Roughly straddling the border between Utah and Colorado, Echo Park Road extends 12 miles and connects the paved Harpers Corner Road with its namesake Echo Park—a hidden flat near the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers in Dinosaur National Monument. Here travelers will find a campground and day use area situated along a hairpin bend in the Green, revealing views of high sandstone walls and the iconic Steamboat Rock. Getting there, however, is half the fun, as the 12-mile unpaved road is slow and winding, dropping from the high bench to the inner canyons. The National Park Service recommends high clearance and all-wheel drive to complete the out-and-back, although I found when I visited in June 2022 that, if conditions are dry, the route may be doable with any standard vehicle. (Note: Check with the rangers at the Canyon Visitor Center for latest conditions.) The allure of Echo Park and extended effort required to visit makes overnighting at the Echo Park Campground an attractive option: campsites are first-come first-serve, generally not likely to fill up on weekdays but likely to do so on summer weekends.
Echo Park Road is a remote byway, beginning more than 25 miles up the much more popular Harpers Corner Road from Canyon Visitor Center in the town of Dinosaur, Colorado. After passing Plug Hat Butte and the Canyon Overlook, Harpers Corner Road enters Utah, bearing west and north, and comes to a high gap at around the 25-mile mark. Look here for the signed start of Echo Park Road, heading east down a dugway to the canyon country below.
The first mile of the drive is the rockiest, with tight bends punctuated by occasional ruts and protruding stones—but with careful and slow driving and dry conditions, most drivers will have little problem with this section. Here the road drops down off the Weber Sandstone bench, heading for the scrubby plateau below. Technically this section is situated outside Dinosaur National Monument, but travelers will return soon to NPS jurisdiction.
The road levels off as it passes Vivas Cake Hill on the left and follows Iron Springs Wash, an initially modest arroyo that eventually carves a deep canyon as it continues downstream. After re-entering Dinosaur, the road treads eastward across an open flat and then enters Upper Sand Canyon, featuring high walls of cream-colored Weber Sandstone, the predominant exposed layer in the area.
Upon exiting Sand Canyon, Echo Park Road reaches its eight-mile mark and splits, with the much longer Yampa Bench Road heading right. Stay left, cutting westward toward the high slopes of Harpers Corner, meeting up again with the Iron Springs Wash drainage and the spring-fed Pool Creek. The latter is a perennial stream and provided a stable water supply for the Chew family, who set up their ranch here in the early 20th century. The road passes right through the heart of Chew Ranch, set in a green valley—an oasis in the desert.
Beyond the ranch, the route follows Pool Creek downstream as it cuts an ever-deeper canyon. Look for a pull-off on the right for a short walk to a set of Fremont petroglyphs on the left. Then continue across an open field set below the high cliffs, where visitors will find Whispering Cave, a mysterious crack in the sandstone at the base of the wall.
Finally, the road reaches Echo Park, a flat basin at the confluence of Pool Creek and the mighty Green River, famously explored from end-to-end by the John Wesley Powell in the mid-19th century. Here the most striking feature is the towering Steamboat Rock, a protruding hunk of sandstone situated at a bend in the river. The best views of the rock are from the group camping area and day use area off to the right, but there are several sites in the campground with good views as well. Set up camp here for the night, go for a dip in the chilly waters, or explore one of the two unofficial hiking routes in the area: a walk to the confluence of the Yampa and Green, or the 3-mile Mitten Park Trail. This spectacular area is worth the lengthy drive to reach and a highlight of Dinosaur National Monument.