Home to rugged canyons, ridges, and peaks, as well as colorful badlands with banded, multicolored geology, Vale of Tears Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is every nature lover’s paradise. This Bureau of Land Management property located 25 miles from Maybell, in Moffat County, Colorado, is a premier destination for primitive adventures, outdoor recreation, and memorable getaways. The wilderness lies just east of Dinosaur National Monument, and so can be easily accessed from there.
No developed camping facilities or services are available in this BLM wilderness, so come prepared and have all you will need to make your primitive camping experience as memorable as possible. For modern camping opportunities, Dinosaur National Monument is the place to go.
This BLM wilderness offers opportunities for visitors to enjoy deer and elk hunting, backpacking, sightseeing, hiking, and horseback riding. In addition, guests can easily access Yampa River where activities such as rafting, fishing, bird watching, and kayaking are popular. Within Dinosaur National Monument, bicycling, scenic driving, and stargazing opportunities are open to all. What’s more, if you have your climbing gear, you can venture up Cross Mountain and other mountains in the area.
Vale of Tears Wilderness Study Area lies in Moffat County, about 25 miles west of Maybell, Colorado. The town of Craig lies 55 miles west of this BLM wilderness. Nearby wilderness study areas include Cross Mountain, Ant Hills, Peterson Draw, and Chew Winter Camp. Vale of Tears WSA is easy to access from Dinosaur National Monument in the west. Access to the wilderness from the east is via Colorado Highway 25 along a number of local routes and paths.
Your choice of where to come into this BLM wilderness from will determine if you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle or not. From Colorado Highway 25, there are a couple of dirt roads and unmaintained routes that may not be good for conventional vehicles and cars. If, however, you’re driving in from Dinosaur National Monument, you have nothing to worry about as the roads are much better. In any case, it’s good to be prepared for backcountry conditions and have a general idea of what the terrain looks like before setting out.
Parking spaces are available in the National Monument and around the wilderness boundaries, so don’t expect to drive your vehicles within the wilderness.
Deerlodge Park Campground is a tent-only campground just west of Vale of Tears WSA, located within Dinosaur National Monument. The campground sits on the Yampa River where the boat ramp lies at the head of Yampa Canyon. All the campsites in this campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis only.
Seven campsites are provided here, with amenities such as picnic tables, firepits, vault toilets, and water (available from mid-May to mid-July).
The campground is open year-round, but it may be difficult to access in winter due to snow as the roads are not maintained.
Hiking trails are available nearby, and pets are allowed in the campground.
All the roads in Dinosaur National Monument are open to cycling enthusiasts to ride their bicycles. Because the paved roads in the park are narrow and have no shoulders, all riders are advised to stay safe by taking proper measures. Bicycle racks are provided at two locations in the National Monument.
Various cycling routes are available that will take riders across colorful geological features, above the Yampa River, along dirt roads, and other scenic spots in the park.
Despite the fact that Dinosaur National Monument is managed as a wilderness, there are various road networks that access the rugged interior of the monument. These roads provide scenic driving enthusiasts with dramatic views of the region, as well as opportunities to see the wildlife that call this place home.
Choose from any of Harpers Corner Road (paved), Echo Park Road (unpaved), Yampa Bench Road (unpaved), Gates of Lodore (unpaved), and Deerlodge Park (paved). The nature and condition of the roads are different as some are paved, while others are dirt roads. Some are closed in winter because they are impassable.
The rare opportunity to view the night skies is on offer to guests at Dinosaur National Monument. These night skies are a vanishing resource and there are only very few places left in the US where campers get to see, with startling clarity, the stars of the Milky Way galaxy. So, this activity is very popular among campers at Vale of Tears WSA.
You definitely want to come along with your binoculars or telescope if you have one. Without these, though, you won’t miss out on much because these stars can also be seen with the naked eye.
The vegetation that characterizes Vale of Tears WSA’s corridors is mainly pinyon-juniper woodlands, sagebrush, saltbush, and greasewood communities. These are found from the lower to the higher elevation areas of the park.
Wildlife species that are present here include mountain lion, coyote, black bear, fox, and mule deer. Other fauna that is often sighted includes elk, raptors, songbirds, western diamondbacks, and gopher snakes. Hunting opportunities are open for the deer and elk in the wilderness.
Cross Mountain is one of the interesting mountains open to exploration and discovery around this BLM property. Located northwest of the wilderness, this low-elevation mountain offers some of the best views in Colorado, making it totally worth the climb. The view of Yampa River that cuts through this mountain below forming a deep and impressive gorge is absolutely fascinating.
Wildlife such as cougars, black bears, elk, bighorn sheep, and deer inhabit this mountain, so look out for them as you make your way or back down.
Yampa River is a hub for a host of recreation activities, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts in the region. Popular among the things to do here are fishing, bird watching, kayaking, hiking, and rafting.
Rafters, in particular, frequent this river as it is designated an exciting Class III-IV whitewater that offers picturesque views of striking canyons of red, yellow and orange. Both commercial guided and non-commercial trips are available for guests to engage in here.