Dead Horse Point is one of Utah’s most spectacular state parks. Towering 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, the park provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculpted pinnacles and buttes.
Access to Dead Horse Point is nine miles south of Green River on US 191. (Turn west on SR 313, then go 22 miles.) The visitor center, interpretive museum, developed campground and large overlook shelter make the park comfortable and informative as well as spectacular. It is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Click here to visit the Utah State Parks website.
THE LEGEND OF DEAD HORSE POINT
Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck. There are many stories about how this high promontory of land received its name.
According to one legend, around the turn of the century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. 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. This created a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs, affording no escape. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and let the culls or broomtails go free. One time, for some unknown reason, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES
- Visitor center
- Open year-round
- Facilities for disabled
- Information area
- Rest rooms
- Souvenirs and snacks
- Paved, self-guided nature trail.
- Evening ranger programs – In amphitheater May through September.
- Day-use facilities – Shade pavilion at overlook. Accessible viewpoints for the disabled. Picnic areas, rest rooms and water at the point. Ten miles of paved and primitive hiking (rails.
- Kayenta campground – 21 campsites. Electricity, tent pad, sheltered table and charcoal grill at each site. Modern rest rooms, dishwashing and sewage disposal stations. One campsite is wheelchair accessible (available by reservation). Recreational vehicles should fill water tanks before coming to park. All water is trucked from Moab – please conserve! No showers. Campground may be full. Reservations are recommended.
- Group site – Available by reservation only for groups of nine to 30 people. Pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill. Modern rest rooms, tent pads. No electricity.
- Other services â€“ Gas, food, lodging, commercial tours and medical care are available in Moab, 32 miles away. Additional camping may be available at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Bureau of Land Management areas and commercial campgrounds in Moab.
PLANTS AND ANIMALS
Vegetation and wildlife exist on a limited supply of water in this and desert environment. The park receives about 10 inches of precipitation per year. Plants have adapted by reducing the size of their leaves. Smaller leaves lose less water through evaporation. Some plants have a waxy coating on their leaves that helps reduce water loss. Other plants go through a dormant phase during dry spells. Some seeds lie dormant in the dry soil for years until there is enough moisture for them to sprout and grow.
Animals often must travel many miles to find water or wait several weeks for rain. They have developed special adaptations to drought and heat. Most desert animals are nocturnal, resting in the shade or in their burrows during the heat of the day. They venture out in the cooler morning and evening hours to hunt and forage for food. Some animals get water from the food they eat and can go for weeks without a drink of water. Others have oversized ears that radiate heat away from their bodies to keep them cooler.
Desert animals have only a slight edge on the harsh environment in which they live. Chasing or harassing them uses tip precious reserves they cannot afford to lose. Please respect their home and do not disrupt their tenuous struggle for existence.
Cryptobiotic soil and potholes are unique ecosystems found at Dead Horse Point. They are very fragile and should not be disturbed.
Interpretive exhibits at the visitor center include informational displays about canyon country geology, local plants and animals, prehistoric cultures and park history. Videos are available for viewing upon request. A self-guided nature walk around the visitor center educates visitors about plants, animals, geology and the park environment.
Rangers present interpretive programs each evening in the visitor center amphitheater from May through September. A Junior Ranger program is offered for young visitors who want to learn more about the park and earn a Junior Ranger badge.
Ten miles of hiking trails in the park include two joining loops around the rim and several spurs to beautiful viewpoints.
MOUNTAIN BIKING: THE INTREPID TRAIL SYSTEM
Dead Horse Point State Park, 32 miles west of Moab
Easy to Moderate
Intrepid Loop: 1.1 miles
Great Pyramid Loop: 4.2 miles
Big Chief Loop: 9.0 miles
Elevation @ Trailhead
Ideal in spring, fall and winter; midday heat in July and August
Nine miles northwest of Moab on US 191 and then 23 miles southwest on Utah 313 to the end of the highway.
With slickrock sections, looping singletrack, sandy washes, and incredible scenery, the Intrepid Trail System provides a great taste of what Moab mountain biking is all about. This is the perfect ride for families and offers spectacular views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park.
The Intrepid Trail System has three hiking and biking loops ranging from one to nine miles with varying degrees of difficulty. The easiest and shortest loop is Intrepid, followed by Great Pyramid, with Big Chief as the most challenging. The nested loop trails will offer opportunities for visitors of all ages and abilities, and provide breathtaking views.
The Intrepid Trail was made possible through great public/private partnerships. Intrepid Potash, Inc., for which the trail is named, gave $20,000 for construction of a new single-track, non-motorized trail system. The trail was built by Trail Mix, a local volunteer organization, and volunteers from the Utah Conservation Corps, American Conservation Experience and Moab Trails Alliance. The National Park Service and Utah State Parks also worked on the project. Dead Horse Point State Park is located approximately 30 miles from Moab. The park also offers camping and day-use facilities, visitor center, and naturalist programs. For more information call (435) 259-2614.
Dead Horse Point is situated atop a high plateau at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea level. From the point, a “layer cake” of geologic time may be viewed, revealing 300 million years of the earth’s geologic history. While standing on the canyon rim, 8,000 feet of geologic strata is visible looking from the peaks of the 12.000 foot high La Sal Mountains to the river below. These rock layers were deposited over the eons by oceans, fresh water and wind as well as isolated igneous events.
Sediments at the 4,000-foot river level were deposited during the Pennsylvanian period, 300 million years ago. The La Sal Mountains are composed of igneous rocks from an ancient laccolith that formed during the Tertiary period about 25 million years ago. Also during the Tertiary period, uplifting caused by continental drift elevated the entire Colorado Plateau by more than a mile. The Colorado River was born during this regional uplift, and has been carving down through the sediments ever since. Erosion continues today as the river winds from the Continental Divide high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean at the Sea of Cortez (a distance of 1,400 miles) sculpting ancient rock layers into the spectacular panorama seen from Dead Horse Point.
Clear desert skies offer visibility from 80 to 100 miles most days. Low humidify and sparse vegetation allow evenings to cool off rapidly.
- Summer – Temperatures can be in the upper 90s during the day and fall into the 40s or 50s at night. Afternoon thundershowers in late summer cool temperatures dramatically but bring danger of lightning strikes.
- Spring and autumn – Variable weather. Days are often sunny and warm, nights clear and cool. Be prepared for abrupt changes as there may be strong winds, rain, hail and even snow.
- Winter – Colder temperatures and occasional snow. Temperatures are above freezing most days but often drop into the teens and sometimes below zero at nights.
A high of 108 occurred in July 1989 and a low of minus 14 in February 1989. The highest wind speed was 83 mph in May 1992. Annual precipitation is about 10 inches per year.
- Most overlooks are not fenced so use extreme caution.
- Lightning danger is severe on exposed canyon rims. Seek shelter in a building or vehicle during thunderstorms.
- Stay on established trails. Follow signs and rock cairns (heaps of stones).
- Do not throw rocks.
- Drink plenty of water – one gallon per person per day in summer.
- Wear a hat, sunscreen and sturdy shoes while hiking.
Advance reservations are available for group-use and individual campsites. Individual campsite reservations may be made a minimum of three days in advance of arrival and up to 16 weeks in advance of park check-out date. Group areas may be reserved up to 11 months in advance.
To make a reservation, please call 322-3770 in the Salt Lake City calling area or toll free 1-800-322-3770. Reservations are not required but recommended March through October. Unreserved sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Day-use and camping fees are charged year-round. Additional fees are charged for group-use and reservations.
Please observe these regulations to ensure that everyone’s visit is pleasant:
- Bicycling – Bicycling is permitted on established public roads and in parking areas. Bicycles are not allowed on hiking trails.
- Camping – Camp only in designated areas. Each camping permit covers one vehicle and any attached recreational equipment. Up to eight people are allowed in a campsite. Two vehicles are allowed in a campsite if space permits. There is an extra fee for additional vehicles or camping equipment. Tents must fit on tent pads.
- Fires – Fire grills are for charcoal fires only. Wood fires, ground fires and gathering of firewood are prohibited.
- Firearms – Possession or use of fire arms, traps or other devices capable of launching a projectile that can immobilize, injure or kill a person or animal, or damage property is prohibited unless the weapon or device is 1) unloaded and packed away to prevent its use, or 2) being used by authorized law enforcement officers in the performance of official duties. Hunting is prohibited within park boundaries.
- Parking – Park only in authorized spaces.
- Pets – Pets are allowed at Dead Horse Point State Park but should be on a maximum six-foot leash. Seeing Eye dogs are the only animals admitted into park buildings. For safety and courtesy, please keep your animal under control.
- Plants and animals – All plants, animals, minerals and other natural features in state parks are protected. It is unlawful to remove, alter, destroy or harass them.
- Trails – Hiking trails are for foot traffic only. Please stay on established trails. Bicycles and motorized vehicles must remain on established roads.
- Vandalism – It is unlawful to mutilate or deface any natural or constructed feature/structure. Please help keep your park beautiful.
- Waste water – It is unlawful to dump or to drain water from campers or trailers onto the ground. Most developed parks provide sanitary disposal stations.
- Quiet hours – 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Dead Horse Point was designated a state park on December 18. 1959. It comprises a total land base of about 5,250 acres, most of which is located on the mesa top.
Click here to visit the Utah State Parks website.