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Discover the legend of Dead Horse Point

By Megan C. Wallgren for The Daily Herald - | Jul 13, 2014
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A couple watches the sun set at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab. 

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Vistas from Dead Horse Point are stunning, especially during sunrise and sunset. 

Vivid reds and oranges saturate the rocky canyon walls and a vibrant green ribbon snakes the landscape far below. The height is dizzying. The view is dazzling. Dead Horse Point State Park offers one of the most spectacular views in the Moab region. The park’s main overlook sits at 6,000 feet above sea level, the Colorado River winds 2,000 feet below. On a clear day, visitors to the Point can see 80 to 100 miles across the canyon and toward the La Sal Mountains in the distance. When my family visited, wind had kicked up dust, decreasing the visibility, but this is rare at the park, which is open year-round.

The view is easily accessible on S.R 313, 18 miles off Highway 191 near Moab. The park includes a visitor’s center and interpretive museum, hiking trails, a new biking trail, and a campground. My kids enjoyed participating in the junior ranger program, hands-on activities at the museum and following a paved, self-guided nature tour starting at the visitor’s center.

According to legend, in the mid-1800s, cowboys corralled some wild mustangs onto the butte and after taking the ones they wanted, left the rest to find their way off the Point. For some reason, the horses never left and died of thirst and starvation high above the Colorado.

Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed overlooks in the region. “The views are unbelievably gorgeous,” said Park Manager Megan Blackwelder.

Because the overlook faces south, Blackwelder said you can get great pictures at sunrise or sunset.

At the overlook site, a few miles up the road from the visitor’s center, there is a shaded pavilion, picnic areas and restrooms.

The 5-mile hiking trail system provides access to several different canyon overlooks.

“They range in difficulty from easy to moderate, the moderate being ledges you have to step down,” said Blackwelder. “It’s all on the mesa top, so it’s fairly flat.”

A new mountain bike trail just opened this spring. The 9-mile trail is rated “beginner with a couple of intermediate sections where there are rock ledges and a few deep sand spots,” said Blackwelder. “The ride is really nice right now. The trail is in great shape.”

Hikers are also permitted on the new trail.

The state park is open all year, but Blackwelder says the best time to visit is in the spring or fall.

“The nicest weather is definitely April to June and September to October,” she said. “Winter is very quiet but we do get snow, and summer is very hot.”

The campground is open year-round and reservations are available March through October. There are also five first-come, first-served sites.

“We do fill up every day in the spring and fall so reservations are recommended,” Blackwelder said.

There is a day-use fee of $10 per vehicle and a camping fee of $20 per night.

Dead Horse Point

Getting there: Nine miles northwest of Moab on US 191 and then 23 miles southwest on Utah 313 to the end of the highway.

More info: www.stateparks.utah.gov


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