my co-adventurer on this trip, proved that if you tell the rafters you’re thirsty for a beer after a long hike, they’ll sometimes throw you a can or two from the river.
Take a drive:
Run quickly to your sport utility vehicle and head to the Yampa Bench Road. Keep the windows cracked for a mile or two so you can flush out the insects that have stealthily entered your car. The Yampa Bench Road will take you through a wide range of scenery before you get to a series of overlooks. Don’t be afraid to get out and look. It’s not that buggy here. Short walks at the overlook sites will take you to the edges of cliffs that offer incredible views of the Yampa River.
See the confluence:
Run quickly away from your campsite toward Steamboat Rock. Follow the road where it runs near the ranger house. You’ll see a trail starting that follows the Green River between Steamboat Rock and a large canyon wall.
Admire the view of giant cottonwood trees and paddleboarders floating by. But don’t take your eyes off the trail too long because you may see a large snake slither right in front of you. Remember, a lot of things are out to get you here. Walk to a sandy beach and admire the spot where the Yampa River meets the Green River. Again, you’ll forget about the bug bites.
Enjoy the fire:
When the sun goes down, the incessant buzzing will stop. This is your moment. The bugs don’t control you anymore. Light a campfire and cook bratwurst on skewers. The stars, beers and s’mores will make you forget all about the thousands of mosquitoes that hunted you during the day. This is a special place.
Photograph the sunrise:
If the bugs are out, you won’t need an alarm clock to wake you up. The buzzing starts at sunrise. If you’re lucky, you positioned your tent so that you look out directly at Steamboat Rock all night. The sunrises here are spectacular, especially when clouds are overhead. You also may notice that dozens of mosquitoes are clinging to your tent waiting for you to come out and play. Don’t let this stop you from opening a small hole in your tent to fire off a couple of photos.
Plan your next visit:
Upon arrival home, find anti-itch medication and begin planning your next visit. An avid river rafter here at the newspaper speculated it was so buggy at Echo Park in late June because of recent flooding of areas due to higher river flows this year. I went to Echo Park around the same time last year and was not hunted by any bugs. I hear this area also is wonderful to visit in the fall. Just remember that even if it is buggy, this place is totally worth the drive. You’ll never forget it.
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