Flickr album link: Echo Park To Castle Park
Starting at the Echo Park Campground in Dinosaur National Park, Yampa Bench Road goes 42 miles east to the paved highway at Elk Springs. The town of Dinosaur, Colorado is near the end point, so there is a place to fuel up and stock up at the end of the line. Beginning the Yampa Bench Road tour by camping at Echo Park is the best choice, because it will be easy to get an early start on the day.
The main body and visitor center of Dinosaur National Monument is located in Jenson, Utah and Blue Mountain Road goes from there to Echo Park. Previous articles feature Blue Mountain Road and Echo Park, which are a full day of adventure. Planning a two day 4x4 trip through the back country from Jenson all the way to Elk Springs with an overnight campout in Echo Park is easy to do if you drive a capable vehicle. Yampa Bench Road is rated only for 4x4 high ground clearance vehicles, because there are a few tricky spots that will absolutely leave an ordinary passenger car stranded. Getting stuck in this remote end of the park can result in a dangerous survival situation, so it is best to make sure the 4x4 is ready for the task.
Very few mainstream tourists have done the complete Yampa Bench Road tour, so be ready to witness majestic landscapes that few others have ever seen. This road climbs and drops in elevations several times, but most of this route runs along the flat geological bench that overlooks the Yampa River basin. There are a few silt pits and rough dry washes to pass through that require minor technical skills. Getting lost is not a problem either, since most of the side roads only go to scenic overlooks by the river. Primitive camping is allowed at some of these picturesque spots, which is a good thing to keep in mind if you are not in a hurry.
The Castle Park Overlook is the first stop on Yampa Bench Road going east and in my own personal opinion, this truly is one of the most beautiful places on this planet. The unobscured views of the Yampa River and the white color canyon bluffs are simply amazing to see. Many of the bluffs do resemble castle fortifications and the sheer vertical cliffs certainly are intimidating. Castle Park definitely is a landscape artist's dream come true and the best times for photographers are early or late in the day. This is also an incredibly good place for night landscapes or night sky photography, since there are no major cities for hundreds of miles around. Be sure to set aside plenty of extra time for a Castle Park visit, because you will likely not want to leave anytime soon after setting eyes on this unique landscape!
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