Vien R. Guenther
Dead Horse Point State Park – Grand County, Utah
If you are visiting Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah, you might as well add Dead Horse Point State Park to your itinerary. This is one of Utah's state parks surely worth exploring, without exerting much effort to see some fantastic views. This state park is all about the vast high desert landscapes, as far as the eyes can see. The main attraction here is the Dead Horse Point, considered “one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world.” There are short walks to the overlooks, mostly paved and suitable for everyone, but be very cautious of the cliffs, especially if you have curious kids with you. Although there are no long trails for hard-core hikers in this park, there are several popular trails for mountain biking for all skill levels.
Dead Horse Point State Park is located next to Canyonlands National Park (the northern part, known as the Island in the Sky segment). San Juan County purchased the initial 628 acres of the point from the Bureau of Land Management and donated it to Utah State Parks and Recreations Commission in 1959. Today, it covers 5,362 acres.
Dead Horse Point was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park in 2016. If you are into stargazing, then this is one of the best places to stay. There are camping grounds, for tents or RVs, or you might want to experience glamping in a yurt, which can accommodate up to six people. We haven't stayed in one of those, but it's probably nice. While there, you can join an event such as a Sunset Talk, Full Moon Hike and Star Party.
Dead Horse Point has cliffs on all sides and only a narrow strip of land for access, about 30 yards wide. There are several legends how the park got its name, but one thing in common is how wild horses, or mustangs, that roamed the mesa were corralled at the point in the 1800s, by building a fence across the only access. One legend has it that horse thieves corralled the mustangs, then choose the ones they wanted and set free the unwanted ones. Another legend has it that ranchers purposely herded them in to the point to either starve them or drive them over the edge down to their death because mustangs competed with cattle for food and water. Another legend says that there was a conflict between the settlers and the Utes wherein which settlers rounded up all horses and ponies they could find to “keep the Native Americans from getting them”. But whatever the legend you believe, the story of these unfortunate wild horses left corralled at the point, accidental or not, all died of thirst. That’s how they said the park got its name, morbid as it seems to others.
TO GET HERE
Coming from Moab is about 32 miles. It's about a 40-minute drive to the park via U.S. Highway 191. then left on UT-313 West to Dead Horse Point
(West Rim Trail)
Big Horn Overlook
Shafer Canyon Overlook
Dead Horse Point
(East Rim Trail)
Colorado River Overlook
DEAD HORSE POINT OVERLOOK
From this overlook, you will have a great view of Canyonland’s desert plateau, pinnacles and buttes. This fantastic view was created by millions of years of geologic activities. A gooseneck view of the Colorado River, 2000 feet below is an impressive sight. Looking down below, you will find how nature carved the gorge.
You might want to do a river trip and see the canyon walls up close and personal. You have to do that from Moab. If you are staying in the park, the sunrise and sunset view at this overlook is an iconic event.
The view to the east of the natural desert landscape is marred by the Potash Evaporation Ponds which in summer are dyed bright blue to help absorb more sunlight and heat. This helps the potash (Potassium chloride) to crystallize faster which can be processed for fertilizer.