The sun is shining, and it’s a warm day. A slight wind is blowing.
The smell of fresh, outdoor air, and miles of scenic views are ingredients to a fun trip to Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah.
Opening in 1959, the park has had thousands of people flood through it, and is often a pit stop for visitors on the way to Canyonlands National Park (just a few miles down the road).
The park got its name from a cowboy legend. Cowboys would round up horses and herd them across the narrow neck of the land and onto the point. Being only 30 yards wide, the natural corral held the horses captive and the cowboys chose horses they wanted.
“For reasons unknown, [they] left the other horses corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below,” according to the state park’s brochure.
The park is great for families and groups to explore the unique terrain of Utah with the views of the La Sal mountain range and the Colorado River below. Wildlife is often seen in the early mornings or late nights, and includes ravens, snakes, lizards and — sometimes — a wild horse.
The park also hosts dozens of miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. The Intrepid Trail System is mostly used by mountain bikers, but hikers are welcome as well. There are also a few hiking-only trails including East and West Rim Trail, and the Big Horn Overlook Trail.
Camping is also available at the Kayenta campground, which has 21 campsites with electricity, tent pads, sheltered table and charcoal grills. Modern restrooms are available.
Fun Fact: The park was also used for the final Grand Canyon scene in the 1991 film, Thelma & Louise.
To get to Dead Horse Point State Park from Moab, take US 191 north towards Interstate 70. Turn left on State Route 313 and continue left on SR 313; the entrance is a few miles after the turn.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The entrance fee is $10 per car, good for three days. There’s also a visitor center full of snacks, souvenirs and information. Hours for the visitor center vary by time of year. March 15 through mid-October, it is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mid-October through March 14, it’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In 2009, the park decided to include mountain biking trails, with Moab as one of the hot spots for the extreme sport. Thus, the Intrepid Trail System was born. The trails are designed to please riders with a variety of skill and fitness levels.
With such great response from the original nine miles of trails, the park added nine more miles on the west side of the highway. The newest trails officially opened in May 2014.
My husband and I rode the eastern side (original section) trails, which included Intrepid, Great Pyramid, Big Chief and Raven Roll, totaling a little more than eight miles. These trails are great for beginner mountain bikers, and it includes slick rock sections, singletrack, sandy washes and amazing scenery. Plus it won’t disappoint even the most experienced riders.
The trails are so mild in this area, we even saw a kiddo on a Strider bike (a bike that allows children to use their feet to move the bike instead of pedals).
The trails are well marked and have a posted map at each intersection showing distance and difficulty ratings. It’s perfect for those not wanting to bust out a map at every fork.
One of the great things about Dead Horse Point State Park is it sits 1,700 feet higher than Moab, so its temperature is usually around 10 degrees cooler. It was 90 in Moab the day we went and it was noticeably cooler as we started in the middle of the day to ride. It’s a nice way to enjoy the desert into early summertime.