Utah Road Trip Guide: Dead Horse Point State Park
Utah is one of my absolute favorite states to visit. I’ve probably visited more than a handful of times and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it. No less than two months ago, my husband and I, along with two of our closest friends, went on an epic road trip to Utah. I was the (self-appointed lol) planner of this trip & like with any trip I’ve planned, I took it waaaay seriously.
Naturally, I wanted to visit every National Park in Utah but I had to remind myself that we only had 2 full days (of the 4-day trip) to explore. On our first day, we had to do a 7-hour drive to our first destination, Dead Horse Point State Park. I chose this state park because it’s the closest attraction to our Airbnb that didn’t require a lot of hiking to get to the views. Tired and thrilled, we arrived safely at 3:30 pm.
Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center where they have souvenirs available for purchase. You can also ask for info from one of the employees or rangers present. Additionally, they have exhibits that provide informational displays about canyon country geology, local plants and animals, prehistoric cultures and park history.
From here, you can either explore via the paved walkway that leads to a trail or if you don’t really feel like walking, you can drive further to get to the Dead Horse Point overlook. We decided to do both. The views in the beginning of this trail are really nice but I knew there was more to see. Our main goal was to see the famous view of the Colorado gooseneck.
After taking photos and soaking in the view, we hopped in our car and drove to the Dead Horse Point overlook. Tip: We made a mistake of parking on the first pull out we saw. We couldn’t find the viewpoint and had to walk more than we wanted till we finally got to it. Just keep driving till you see a spacious parking lot on your left.
a little history…
The view here is absolutely breathtaking! Utah’s hues and warm tones are my favorite and it served as a nice backdrop to the already stunning view. So stunning that I consider it as one of my favorite views ever! The views stretched for miles, overwhelming me as I take in its vastness. Situated atop a high plateau, it has an elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level;2,000 feet above the Colorado River.
According to legend, the point was once used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The neck, which is only 30 yards wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush, creating a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and for reasons unknown, left the other horses corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below, hence the name Dead Horse Point. Pretty fascinating right?
Aside from the captivating views, I will never forget this place because one of the
funniest scariest moments in our lives happened here. So what happened was after we’ve taken our pictures and soaked in the view, my husband, my best friend and I decided to hike down to a ledge near the cliff.
The ledge was pretty wide and had ample amount of space for more than 10 people so we were fine. My husband wanted to take a picture of my best friend and I on a rock that faces the view. I safely made my way close to the cliff where the rock was and sat down. So now it was my best friend’s turn. I guess she didn’t see that there was a small step near the rock and next thing you know, she tripped and fell face down, almost sliding off the cliff. OMG! It was so scary. While screaming bloody murder, I grabbed her leg and tried to keep her from sliding. I was so glad she was okay. I told her she owes me forever since I just saved her life haha. We just had to laugh about it at the end.
Definitely not a good way to start a trip! But yes, my husband still took the picture and here it is. Was it worth it?
Anyway, despite the little mishap, Dead Horse Point State Park is a great way to start your Utah road trip. If you don’t have enough time like us, you can just admire the views from the overlooks but if you do, there are trails that you can definitely do. Another popular activity here is mountain biking. We saw some families with their bikes, enjoying the spectacular views of the canyon country.
- 17 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails of intermediate difficulty. Hiking also permitted. Details and maps available at the visitor center.
- *Dogs are not allowed on any Intrepid Trail System loops.
- Hiking-Only Trails (All distances are one way)
Nature Trail — Paved interpretive walking trail. 0.25 mile; easy
- East Rim Trail — Hiking trail with continuous canyon views leading to or from Dead Horse Point. A short spur to Basin Overlook (0.25 mi) adds to the hike and takes you to a view of Chimney Rock and Pyramid Butte. 1.5 mile; easy to moderate
- West Rim Trail — Hike through a pinyon juniper forest to or from Dead Horse Point. Spurs to Meander Overlook (0.1 mi), Shafer Canyon (0.25 mi) and Rim Overlook (0.25 mi) add to the hike by taking you closer to the canyon rim. 2.5 mile; easy to moderate
- Big Horn Overlook Trail — Spur trail leading to large desert potholes and a grand overlook. 1.25 mile; easy to moderate
- Colorado Overlook Trail — Hike along the rim past desert potholes to a distant overlook of the Colorado River. 0.5 mile; easy
Dead Horse Point State Park P.O. Box 609
Moab, UT 84532-0609 (435) 259-2614
Day-use fee: $10 per vehicle up to eight passengers, valid for 3 days. $5 for Utah seniors 62 and older. $5 per motorcycle. $2 pedestrian or cyclist (biking into park). Unfortunately, they don’t accept the National Park Pass here. Understandably so since this is a State Park.
Visitor Center Hours:
Summer (Mar 15 to Mid-Oct) – 8 am to 6 pm
Winter (Mid-Oct to Mar 14) – 9 am to 5 pm
Holiday Closures: Visitor Center closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day (park remains open)
The park is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round. Visitor Center is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- Auto touring
- Short hikes to scenic viewpoints
- Mountain biking
- ATV trails nearby