Although the name of this state park in southeastern Utah leaves much to be desired, the scenery and campground do not. Established in 1959, Dead Horse Point State Park sits atop a large mesa with never-ending vistas of cliffs, canyons, buttes, and the La Sal Mountains. Hiking and mountain biking trails lead to even more grand views, but there are plenty of pull-offs right from the road if you’re more of a windshield tourist. Since the park stretches over 5,300 acres, stop first at the Visitor Center for a map and information.
Dead Horse Point is an actual plateau from which the park gets its name, and from which you can get fabulous photos! In fact, the view from the Point (elevation 5,900 feet) is one of the most photographed vistas in the world. In the 19th century, cowboys would drive wild horses to the end of the promontory and use it as a natural corral. The Point is a very narrow 30-yard neck of land, which the cowboys fenced so the horses couldn’t escape. After breaking in their favored horses, the cowboys would herd them north. The Mustangs, also called “broomtails” were not prized, so the cowboys would leave the gate open when they left so the horses could wander back to the wild. One day, though, a bunch of broomtails were left at the Point, but for some reason, the gate was not left open. The horses died of thirst. The Colorado River was in view, but a very long 2,000-foot drop below the plateau.
You’re not likely to see wild horses in the park today, but look for bighorn sheep, sagebrush lizards, gopher snakes, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and black-tailed rabbits. Since the park gets only about 10 inches of precipitation a year, the plants you’ll find are pinon, juniper, yucca, cactus, and other desert species. If you happen to visit during a rare rainfall, naturally occurring potholes in the sandstone temporarily fill up and support tiny life forms—look for shrimp and tadpoles. And speaking of water, be sure to fill your RV tanks before you arrive. Water is in short supply at Dead Horse Point State Park, and must be trucked in from Moab over 30 miles away.
IF YOU GO
Moab, UT 84532-0609
Park info: 435-259-2614
Campground reservations: 800-322-3770
$10 Day-Use (per vehicle with up to 8 passengers)
Directions: Nine miles northwest of Moab on US 191 and then 23 miles southwest on Utah 313 to the end of the highway.
Park Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Visitor Center Hours:
Summer (Mar 15 to Mid-Oct) – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Winter (Mid-Oct to Mar 14) – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visitor Center closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day (park remains open)
Pony Expresso Coffee Shop open March through October.
The 21-site Kayenta Campground is especially nice. Sites are $20 per night and include entry to the park. Each site has electric hookups, a covered table with enclosed shelves for storing goods, a charcoal grill (no fire pits), and a tent pad. No showers, although restrooms are modern.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com