Craig Journeys – Part I
Craig is the mid-point between Denver and Salt Lake City. Aside from numerous lodging accommodations, restaurants, and more, Craig is home to the only wave pool complex on the Western Slope. Fishermen and hunters often depart from Craig on their adventures and history buffs will be occupied with an abundance of petroglyphs in the surrounding areas. Within an hour from Craig, you’re out in the wild, among herds of wild mustangs, or dropping into canyons for a rafting trip. Not to mention, Craig is the last large town with full services before Dinosaur National Monument. Wildlife around Craig includes deer, elk, pronghorn, mountain lions, sandhill cranes, eagles, wild horses, bear and many others.
For those who love their OHVs (off-highway vehicles), all city and county roads around Craig are open to OHV use.Simply get on 1st Street to Mack Lane, which turns into Finley Lane to 9th Street and out to CR 7, which is not considered a state highway so can be used.
If visitors are staged on the Fairgrounds, they can take Ogden Ave. to Emerson Street. Turn right on Ashley Road and follow that around to 7th Street where you’ll turn left. Take 7th to Washington Street up to 13th Street and turn right, and then left on 112 and you’re headed out to numerous possibilities for adventure.
Visit the Moffat County Visitor Experience inside the Centennial Mall behind Village Inn on Hwy 40 for a hands-on tour of what the County has to offer as well as maps and brochures. You can also visit the Craig Chamber of Commerce at 360 E. Victory Way, for maps and recreational guidelines to the area.
Length of Journey: 4-5 hours.
Route: Follow Hwy 13 south to CR 17 to CR 74 then on to CR 53 that connects to Hwy 40, which will bring you back east into Craig.
Services: No services. Bring water, food and gas up before you go.
Main Attractions: This journey encompasses so much history that it’s hard to relay it all in a blog. There is both a summer and winter route so the journey can be explored any time of year. A few highlights include working ranches, gravestones, fossil trackways, rock art, scenic views, thermal springs, petrified sand dunes and the Juniper Hot Springs. The best way to experience this journey is to stop in at the Moffat County Tourism Association inside the Centennial Mall behind Village Inn on Hwy 40 www.visitmoffatcounty.com to pick up a brochure.
Length of Journey: 30 minutes
Route: Take 14 Hwy 13 north to CR 11 (on the right hand side), which will take you up to Freeman Reservoir, Black Mountain and more.
Main Attractions: This is a great area for fishing, camping and hiking. The book Sawdust and Solitude by Lucia Zora talks about a young woman who came from a well-to-do family who wanted her to become a concert pianist. In the early 1900’s she ran away and joined the circus, becoming one of the only female animal trainers of the time. She and her animal trainer husband saved diamonds and other things to build up their fortune to buy land. They homesteaded in this area in the winter of 1916 and there’s an old cabin that still remains.
Length of Journey: Anywhere from an hour to four depending on how much time is spent following the wild horse herds.
Route: From Craig stay on Highway 40 to Maybell. Take the Hwy 318 to county road 67. For people visiting the area for the first time, we recommend staying on the marked loops, as it is easy to get lost on the various county roads that surround the area.
Services: In Maybell you’ll find groceries, food, gas, potable water and bathrooms. Maybell Park has bathrooms, showers, campsites, and an RV Dump.
Main Attractions: Wild mustangs. Please respect the horses. They are fenced within the management area but are free to roam the 157,730 acres as they wish. Please view the horses from a distance and do not chase them. Do not camp at or near their critical water sources. Increased OHV traffic can stress the horses during foaling season, so please give them distance. “The horses within the HMA exhibit many different colors. Among the most common are grey and sorrel, although most colors and color patterns can be found, including buckskins, duns and paint. Genetic analysis indicates the highest similarity for the herd was to the Iberian derived Spanish breeds, followed by Gaited breeds, North American breeds and Arabian breeds.” – www.blm.gov
Length of Journey: from Craig approximately 30 minutes.
Route: Take Hwy 40 west from Craig.
Services: food, gas, potable water, camping, and bathrooms.
Main Attractions: Maybell boasts a population of fewer than 100 and is known for having the coldest temperature in Colorado at -61 degrees Fahrenheit. Maybell is your last stop before entering Irish Canyon, Sand Wash Basin, and Dinosaur National Monument, so stock up with food, water and gas!
Dinosaur National Monument
There are homestead sites as you go into the monument on county road 14. The Mantle Ranch, made famous through the book of the same title is a private inholding within the park, so please respect the property. In Last Ranch in Hell’s Canyon the book follows letters from a mother to her cousin throughout the years. Read the book before or after your journey for a better sense of the environment and what it took to live here over 100 years ago.
Length of Journey: Dependent on Route
Route: Summer Route- Dry Weather ONLY: Take Hwy 40 south of Maybell. Turn right on CR14 at Elk Springs. There is no cell service or other services in this area. Follow CR 14 to CR 14n to 156 to Echo Park.
Year Round: Take Hwy 40 south of Maybell. Follow 40 to Dinosaur then head up the Harpers Corner Road from the Canyon Area Visitor Center.
Services: Restrooms at Harpers Corner and at the Canyon Area Visitor Center (off Hwy 40 at Dinosaur)
Harpers Corner: At the end of Harpers Corner there’s a hike that is a simply don’t miss. This area offers the most exposed geology in the monument and possibly in North America. The hike is 1.5 miles each way of moderate difficulty. Bring water! The end of the trail will bring you to an overlook of unbeatable views of the Green River 2,500 feet below.
Echo Park & Steamboat Rock. The Yampa Bench Road will take you into Echo Park. You may find you spend 2-3 hours on the road stopping to photograph the area. There is no cell service, but you won’t miss it when you see the overlooks. In Echo Park the Yampa and Green Rivers come together at Steamboat Rock, which may be the most photographed area in the monument.
Interpretive Audio Drive: Stop into the Canyon Area Visitor Center (off the winter route coming in through Hwy 40 at Dinosaur) for an audio tour put together by Bill Mitchem and Leona Hemmerich. You’ll see geology, history, ranching and learn why things are named the way they are. There are areas to stop and get out and walk, so you can listen to the information about the area before or after your hike.
Deerlodge Park Campground: Open year-round, this campground offers tent camping with fire pits. There is running water and vault toilets. There is no water from October to mid-April. “Probably the area of Dinosaur National Monument least visited by birders, Deerlodge Park is mostly used as a rafting launch site for people floating the Yampa. But it also has one of the most extensive riparian patches in northwestern Colorado, as well as abundant pinyon-juniper forest and cliffs. In the riparian areas look for Black-headed Grosbeak, Cooper’s Hawk, Yellow Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, and Downy Woodpecker, while the ‘PJ’ hosts Virginia’s and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Say’s Phoebe, Rock and Canyon Wrens, and Western Scrub-Jay.” – www.coloradobirdingtrail.com/site/dinosaur-national-monument-deerlodge-park/
Deer Lodge Park is part of the National Monument road and is owned by Dinosaur National Monument, so there is no OHV traffic allowed.
Length of Journey: One hour one-way.
Route: Take Hwy 40 west to Maybell. From here take Hwy 318 west to CR 10n (on your right). This road will take you up to Irish Canyon.
Services: Public pit toilets. There is no potable water.
Main Attractions: Most people come to Irish Canyon for the combination of rare plants and geology. This area is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) for its unique habitat. People are generally attracted to this area because of Browns Park being a hideaway for Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. The canyon is layered with red, green and grey rock. If you drive to the southern end of the canyon, you’ll find rock art from the Freemont Indians. There is an interpretive exhibit to learn more. There is also a short hiking trail that will take you to more petroglyphs. Hiking can be accessed to the west to Limestone Ridge and Cold Spring Mountain and to the east to Vermillion Canyon. Beware there are no developed trails in this area. There is no cross-country vehicle use in this area.
For those looking to camp, there are six campsites in the middle of the canyon with a pit toilet. For more information visit www.blm.gov