Located in Moab, Utah near Canyonlands State Park and the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park is a 5,300-acre desert park preserving the Dead Horse Point rock peninsula, offering hiking and mountain biking trails, camping opportunities, and a variety of scenic overlooks. The rock formations of Dead Horse Point State Park were formed from millions of years of geological activity, including sediment deposition from now-disappeared waterways and igneous activity from the nearby volcanoes of the Rocky Mountains.
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The Dead Horse Point peninsula is said to have gotten its unusual name as a result of its use by cowboys in the late 19th century for the purposes of corralling wild mustangs in the area. According to legend, a group of horses corralled at the point were left behind and died of thirst. Dead Horse State Park was opened to the public as a state park facility under the care of the state of Utah in 1959. The park’s scenery has been used in a number of feature films, including use as a stand-in for the Grand Canyon in the 1991 film Thelma and Louise. In 2016, the park was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park for its relatively unblocked access to natural starlight.
Attractions and Activities
Today, Dead Horse Point State Park spans approximately 5,362 acres in the Utah desert near Canyonlands National Park. Peak altitudes within the park reach 5,900 feet and overlook the Colorado River at plateaus at a height of 2,000 feet. The area is known for its towering vertical cliffs, sandstone plateaus, and canyons carved by ancient waterways and weather. Plant and animal life throughout the park has adapted to the significant lack of water, with many animals practicing nocturnal lifestyles to escape extreme daily heat.
A Visitor Center within the park offers park information and exhibits, including collections of local artwork presented at the Bighorn Gallery. The park’s Pony Expresso Coffee Shop, located adjacent to the Visitor Center, offers hot and cold beverages, sandwiches, baked goods, and candy and ice cream. As the shop is the major concessionaire of the mesa top area, items may also be purchased to go for camping needs, including bags of ice for coolers. The Visitor Center also serves as the trailhead for the ?-mile Visitor Center Nature Trail, which offers trailside exhibits on park plant life and solar evaporation ponds, as well as notable views of Chimney Rock and the La Sal Mountains.
A number of hiking, biking, and motorbiking trails are offered through the park’s Intrepid Trail system, which contains seven miles of hiking trails, 16.6 miles of non-motorized bike trails, and the Moab Trail Mix for motorbiking. All trails range in difficulty from easy to intermediate and offer views of the surrounding canyon and forest areas. An entrance fee charged at the entrance to the bike trail system allows for three days of exploration, and mountain bike shops in the nearby town of Moab offer bike and bike rack rentals.
Hiking trails include the 200-foot Dead Horse Point Overlook Trail, accessible from the overlook parking lot, which offers a large shade shelter area for relief from hot daily temperatures. The Colorado River Overlook and East Rim Trail System embark from the Visitor Center, offering easy walks for views of the Colorado River and surrounding basin area. Moderate hikes are offered at the 3.5-mile West Rim Trail System and the Bighorn Overlook Trail, which span less paved, more isolated stretches of the park.
Mountain biking trails include the beginner Intrepid Trail, spanning a half-mile loop of easy difficulty, and the fast-moving Raven Roll loop. Moderate difficulty trails include the 2.2-mile Great Pyramid loop, the 3.6-mile Big Chief trail, and the connector Crossroads trail. For advanced riders, the Whiptail trail offers looks down Shafer Canyon’s 1,000-foot descent, while the Twisted Tree and Prickly Pair trails offer more technical rides.
Accommodations are offered at the Kayenta Campground, which contains 21 sites with RV hookups and modern restroom facilities, and the Yurts at Dead Horse Point, which provide tent accommodations for up to six guests. As all water used in Dead Horse Point State Park is transported from Moab, showers are prohibited within campsites. Visitors should also be aware of the park’s safety concerns, including its unfenced cliffs and relative isolation. Though the park itself is dog friendly, pets are not prohibited within yurts. Special use permits may also be filed for commercial filming and private special events within the park, including weddings and workshops.
UT-313, Moab, UT 84532, Phone: 435-259-2614