Yampa River Stargazing & Rafting Trip

Stargazing on the Yampa River! This trip will be a highlight of this year’s stargazing series. Both the Yampa and its dark skies are rare, endangered creatures. The Yampa is the only major river in the Colorado River system that isn’t regulated by a dam. And light pollution means that nearly 90% of the world’s population lives in places where they can no longer see the Milky Way. Holiday invites you to be a part of this unique trip. Experience the wild, untrammeled canyons of the Yampa River and the wonder and awe of a truly dark sky.

The Yampa River flows through Dinosaur National Monument, which was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2019. Ride the natural spring flood cycle of the Yampa through canyon walls so white they reflect the starlight. The Yampa River is a treasure chest of spectacular scenery, biodiversity, native flora and fauna, and rich cultural history. Most importantly, it’s the perfect place to escape from the bright, busy modern world. Rediscover what is possibly the most human experience of all: looking up into a truly dark sky and tracing the outlines of our cosmos. Join our resident star guide, Tom Beckett, and the rest of our professional crew for five days of stargazing on the Yampa River.

Read more about why the Yampa is WILD: Insider’s Guide to the Yampa River.

Vernal, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

Featured Review:

“This was my first introduction to stargazing, and I’m hooked. Our guides and guests were a perfectly eclectic group that combined to make a truly excellent adventure. Tom (aka ‘The Star Lord’) took us on an incredible journey through the stars each night. Unforgettable in my book! The knowledge, humor, and skill (and, yes, patience) our guides demonstrated was top shelf, for sure. I would advise anyone contemplating their first trip to ‘come on in and go with the flow’. You won’t regret it.” (Carol Norquest)

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Trip Overview

  • Type:


  • Location:

    Yampa River - Dinosaur National Monument

  • Length:

    5 Days

  • Dates:

    May 29-June 2, 2024

  • Meet at:

    Vernal, UT @ @7:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:


  • Min. Age:


  • Prices:

    $1,405 + $12 park entrance fee

  • Deposit:



  • Stargazing in an International Dark Sky Park
  • Consistent, fun whitewater and a natural flood cycle
  • Great fun for inflatable kayaks
  • Deep, winding, and colorful canyon walls
  • Abundant wildlife in a uniquely healthy ecosystem
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates


The Yampa River runs wild and free through northwestern Colorado, out of the mountains near Steamboat Springs, and into the canyons of Dinosaur National Monument. Our trips begin at Deer Lodge Park. From there, the Yampa flows for 47 miles through dramatic, multi-colored canyons before it meets the Green River in Echo Park. The two rivers merge gradually, crossing the Utah state line and traversing Whirlpool and Split Mountain canyons before emerging into agricultural land of the Uinta Basin.

Sample Itinerary

The night before your trip: Please meet at Holiday’s headquarters in Vernal, Utah, at 7:00 p.m., Mountain Time for a brief pre-trip orientation meeting. During this time, you’ll pick up your waterproof bags and learn how to pack them. The pre-trip meeting is also the time to buy any last minute items from our on-site store (see our packing checklist for items you can find at our store). You’ll meet some of your guides and have the opportunity to ask any immediate logistical questions. But don’t worry – there will be plenty of time on the river to learn the ins and outs of river life!

Day 1:

Return back to Holiday’s headquarters in Vernal, Utah early in the morning to load your gear into the boats and hit the road! The 90-minute drive to the put in at Deerlodge Park in Colorado will pass quickly. Watch the spectacle at the boat ramp as your guides efficiently load boats into the water and get ready to welcome you to the river. Once on the river, Yampa Canyon swallows us up, and we’re off! Rapids begin almost immediately: small, but splashy! We’ll pause for lunch along the shore, and set up camp in a grove of juniper trees just above Teepee Rapid. After a scrumptious first dinner on the river, hear from our ‘Star Lord’ about our spot in the Universe, and learn about the rods and cones in our eyes and our nighttime vision.

Day 2:

“Hot coffee (and tea!)!” will be your wake-up call. Hold on tight for Teepee Rapid or challenge yourself to paddle it in an inflatable kayak. We’ll hit several more rapids on our way to lunch, and maybe go for a hike up Starvation Valley, the side canyon that feeds Big Joe, the second big rapid of the trip. Camp tonight at Harding Hole, where the white canyon walls are lower and wider, making for excellent stargazing conditions.

Day 3:

Another gourmet breakfast leads to a gentle float past The Grand Overhang and Cleopatra’s Couch. We may stop for lunch near an archaeological site. In the afternoon, we’ll float past Tiger Wall, a dramatically striped sandstone overhang. They say kissing it brings good luck; just a few miles downstream we’ll run Warm Springs Rapid. In 1965, a massive debris flow from Warm Springs Draw choked the Yampa with boulders, forming the river’s largest rapid. Celebrate our successful passage with a meal of chicken fajitas and homemade sopaipillas! Stick around the camp circle until astronomical twilight and be regaled with stories of constellations!

Day 4:

The Yampa joins the Green River at Echo Park, where the canyon widens and the rivers flow together around Steamboat Rock. Here the river enters Whirlpool Canyon. The afternoon may be spent hiking or lounging at Jones Hole Creek: a blue-ribbon trout stream with side canyon petroglyphs and a waterfall. We’ll camp downstream for one more night of stargazing. Count the stars in the Pleiades through binoculars, or use a telescope to see the rings of Saturn.

Day 5:

Enjoy a peaceful morning in Island and Rainbow parks before the river carries us into yet another massive gorge. The Green’s powerful forces have cut laterally through Split Mountain’s uplifted and colorful core. Rapids come one after the other all the way to the take out. After loading up the boats and gear, it’s a 30-minute ride back to Vernal. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is about 4:00 p.m.

Please note: this is a sample itinerary and should not be thought of as the trip you will experience. It is intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy!

Yampa Stargazer Scenery

Any trip on a wild river will be changeable by nature. Every Yampa trip will be a little different based on the campsites we are assigned, the interests of your group, weather, and the need to be considerate of other groups on the river. This sample itinerary illustrates one possible five-day Yampa River trip.


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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 4 reviews
 by Carolyn A

Everyone at Holiday was helpful with questions as this was our first river trip. Very accommodating and responsive. Everything was EXCELLENT, the guides, the boats, the food, even the Bano was good. The experience was better than anything we could have expected, and will be back next year for another trip. Thank you, Holiday, for welcoming us into your family, it was so Amazing, and we loved every minute out on the river with your teams.

 by Anna M

Another fabulous trip on the Yampa with Holiday River Expeditions! We coordinated taking this trip with friends we made on another Holiday trip from last year , plus London's mom and brother, plus we asked (cajoled?) the esteemed Woods to join, so we had wonderful friends all around. We also loved meeting the other guests as Holiday trips seem to attract fun and interesting folks. A shout out to all the guides -Sienna (our calm, kind and competent TL), Gavin and London (our terrific son and terrific partner), LB (fun & excellent cribbage player), Ellie (aka Nellie - so easy going & quick to smile), and Sherpa (sage & artist). We are impressed with the training, skills and knowledge they learn while at Holiday. The guides work hard without much rest but always have a smile and a willingness to help guests. It is quite impressive. This was a star gazing trip and we enjoyed Tom's interesting stories of the stars and different cultural interpretations, plus provided education. Lastly, we appreciate the environmental ethos, education, and history of the dams imparted by the guides and John and Jan. It is important to learn and ponder these as we float on the Yampa in all it's magnificence. Truly a valuable trip!

 by Michael Tracy

The trip was very enjoyable. The guides were friendly and made sure everyone in the trip was well taken care of. The guides were also excellent experts on how to traverse the waters and the overall experience wad pleasant.

 by Shawn & Heather O'Kane

The guides and food were so much better than expected!!! Thank you! It was the perfect introduction to a multi-night rafting trip! The food was beyond what we had hoped for. The guides were thoughtful and very friendly!