Dead Horse Point State Park is located just northwest of Moab, Utah and covers approximately 5,400 acres of desert. It is considered by many to be Utah’s most spectacular park and is one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. The promontory referred to as Dead Horse Point stands at 6,000 feet above sea level and overlooks the Colorado River as well as up the La Sal Mountains which stand at 12,000 feet above sea level.
Dead Horse Point State Park got its name because of its previous use as a natural corral by cowboys. During the 19th century, cowboys used its winding channel to herd wild mustangs. The cowboys would pick the horses that they liked and leave the others to find their way back. The horses that they kept were locked behind a fence of branches and brush. Legend states that even once the corral was abandoned, the horses did not leave, even though the gate was wide open and water was not far away.
One of the greatest views in the park is most certainly from Dead Horse Point. Layers of varying colors in the bluffs and cliffs were created by sediments that were deposited by ancient oceans, lakes, and streams during the Pennsylvanian period, approximately 300 million years ago. Sand continuously blown by the wind and igneous activity also shaped and formed the landscape. The erosion that has shaped the canyon can be viewed expansively from Dead Horse Point. This process has shaped the canyon for over 150 million years. The river which once ran through these bluffs has sculpted magnificent spires and crevices. Dead Horse Point also provides incredible views of the canyons and environment of southeastern Utah as well as picturesque views of the nearby Canyonlands National Park.
The environment at Dead Horse Point State Park is hot and dry. Vegetation and wildlife have adapted to surviving on a very limited water supply. Plants have smaller leaves which lose less water through evaporation. Most of the animals that live here are nocturnal, venturing out during only the evening when the temperature is much cooler and the need for water has diminished.
Dead Horse Point State Park has many trail systems for any hiking enthusiast, from the beginner to the advanced. Most of these trails are even friendly to pets and others are excellent for mountain bikers. Most recently, the park has created the Intrepid Trail System which is composed of 3 hiking and biking loops. This trail system begins at Dead Horse Point and is an excellent mountain biking trail, standing at 5,900 feet above sea level at the trailhead. The Intrepid Loop runs for approximately 1.1 miles while the Great Pyramid Loop runs for 4.2 miles and the Big Chief Loop runs for 9 miles. All three loops have halfway points to cut across for a shorter trip. Mountain bikes are available to rent in Moab if you are unable to bring your own. Another trail, Rim Walk, towers 2,000 feet over the Colorado River. These trails are best explored in the spring, fall, and winter.
Dead Horse Point State Park also offers a visitors center and campground. The visitors center has facilities for the disabled, an information area, interpretive museum, exhibits, souvenirs, and restrooms. Kenyata campground has 21 designated areas for overnight campers. These sites are complete with electrical hook ups, sheltered tables, tent pads, and charcoal grills. The park also offers many educational and naturalist programs.
The park is open daily from 6:00am to 10:00pm. The visitor center is open varying hours dependent upon the season. The center is closed during holidays although the park remains open. Fees are charged to enter the park, $10 for day use and $20 for overnight camping. For more information about Dead Horse Point State Park, you may call 435 259 2614 or visit them online at http://www.utah.com/stateparks/dead_horse.htm. Reservations for Kenyata campground can be made by calling 800 322 3770. The park may also be written at P.O. Box 609, Moab 84532.