Clinging to a cliff edge, 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point is certainly one of the most scenic spots for a state park and for a weekend away.
Though the name may suggest otherwise, you won’t see horses dead or alive here. Big black bovines graze just outside the park, but the wild ponies are long gone. The gruesome legend behind the name holds that cowboys chased wild mustangs out to a point, across a narrow neck, corralling them on a spit of land high in the sky. Culling those they wanted, the rest were set free. One year the horses were left trapped and with no water the desert quickly claimed them. Remnants of a fence, perhaps the fence, still guard the neck of land that separates the point from the plateau.
Hiking, camping, biking, photography and stargazing are all pastimes pursued in this corner of Grand County. Six thousand feet above sea level, it is 10 degrees cooler here than the desert valley below at 4,000 feet. The lack of light pollution and the elevated nature of the park make night skies sparkle with pricks of starlight. A full moon will leave you moonstruck and a meteor shower will look like fireworks.
The East and West Rim trails connect to make a four-mile loop with half a dozen side viewpoints clearly marked. On the East side, stunning views of the La Sal’s appear, playing peek-a-boo behind red rock outcrops. Cairns, flat rocks stacked precariously to mark the trail, stop you from wandering off track and taking the wrong turn at a juniper bush. As you wander, a glimmer of blue catches the eye. Too geometric to be natural, potash evaporation ponds gleam in a desert of sage and dun, stone and dirt. With nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks having strict no-dog rules, the canine lover can rejoice in miles of pet-friendly hiking trails. Just keep your pooch leashed less this become dead dog point!
The Intrepid Bike Trail, suitable for the whole family, begins at the visitor center parking lot. Created through a public/private partnership between the park and Intrepid Potash Inc., various combinations of three loops will keep all members of the family happy for hours. Slickrock, sand and sage greet you at every turn. The views are stunning, the single track stimulating and the sensation of riding where wild horse once thundered is spectacular.
The small campsite has 18 sites that can be reserved online, all partial hookup with electricity but no water. On the weekends, join a ranger for an informative walk or attend a talk in the amphitheater. The visitor center has exhibits that explain the park’s flora and fauna, the usual kitschy souvenirs and an art gallery stocked with local photography. There is even a coffee hut to provide you with caffeine stimulation if the views don’t do the trick!
Dead Horse Point State Park is 32 miles from full service Moab, and 250 miles from Salt Lake City, off Highway 313.
Photos in this post by Pippa Keene.