Dead Horse Point State Park, a high desert southwest Utah park featuring dramatic views of the Colorado River, is regularly overshadowed by its two bordering neighbors, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. But Dead Horse Point not only offers views that are just as extraordinary as the National Parks but tends to provide a much quieter experience.
With its close proximity to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, Dead Horse Point State Park is a great pitstop on your Utah road trip.
I explored this small but grand state park on my epic journey to all of the Utah Mighty Five National Parks, and I was blown away by the impressive landscapes that rivaled Canyonlands. Picture Canyonlands, but on a smaller scale, compressed into just 5,000 acres of trails, overlooks, and views as far as the eye can see.
In this blog post, I am going to share the best things to do at Dead Horse Point State Park while also giving you important visitor information like how to get to the park, entrance fees, hours, where to stay, what to pack, and more!
Dead Horse Point at a Glance
Location: The park is sandwiched between Arches National Park and the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park off State Route 313. From Moab, follow US-191 North to UT-313 West. After about 14 miles, you’ll turn to continue on 313. (Going straight would take you directly to Canyonlands National Park!) There will be a sign at the junction indicating this as well. After your turn, you’ll arrive at Dead Horse Point in about 5 miles!
Entrance Fee: $20 per vehicle for 2 consecutive days (Remember, your National Parks pass won’t work here since it’s a state park!)
Hours: The park is open 6 AM – 10 PM year-round. The visitor center is open daily from 9 AM – 5 PM (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).
When to Go: Spring and fall. Summers can get dangerously hot, and the winters can be cold and snowy.
Getting to Dead Horse Point State Park
Perched 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park is about 30 miles from Moab and just 10 miles from the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, making the park an easy add-on to your southwest Utah road trip.
From Moab, follow US-191 North to UT-313 West. After about 14 miles, you’ll turn to continue on 313. (Going straight would take you directly to Canyonlands National Park!) There will be a sign at the junction indicating this as well. After your turn, you’ll arrive at Dead Horse Point in about 5 miles!
Once you pass the entrance station, proceed to the visitor center. Vehicles are allowed to continue on the road another couple of miles up to Dead Horse Point (where the road dead ends), but since the parking at the visitor center is so much larger than the lots at the overlooks, I’d recommend parking at the visitor center.
All hiking and biking trails can be accessed from the visitor center.
Where to Stay Near Dead Horse Point State Park
The best place to stay the night in Dead Horse Point is the campground! Or, if you’re going to be exploring in Canyonlands or Arches, they have some great campgrounds as well. Check out Devils Garden Campground in Arches or Island in the Sky Campground at Canyonlands.
If you aren’t going to be camping at the park or at one of the surrounding National Parks, I’d recommend staying in Moab. Moab is a cute little desert town notorious for delicious food trucks, quaint coffee shops, and outdoorsy shops. The town is a hub for a plethora of outdoor recreation such as hiking, biking, boating, off-roading, and much more.
Moab, Utah is the perfect home base for all of your southeast Utah road trip adventures. From Moab, you can easily access not only Dead Horse Point State Park but Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, too!
Best Budget Accommodations
- Up the Creek Campground. 15 sites, all tent-only. Campground amenities include a clean bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets, a dishwashing station, and grilling stations. Just 5 miles from Arches, 31 miles from Dead Horse Point, and 31 miles from Canyonlands.
- Bowen Motel. Located in the heart of downtown Moab. Just 5 miles from Arches, 31 miles from Dead Horse Point, and 30 miles from Canyonlands.
Best Mid-Range Accommodations
- Big Horn Lodge. Located in the heart of downtown Moab. Just 4 miles from Arches, 31 miles from Dead Horse Point, and 31 miles from Canyonlands.
- Moab Red Stone Inn. Located in downtown Moab. Just 5 miles from Arches, 31 miles from Dead Horse Point, and 31 miles from Canyonlands.
Best Luxury Accommodations
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Moab. Located in downtown Moab. Just 5 miles from Arches, 31 miles from Dead Horse Point, and 30 miles from Canyonlands.
- Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa. Luxury stay in the heart of the desert that offers curated vacation packages. Located 20 miles from Arches, 46 miles from Dead Horse Point, and 45 miles from Canyonlands.
What to Pack for Dead Horse Point
Always carry the 10 Essentials with you!
- Day Pack. You’ll need a pack to carry all of your hiking essentials. I’d recommend a quality Osprey backpack.
- Hiking Boots/Shoes. You’ll want to wear a pair of durable, waterproof hiking boots or shoes. I personally adore Keen and Danner for their style and quality.
- Socks. Merino wool is the best material for hiking socks. Stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter with Darn Tough socks.
- Hiking Top. This is the perfect short-sleeved hiking top.
- Hiking Bottoms. I prefer wearing leggings or shorts while hiking. If regular hiking pants are more your jam, check these out!
- Sun protection. Wear/bring sunglasses, a sun hat, and sunscreen to stay protected from harmful UV rays.
- Layers. You’ll want to pack base layers, mid layers, and top layers to prepare for all types of weather and conditions. I like this base-layer top from Icebreaker, this mid-layer sweater from Patagonia, and this rain jacket from Columbia.
- Food. Read my Trail Food guide for tons of fun trail meal, snack, and drink ideas!
- Water bottle. This one from CamelBak is my go-to.
- Water filter. If you’re on a trail and you run out of water, you’ll be able to filter in a natural water source. Buy a water filter!
- Water. Staying hydrated is super important!
- Trekking poles. These are nice to have, especially on steep and/or rocky terrain. Black Diamond has the best trekking poles!
- Emergency blanket. You never know when you might need it. Buy an emergency blanket here.
- First aid kit. Check out my First Aid Basics for Hikers guide to find out what you should put in your first aid kit and how to recognize, prevent, and treat common hiker injuries and illnesses!
- Knife. I always carry a knife with me on the trail. Knives have multiple uses.
- Lighter. This fuel-free lighter comes in handy when I need to build a fire.
- Headlamp. These are essential for night hikes and emergencies. This Petzl headlamp is my favorite.
- GPS. Carry at least two forms of navigation. Bring a paper map, compass, and/or a pre-downloaded electronic map. Gaia GPS is my favorite app for downloading maps offline and staying on the trail.
- A fueled vehicle. Ther`e are no gas stations within 30 miles of the park.
Dead Horse Point Safety Tips
- Especially in the hot summer, it is recommended to drink 1 gallon of water per day in the desert. Water is available at the Dead Horse visitor center.
- Overlooks aren’t fenced. Watch your steps, and keep children away from the edge.
- Never throw rocks or other objects into the canyon. There are people, vehicles, and boats down there.
- Be prepared for pop-up thunderstorms. Seek immediate shelter (inside a building or vehicle) if you see lightning.
- Parts of the trails may be difficult to navigate. Cairns (small rock piles) are stacked on the slickrock to help guide you. Never dismantle, move, alter, or assemble rock piles.
- Wear sturdy shoes on the trails.
- Sun protection is crucial in the desert. Always wear sunscreen, a sun hat, and sunglasses.
- Fill up your gas tank before entering the park. The nearest gas station is more than 30 miles away in Moab.
- Bring your own food and medical supplies. Food and medical care are available 32 miles away in Moab.
6 Best Things to Do At Dead Horse Point State Park
Here are the 6 best things to do in Dead Horse Point State Park!
1. Hike the East and West Rim Trails
There are about seven miles of hiking trails that traverse the rimrock and desert plateau landscape of Dead Horse Point. These easy-to-moderate trails connect eight different overlooks, each boasting a picturesque scene of the surrounding mesa, isolated buttes, and the rivers twisting through the canyons.
East Rim Trail
- Distance: 1.5 miles one-way
- Overlooks: Visitor Center, Basin, and Dead Horse Point. (Adds about 0.5 miles to the trail distance).
West Rim Trail
- Distance: 2.5 miles one-way
- Overlooks: Meander, Shafer, and Rim. (Adds about 1 mile to the trail distance).
🥾 My recommendation: Hike the East and West Rim Trails (and all of their overlooks) in one 5.5-mile loop! To do this, park at the visitor center. Check out the overlook there then make your way along the East Rim Trail. You’ll pass the Basin Overlook (via a spur trail) and eventually reach Dead Horse Point Overlook, which sits at the end of the road with a small parking lot beside it. Continue on to the West Rim Trail (on the other side of the road) and pass the Meander, Shafer Canyon, and Rim Overlooks. (Each overlook involves a short spur off the main rim trails.) Once you complete the Rim Overlook spur, make your way back to the visitor center.
2. Take in the Views From the Epic Overlooks
There are so many epic overlooks at this state park! To access most of these, you’ll need to strap up your sturdy hiking shoes and prepare to do some easy to moderate walking.
The Colorado River Overlook can be accessed from the Visitor Center via a 1-mile roundtrip hike.
The Visitor Center Overlook can be accessed from the 1/8-mile roundtrip Nature Trail hike.
The Dead Horse Point Overlook can be accessed from the small parking lot at the end of the park road. You’ll need to walk about 200 feet one way to reach the overlook.
The Basin, Meander, Shafer Canyon, Rim, and Big Horn Overlooks can be accessed by hiking the East and West Rim trails. Each of the overlooks involves a short spur hike off the main trail.
Big Chief and Pyramid Canyon Overlooks can be accessed by the shared Intrepid Trail System. The Intrepid Trail System, comprised of three technical loops, can be either hiked or mountain biked.
3. Go Mountain Biking
Bike the technical Intrepid Trail System, 16.6 miles of mixed terrain, slick rock, and spectacular views of the canyons below.
Intrepid Trail System Specs
- Distance: 16.6 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Sections: Intrepid (0.5 miles-easy), Great Pyramid (2.2 miles, easy to moderate), Raven Roll (1.7 miles, easy), Big Chief (3.6 miles, easy to moderate), Crossroads (1.7 miles, easy to moderate), Whiptail (2.6 miles, moderate), Twisted Tree (1.5 miles, moderate to difficult), Prickly Pair (1.8 miles-moderate for Pair or 2.2 miles-difficult for Prickly).
Note: Bikes are only allowed on the Intrepid Trail System and the paved roadways. Keep off the hiking trails.
PRO TIP: Rent a bike right at the trailhead if you don’t have one of your own! 🚲
4. Watch a Sunrise or Sunset
Easily the best time to see the park is at sunrise or sunset. Not only will you have the best views, but the waves of people either won’t have arrived yet or will have already left.
The park is open at 6 AM, so early birds who want to catch the sunrise should arrive right when the gates open. You won’t want to miss the canyon walls bathed in golden light!
The park closes at 10 PM, so feel free to stay until the very last hour, witnessing the light vanish from the canyon walls, splashes of color streaked across the sky in true desert sunset fashion.
Best Sunset Spots
- Dead Horse Point Overlook
- Meander Overlook
- Shafer Canyon Overlook
Best Sunrise Spots
- Colorado River Overlook
- Dead Horse Point Overlook
- Basin Overlook
→ READ NEXT: How to Hike in the Dark for Sunrise and Sunset 🔦
Just like many places in the desert, Dead Horse Point is an International Dark Sky Park. This means that visitors can view the night sky above the canyon without the interruption of distracting lights and noisy city pollution.
Stay until the park closes to watch as the sunset painting erases and dissolves into a blanket of velvet dotted with thousands of twinkling stars.
Frequently, there are park events that allow visitors to listen to rangers talk about the night sky and constellations, and gaze through the lens of a long telescope to view dark sky objects.
6. Camp at Wingate or Kayenta
There are two small campgrounds within the state park. While the nightly price is a little steep, these are great options if you aren’t able to snag a campsite in the surrounding National Parks.
This campground is fairly new to the state park; it opened in 2018. Wingate sits atop the mesa with sweeping views of the surrounding canyons and mountains. There are 31 campsites (20 electrical sites that are suitable for RVs and 11 that are hike-in, tent-only) with fire pits and picnic tables under shade shelters. There are also four Yurts available for reservation.
This campground is nestled within a grove of junipers and offers a shaded respite from the hot desert landscape. All 21 campsites are equipped with electrical hookups and offer shade structures, picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads. You can even hike the rim trails directly from the campground!
If you only have time for one thing in Dead Horse Point State Park, watch a sunrise or sunset at Dead Horse Point Overlook.
Leave No Trace
As always, whenever you’re outdoors recreating, you must respect the landscapes, wildlife, plants, and fellow hikers by following the Leave No Trace Principles.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
What to Explore Around Dead Horse Point
As I’ve mentioned, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are close by, so I highly recommend visiting all three when you’re in Moab. Looking for other places to visit in southern Utah? Here are some of my favorites!