Often overshadowed by Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park is a Moab Utah destination that easily stands out on its own and is the perfect addition to any Moab itinerary. No timed entry reservation for Arches? Already checked out Canyonlands? Want to avoid the National Parks crowds? This unusual and uniquely named State Park is a breathtaking option that sits right next door to Canyonlands.
About Dead Horse Point State Park
Location: Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab Utah
Driving Time: 45 minutes to the Visitor Center from downtown Moab
Parking: The Visitor Center has a large paved parking lot. You can start the Rim Trail from here
Cost: $20/vehicle to enter the park; National Park passes not accepted
Interesting fact: This is a dark sky park, a great place to take in the stars or do some astrophotography!
Facilities & Amenities: The Visitor Center has standard restroom facilities. drinking water, and covered picnic tables
Why Is it Called Dead Horse Point State Park?
Dead Horse Point State Park sits on a peninsula of land that is part of the large mesa that houses Canyonlands National Park’s Island In The Sky section! While you may not see any dead horses on your trip, the story goes that this area was once used as a natural corral where horses sometimes died from exposure. This area is hot, dry, and sunny! This being said, it is very likely you will encounter plenty of cows on your drive in and out of the park, so watch out for those!
What To Do at Dead Horse Point State Park
In total, there are 7 miles of hiking trails along Dead Horse Point State Park’s rim. They include:
- Dead Horse Point Overlook (200 feet)
- Visitor Center Nature Trail (1/8 mile)
- Colorado River Overlook (1 mile)
- East Rim Trail (2 miles)
- West Rim Trail (3.5 miles)
- Bighorn Overlook (3 miles)
We completed the Nature Trail and the Rim Trail, which combines many of the overlooks and trails from the list above!
The Rim Trail:
A trip to Moab would not be complete without doing the beautiful Rim Trail hike at Dead Horse Point State Park. Walking up to the edge of the immense canyon right outside the Dead Horse Point State Park Visitor Center was reminiscent of our experience walking up the edge of the Grand Canyon for the first time.
We were struck by the beauty and grandeur of this intricately carved canyon. Peering down at the mighty Colorado River winding through below, it truly takes a few moments to really soak it all in. The landscape is a lively array of reds, browns, greens, and blues, seemingly extending until it meets the horizon. Feel your heart race and your stomach flutter as you peer over the edge of this towering mesa, which drops 2,000 feet below.
Rim Trail Hike Details:
If you love the view of the Grand Canyon or have never been, this is a must-see! It’s also a great option if you are looking for an easier hike and the opportunity for several picturesque overlooks. On this trail, you are treated to views of the canyon and the 2,000 foot drop to the Colorado River below. You also get treated to a view of nearby Canyonlands National Park!
You will find fewer crowds than in the nearby National Parks, no timed entry system to worry about, and it is close to Moab, Arches, and Island In The Sky (Canyonlands). For this reason, it can be easily added to your existing itinerary for one of the other nearby parks. If you are a movie buff, this park is also where they filmed part of Thelma and Louise!
Dog friendly: Yes
Distance: 5-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 908 feet
Estimated Duration: 2-4 hours
Warnings: This trail follows the edge of canyons most of the way. In most places, there are no guard rails or fences so be mindful of the drop-offs! Especially if you have a fearless dog or child tagging along!
When to Hike this Trail: Fall, Spring (Summer can be very hot and winter can be cold, snowy, and icy)
Hiking the Trail Clockwise: Start from the Visitor Center and pick the trail up right behind which will be your first overlook. Continue the trail crossing the street and returning to the Visitor Center after the Rim Overlook on the West Side. You could also follow the trail out to Big Horn Overlook before returning if you wish! We hiked this way and found it easy and enjoyable, but were also ready to be done by the end. It had been a long week and after finding the views from the East Rim most impressive, we decided to skip Big Horn.
Hiking The Trail Counter-Clockwise: If you want to save the best views for last, cross the street from the Visitor Center first and head to Rim Overlook and work your way back in reverse of the above. This is a generally flat trail so either will be just fine!
Alternative Route Option: Cross the road at the Neck (Dead Horse Point) from West back East after Meander Overlook. Head back to the Visitor Center. This makes the trail 3.6 miles versus the entire 5 miles. This also focuses on mostly the East Rim, which we found to have the best views.
Main overlooks to look out for: Basin Overlook, Dead Horse Point, Meander Overlook, Shafer Canyon Overlook, and Rim Overlook. Big Horn Overlook can be added, but we chose to forego this. There is also an overlook right behind the Visitor Center.
What To Know Before You Go:
- Depending on when you visit, this trail can be hot with limited shade. Sunscreen and water are a must
- Be careful near the edges and drop-offs. They are beautiful to photograph but can be slippery or rocky and easy to trip
- With stunning views all along the trail, you will want to keep your camera out and ready!
- Parts of the trail will be marked with cairns (balanced stones), logs, or painted marks. Keep an eye out for those! For the most part, this trail is easy to follow (with some tricky sections where you can get off the path). It is also a fairly easy hike
Dead Horse Point State Park offers over 16 miles of single-track biking trails through the Intrepid Trail System. Dead Horse Point State Park’s website does a great job breaking down trail lengths and difficulty and what to expect so that you can choose a trail that matches your skill and comfort level!
What We Found Fulfilling About Visiting Dead Horse Point State Park
We are often drawn to hikes that challenge us in some way. More elevation gain, a higher summit, more mileage, intense rock scrambling, etc. At the same time, we like taking time to enjoy trails that are more moderate and allow us to slow down.
We enjoyed this hike because it offered beautiful views throughout and a chance to hike with our dog Azalea, who got left behind as we explored the National Parks in the area. It also allowed for time to ease up and recover. It was quite the journey hiking our way through Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks, several National Monuments, and State Parks in a 2-month time period while also working 40 hours a week.
It is okay to give yourself permission to slow down and back off. Not everything must be an epic challenge to be a meaningful experience. This trail was a great reminder of that. This was the perfect Friday afternoon hike to ease out of the week and into the weekend while enjoying a few mindful moments.
Although our trip was cloudy, this also would be a wonderful spot to soak in a sunrise or sunset! The view can get repetitive so you may choose to shorten the hike or drive to certain overlooks if you want to combine a visit to this state park with other excursions. We found the overlooks from the East Rim to offer the most impressive views.
Fulfilling Travel Tips
Be Present. Be Where Your Feet Are.
With so many overlooks and views that stretch for miles, there is no shortage of opportunities on this trail for a peaceful moment surrounded by beauty that invites deep thought or reflection.
Allow yourself to be in awe of how large and vast this impressive landscape is and all that you are able to observe from each viewing area. We found Dead Horse Point State Park to be such a beautiful reminder of how small we are and how we are part of a much larger system than ourselves, which is always humbling.
Example activities to help you savor the present moment:
Spend a few moments focusing on the sound of your feet against the trail. What does each step sound like? How does it change as you encounter different parts of the trail or different surfaces beneath you?
Take one of the many opportunities to climb up on a rock and take in the views from a higher vantage point. Instead of trying to focus on any one part of the landscape, relax and allow yourself to take in the entirety of the expansive views.
By being intentional and deliberate with how you experience each new place you go, you allow yourself the opportunity to honor your needs, broaden your perspectives, and focus on your growth and well-being. After all, nature is the best medicine.
Dead Horse Point State Park Overall
We love exploring State Parks wherever we go. They are often hidden gems that deserve more love than they get. National Parks are amazing wonders, but this state park, like many others, has much to offer in terms of awe-inspiring views, hiking, and even mountain biking. This is one of the top State Parks in Utah after all!
Dead Horse Point State Park is an easy trip if you are in Moab exploring Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park. It offers impressive views and a fairly easy trail around the rim to several overlooks. It is a great place for sunsets and taking pictures. Marvel at the mighty Colorado River far below, sit and enjoy the breeze as you sit at the edge of a sheer drop-off, or feel even more on top of the world as you climb up rocks for a better view. It is easily accessible, and has smaller crowds, without lacking in stunning views and interesting history. A great addition to a pretty stellar lineup for Moab Utah.
Example Moab Itinerary:
- Day 1: Sunrise at Delicate Arch; afternoon exploring other short trails and viewpoints
- Day 2: Fiery Furnace in the AM, Dead Horse Point State Park in the PM
- Day 3: Devil’s Garden
- Day 4:Canyonlands (Island in the Sky); if you are a more experienced hiker Syncline Loop is a great option!
- Day 5: Canyonlands (The Needles); we loved hiking Chesler Park Loop to see all the spires!
- Day 6: La Sal Mountains / Manti-La Sal National Forest
- Perfect for a hot day: Faux Falls or Cowboy Jaccuzzis trails!
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO MOAB & DEAD HORSE POINT STATE PARK
Dead Horse Point State Park Campgrounds:
Moab Area Accommodations:
Moab is full of great campsites, ranging from RV resorts to no-frills campgrounds, and free boondocking. Our favorite resources for finding great campgrounds and campsites include Campendium, RV Life, and iOverlander. Here are some highly-rated campgrounds in Moab:
- Sun Outdoors Moab Downtown (RV Resort with amenities)
- St. Dane’s Cabins & Campground (no frills full hook-ups on a budget)
- Ken’s Lake Campground (paid BLM campground with dry camping)
If you are looking to get closer to nature but don’t have an RV, consider renting one through Outdoorsy, or RV Share. We used both of these services when renting out our Casita and found them to be high quality and easy to use!
Another great option is glamping or nature-centric stays. Here are some great options near Arches National Park:
You can explore all Moab area accommodations and compare prices on Booking.com, which is a great resource for unique stays at the best rates.
Looking for other resources to help you plan your most fulfilling trip to Moab & Arches National Park?