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If you’re visiting Moab, Utah, then you may have come across mentions of Dead Horse Point State Park. This little park is located just up the road from the popular Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, but it isn’t nearly as famous, or crowded. Trust me when I say, Dead Horse Point State Park is a serious gem that should not be missed. It is definitely one of the best of the Utah state parks, and a top spot on our recent campervan road trip. This guide will cover everything you need to know about planning your visit.
Exploring Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah
You might be wondering how the park got its interesting name. According to one popular legend, the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys would round up the horses, and herd them across the thin strip of land and onto the point, with no escape. One time, for some unknown reason, the horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst, giving it the name Dead Horse Point.
How much does it cost?
It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park, and your ticket will be valid for 2 consecutive days. If you are arriving on foot or bicycle, it is $4 per person. There are discounts available for Utah seniors as well.
Parking at Dead Horse Point State Park?
There are a number of complimentary parking spots available at the Visitor Center, as well as at the Dead Horse Point Overlook. However, note that the park closes at 10:00PM so no overnight parking is allowed, unless you are parked at your own campground.
Where is Dead Horse Point State Park located?
Dead Horse State Park is located just 32 miles from the city of Moab. It can be reached from Arches in 35-40 minutes, and from Canyonlands in as little as 15-20 minutes.
The park is open daily from 6:00AM to 10:00 PM, unless you are camping within the park. There is also a glamping option available at one of the Moenkopi yurts.
Camping in Dead Horse Park
There are two campgrounds inside of Dead Horse State Park that you can stay at: Kayenta Campground and Wingate Campground. They are both relatively small, with 21 and 31 campsites respectively. While both have access to running water and bathrooms, they have a mix of car camping and walk-in spots. The majority of these spots can be reserved ahead of time, and I definitely recommend that you do that as far in advance as possible. Campsites range from $35-50 depending on the season and type of camp site.
One thing that is really awesome about Dead Horse State Park is that much of the park can be accessed by car, including the famous Dead Horse Point Overlook that is just a 1 mile drive from the visitor center. This makes the park super accessible to individuals of all ages and fitness levels. That said, I definitely recommend completing the entire rim trail. We parked our car at the visitor center and completed the East Rim trail to Dead Horse Point Overlook, and then returned back to our van via the West Rim trail. You can complete both the east and west rim trails in just over 5 miles. It is a relatively flat trail so it is not particularly difficult. However, there is little to no protection from the sun so make sure to pack plenty of water and wear a hat and sunscreen.
Dead Horse Point Overlook
If there is only one thing that you do in the park, let it be a visit to the Dead Horse Point Overlook. This overlook is one of the most photographed spots in Utah. It is beautiful at any hour, and always worth a visit, however the colors are best at sunset. You can either access this point by driving down the main scenic road of the park, or by hiking either the East Rim Trail or West Rim Trail.
Hiking in Dead Horse State Park
Dead Horse State Park offers some incredible hiking opportunities. There are approximately 7 miles worth of trails to discover, covering 8 different overlooks. I recommend parking at the Visitor Center to start your hike. All of the hikes are relatively flat with minimal elevation gain. You can hike along a paved path directly from the Visitor Center to Dead Horse Point Overlook, or you can hike along either the East Rim Trail or West Rim Trail.
If you have the time, I recommend doing a 4 mile loop of both the East and West Rim trails. You can start at the Visitor Center and do the loop in either direction. We started in the late afternoon, and passed only a few other hikers. It was a nice break from the crowds at Arches and Canyonlands.
East Rim Trail
The East Rim Trail is the shorter of the two rim trails at 1.5 miles. This is a nice, easy alternative to walking the paved road directly to the overlook. The path is relatively flat but there are incredible views along the ridge. There are a few additional overlooks as you make your way to Dead Horse Point overlook if you’re interested in extending your hike. The trail is easy to follow, and appropriate for all fitness levels.
West Rim Trail
The West Rim Trail is a bit longer than the East Rim Trail, at 2.5 miles each direction, but the views are equally as beautiful. This trail is less popular than the East Rim Trail. We didn’t see any other hikers along the route. The trail isn’t too hard to follow, just make sure to keep an eye out for the cairns. We ventured out to the Rim Overlook on our way back to Visitor Center, which added an additional 0.5 miles to the hike.
Getting to Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park is easily accessible from a number of major cities in Utah and Colorado. It is often combined with visits to the more famous Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park just up the road. Here are driving distances from some of the nearby cities:
- Salt Lake City: 4 hours
- Denver: 5.5 hours
- Telluride: 3.5 hours
- Grand Junction: 2 hours
Planning a US road trip, here are some other articles to check out:
- Tips for Planning a Campervan Road Trip
- Best Hikes in Sedona, Arizona
- Grand Teton Hiking Trails
- Ultimate Grand Teton Itinerary
- Schwabacher Landing: What you Need to Know