Utah

Dead Horse Point – Utah’s Best State Park

Dead Horse Point is most certainly Utah’s best State Park. Sitting high on a mesa near Moab Utah, Dead Horse Point offers spectacular views out across the Colorado River and the red canyons below. These views have long been a favorite of the movie industry. This is where Thelma & Louise drove off the edge to their ultimate fate. This is where Tom Cruise free solo climbs at the beginning of Mission Impossible 2. And it’s where many of Westworld’s grand vistas were shot. Moab visitors can easily see these breathtaking views for themselves. We spent a some time hiking Dead Horse Point during a long weekend in Moab. Let me show you some of the sites at the spectacular Dead Horse Point State Park.

Where is Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point is one of a Trifecta Of Parks located in southeast Utah near Moab. Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park complete the Trifecta. It’s located 33 miles from Moab, and the turnoff to the Park is only 5 miles from the entrance to Canyonlands. The expansive southwestern views from Dead Horse Point, are in fact, out over Canyonlands. It seems to me that it would have made the most sense to include the Park within Canyonlands’ boundaries. But I guess the State of Utah wanted to keep a little piece of this beautiful area for itself.

Map courtesy of Wanderlog, the best travel planner app on iOS and Android

Dead Horse Point Orientation

Dead Horse Point State Park sits high on peninsula-shaped mesa, surrounded on both sides by a spectacular wide expanse of canyon carved by the Colorado River, 2000 feet (!!!) below. At the north end of the park, the mesa is wider, and here you’ll find several campgrounds, mountain bike trails, and the Visitor’s Center.

At the southern tip of the mesa sits the Dead Horse Point Overlook. As you approach the Overlook, the mesa narrows to a “neck” that’s only 30 feet across, before widening again to several hundred feet.

The road across the Neck at Dead Horse Point State Park

At the southern edge, you’ll find the “money shot” out over a gooseneck in the Colorado River below. Here you’ll find a small parking lot, and several different viewing platforms.

The Colorado River at Dead Horse Point Overlook

So, What About the Name?

It’s not a very nice story, but legend has it that in the 1800s, cowboys would round up wild mustangs roaming the area. They would herd them across the neck to the southern tip, and place a barrier across. After choosing their desired horses, they left the remainder to die of thirst on the Point.

Hiking The Rim Trail Around the Point

Dead Horse Point is more than just the famous overlook. There are several trails in the area that offer some spectacular alternative viewpoints. During our recent visit, we hiked the Rim Trail around the Overlook.

The Rim Trail starts at the Visitors Center and follows the edge of the mesa, all the way around for a total distance of 5 miles. But, because we had several hikes planned in Canyonlands that afternoon, we took the Rim Trail’s abridged version. You can access the Rim Trail further down the main road at the Neck, where there is a small parking area on either side of the road. Here you can choose to start on the East Rim Trail, or walk across the road and start on the West Rim Trail. The round-trip hike from this point is 1 mile. Alternatively, you can park at the Overlook and hike around the trail’s circumference from there, crossing over at the Neck.

The East Rim Trail Marker at the Neck in Dead Horse Point State Park
The West Rim Trail Marker at the Neck in Dead Horse Point State Park

East Rim

We parked at the Neck and started our hike on the East Rim Trail. Here’s what we saw along the eastern edge:

Walking the East Rim Trail
Looking East from the East Rim Trail
Views to the East from the East Rim Trail at Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point Overlook

After 0.6 miles, we reached the Overlook. Here’s the iconic view with the Colorado River bending through the red canyons below. There is a parking lot here for those who aren’t approaching by foot.

The view from Dead Horse Point Overlook in Utah

West Rim Trail

The river gooseneck remains visible through the remainder of the hike along the west rim. In fact, I think the some of river views are better along this part of the trail than at the official Overlook.

Dead Horse Point view from the West Rim Trail
Another view from the West Rim Trail
The Colorado River gooseneck from the West Rim Trail in Dead Horse Point State Park

Tips for Visiting Dead Horse Point

  1. The entrance fee is $20 and is valid for two days.
  2. We spent 90 minutes in the Park. This was plenty of time to hike around the Overlook – with many stops to take it all in.
  3. You’ll notice a haze in the photos. It was quite windy on the day of our visit. The wind kicks up dust from the canyons below.
  4. The Park was not nearly as busy as Canyonlands. As we left, I noticed a 5-car line to get in. We drove directly to Canyonlands where it took 30 minutes to enter due to the long line of cars.
  5. But, I think the views at Dead Horse Point were better than those from anywhere in the Island In The Sky area of Canyonlands. Definitely visit Canyonlands – the views are still great. Just don’t be tempted to skip Dead Horse Point because it’s just a State Park. After all, it’s Utah’s best State Park.

On this blog, I’ve also written about two other beautiful Utah State Parks – Snow Canyon State Park and Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Plus you can click here to read my guide to other sites in the Moab Utah area including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Plus I’ll give you ideas about where to stay and where to eat while in Moab.

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