Yampa River State Park is simply one of Colorado’s best, wildest, and most scenic state parklands. The park stretches along the Yampa River for 134 miles from west of Steamboat Springs to the border of Dinosaur National Monument in the state’s northwestern corner. The Yampa River, the only undammed river in the Colorado River system, traverses a mostly unpopulated and unknown part of the state. Thirteen points along the river allow access for river rafters, campers, fishermen, birders, hikers, naturalists, and picnickers. The main campground is near Hayden while four primitive campgrounds scatter along the river. Elkhead Reservoir north of the Yampa is a detached unit of the park. Some of the best sites in the park are Duffy Mountain, Juniper Canyon, and Cross Mountain Canyon.
State Park Maps
- Bring your tent or RV and enjoy the starry nights. Headquarters Campground near Hayden offers 50 campsites, 35 with electric, as well as showers and laundry. Four primitive campgrounds are located at Duffy, Juniper, Maybell Bridge, and Cross Mountain Canyon.
- The Yampa River offers spectacular rafting in beautiful stretches of canyon. Put in at one of the 13 access points to have a great adventure. Much of the 134 river miles are flat water with occasional rapids from Class I to II. Some areas, however, have big water with Class III to V rapids. Remote Juniper Canyon, with Class III and IV rapids, is one of the best sections, while Cross Mountain Canyon can be a rushing maelstrom, especially during high runoff in May and June. Difficulty always depends on river flows, which range from 500 cubic feet per second to 13,000. Wear a life vest.
- The river has lots of fishing for both cold-water fish and warm-water species. The upper Yampa offers good trout fishing, as well as smallmouth bass and northern pike. The Warner river section west of Craig crosses open desert, with anglers catching catfish, bass, and pike.
- Go visit Dinosaur National Monument west of the state park for spectacular scenery and a unique dinosaur quarry on the Utah side of the parkland. Harpers Corner and the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers far below the overlook are the heart of the monument. A scenic drive heads north from Dinosaur to the final vista point perched atop a narrow ridge. The monument also offers camping, lots of wild hiking, and rafting on both rivers.
Recommended season(s): Year-round. May through September is best.
—Stewart M. Green