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If you are planning a family trip to the Moab area, we recommend a stop at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah. We enjoyed camping here for four days while we explored the area. Aside from the famous Dead Horse Point Overlook, this Utah State park is known for hiking, camping, stargazing and the spectacular views of the Colorado River.
It is also officially recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as a great place for stargazing.
What makes Dead Horse Point State Park a good (and family-friendly) outdoor destination?
First, it is a smallish park (compared to the national parks) that is easy to visit and take in the views from the easy hiking trails or the scenic drive. The size makes it fun to explore over a couple of days or easy to visit in just a few hours.
Yet for its small size, Dead Horse Point State Park is home to plenty of beautiful things to see, especially from its famous goose-neck mesa overlooking the Colorado River. Most of the park’s hiking and biking trails are easy for the majority of visitors, and all of the hiking trails are under five miles.
This Utah State Park is also relatively uncrowded, compared to the nearby Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.
Dead Horse Point State Park has a fascinating history, starting with its formation. This 2000-foot-high bluff overlooking the Colorado River was carved out by the river over the centuries. The mesa is essentially a peninsula, with sheer cliffs on three sides. It is connected by a narrow neck of land to the larger mesa, known as Island in the Sky (now part of the nearby Canyonlands National Park).
The mesa was used by hunters in ancient times, and by cowboys in the 19th century. Then the area became a Utah State Park in 1959.
How the Dead Horse Point got its Name
Why do they call it Dead Horse Point, anyway?
The story behind the park’s name is rather sad. During the nineteenth-century Westward expansion, cowboys used the point as a natural corral for wild horses. Because the mesa top drops off 2,000 feet to the Colorado River, only one side that is 30 yards wide, had to be blocked off. After the cowboys selected the best of the wild mustangs, they opened the corral and let the rest go free.
But, as the story goes, one time the leftover horses were not released. The horses, unable to escape, died of thirst (in sight of the Colorado River, 2000 feet below, no less).
But don’t let the sad origin of the name keep you from enjoying the park
Things to do at Dead Horse Point State Park
What is there to do at Dead Horse State Park? If you are thinking of camping at the Park or just visiting for a few hours, you will want to know the best things to do so you can plan your trip.
After spending four days camping in the park and exploring different areas bits at a time, I created this list of things to do Dead Horse State Park.
What we Loved about Dead Horse Point
We camped at Dead Horse Point State Park in an RV over Thanksgiving. We enjoyed exploring the park over 4 days and used it as a home base for exploring the Moab area, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park.
We took our time to enjoy the many things to do in Dead Horse Point State Park. Over 4 days we enjoyed hiking the trails, camping in our RV, going to the visitor center, taking a scenic drive, photographing the overlooks and participating in a full moon gathering.
Stop at the Visitor Center and Coffee Shop
A good place to begin your visit to the park is the Visitor Center, open from 9-5 daily. If you are camping, you have to check in here.
We were impressed with the visitor center. It is quite large for a park its size, and the helpful staff can provide all the information you need about the park.
The Visitor Center includes park information, a gift shop, bathrooms, and an upstairs exhibit about the park and its history. The interactive exhibits kept the kids’ attention for quite a long time. We learned of the history and geology of the park and about the potash mines in the area.
Just outside the Visitor Center is a dinosaur print that was found in the park. Don’t miss this as you walk out and back to the parking lot or towards the overlook.
Also, near the visitor center, if you get the chance, try the Pony Expresso Coffeeshop. The coffee shop is open seasonally from March to October and offers coffee, sandwiches, and snacks.
Scenic Overlook at the Visitor Center
The famous overlook is at the end of the park road, but the overlook at the visitor center is a spectacular view too.
The Visitor Center Nature Trail is paved and only a few hundred feet to the scenic overlook. You can see views of the basin to the east, the potash mines, the La Sal Mountains and Chimney Rock.
The evaporation ponds for the potash mines are bright blue as you look out over the canyon.
This trail and overlook is a good place for children because it has a railing that is back from the edge.
The Dead Horse Point Overlook
At the other end of the park is the overlook that makes the park famous. It is accessible by hiking or driving through the park to the end of the road.
From this point, the view of the Colorado River, as well as the surrounding buttes and mesas, is breathtaking.
The short trail along this overlook is paved and easy to walk. Additionally, there is a large shelter and railing a way back from the edge so it is good for families with kids.
We enjoyed following this short trail around the overlook at the end of the mesa.
I returned in the evening to get photographs of the sun setting behind the canyons. This is a very popular photo spot, as many people were set up to catch the perfect photo or some just enjoying the view.
There was even a professional engagement photoshoot at the time I was there.
Best Hiking Trails in Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point State Park has seven miles of hiking trails that go around the canyon rim and desert plateau. There are multiple overlooks, including the famous Dead Horse Point, to stop at along the way.
Note: Although all the overlook stops are at least ten feet from the edge, only the Visitor Center and Dead Horse Point Overlooks have actual railings. Parents, keep a close watch on your kids when hiking to the overlooks! I was so nervous when approaching the overlooks with my young kids.
The trails are all relatively easy trails, with only gradual elevation changes. Nonetheless, I recommend sturdy hiking shoes, as the trails are mostly uneven Slickrock. Tough hiking shoes will also prevent the kids from getting cactus in their feet.
Dogs are allowed on the trails but must be kept on a leash.
The Dead Horse Point Overlook Trail
This easy trail can hardly be called a hike but it is the most famous spot in the park. This is the one must-see point in the park that most people come for.
The main road through the park from the Visitor Center ends in a parking lot at Dead Horse Point Overlook. You can see the parks’ famous view Colorado River flowing 2,000 feet below the mesa.
The Visitor Center Nature Trail
As mentioned above this trail is paved and only a couple hundred feet along the overlook near the visitor center. The view is spectacular with the canyon walls dropping hundreds of feet below you and the white-capped La Sal Mountains in the background.
There are also trailside exhibits about the local plant life and the dinosaur print.
West Rim Hiking Trail
I recommend the West Rim Trail (or any part of it) for its superior views of multiple mountain ranges. Although it is the longest hiking trail at Dead Horse Point State Park (3.5 miles one way) you could do any part of the trail.
We hiked between the Visitor Center, campground and out to the Rim and Shafer Canyon Overlooks.
The West Rim Trail starts behind the Visitor Center, takes you to the Visitor Center Overlook then crosses the road to connect to the campground. From there the trail follows the cliffs that form the western boundary of the park. While hiking the trail you can follow short spurs out to the Meander, Shafer, and Rim overlooks.
This trail is marked with cairns and the overlooks are not fenced so stay as close or far back as you feel comfortable.
The trail ends at the famous Dead Horse Point Overlook where you can head back the same way or continue on to the East Rim Trail for a loop back to the Visit Center.
East Rim Trail
The East Rim Trail begins at the visitor center and follows the cliffs that form the mesa top in the park.
The trail is a shorter distance (2 miles one way) than the West Rim Trail The tails starts at the visitor center, heads south along the East rim. You can see the Basin Overlook, the neck of the nest and ends at the Dead Horse Point Overlook.
Again we traveled part of this path but not the entire trail. I wanted to walk over the neck to Dead Horse Point so we did this portion.
For families with older kids, I would suggest connecting the East Rim and West Rim Trails to hike the park in 6 miles.
If we had only one day in the park, I would have enjoyed this full hike. Since we stayed for a couple of days we hiked the trails in a more leisurely piecemeal way.
The Bighorn Overlook Trail
Head north from the campground out to the Bighorn overlook in 1.5 miles. The trail is moderate but enjoyable and the end is a spectacular view of the canyons.
The trail follows the rim along the canyon and even gets quite close to the edge. You will need to follow the cairns along the sandy path and across sections of slick rock.
The kids found plenty of neat rock features and desert potholes to enjoy along the hike. We even found some of the potholes filled with water.
Stargazing in the International Dark Sky
Although the Park’s regular hours from 10 am to 6 pm, there are also after dark events that take advantage of the park’s location where there is very little light pollution.
Camping is, of course, a great way to view the night skies.
In fact, the International Dark-Sky Association recommended the park as a “Dark Sky Park” in 2016. It has “spectacular, virtually unobstructed, viewing of the night sky with sweeping, 360-degree panoramas”
We happened to be camping on a full moon. We enjoyed a ranger talk about the full moon and some spectacular views of the canyon in the moonlight.
The moonlight was shining just right to light up the canyon walls at the Visitor Center Overlook.
Ranger-guided stargazing gatherings, known as Star Parties are scheduled throughout the year. See the park website for dates and details.
During these hikes, you can learn about the park’s nocturnal animals and why dark skies are critical to nocturnal animal life.
Ride on the Mountain Biking Trails
In addition to its hiking trails, Dead Horse Point State Park is home to a sixteen-mile trail system for non-motorized bikes. These trails take you through scenery that ranges from junipers and pinyons to desert and offers beautiful views of the canyon, the Colorado River, and the nearby mountains.
The biking trails are varying degrees of difficulty, ranging from family-friendly to serious bikers only. The trailheads begin near the Visitor Center and the trails connect at one point or another to form the Intrepid Trail System.
Intrepid Trail System
The park’s trails vary from “Easy to Moderate” to “Moderate to Difficult.” Use your best judgment when traveling with kids. Unlike with the hiking trails, no dogs allowed on these trails. For more information, see the website
A good place to begin your bike trip on the Intrepid Trail System is the Intrepid Trail itself. which is a mere half-mile and takes you to the Colorado River Overlook. It is a great trail for beginners.
Other Recommended Trails
Another I recommend is the Raven Roll Trail, which runs 1.7 miles and connects with the Great Pyramid and Big Chief Trails.
If you don’t have bikes with you, there are several places in Moab where you can rent bikes and even bike racks. For suggestions on where to rent, see this website
Try some Geocaching
Geocaching, which if you are not familiar with it, is outdoor treasure hunting using GPS. This is another fun activity to try at Dead Horse Point State Park.
The park is home to two official geocaching sites, both of which are located near trails (hiking off-trail is prohibited). Because there is public GPS available in the park, you will need to pinpoint the geocaches using your own device. For more information, see the website
If you are new to geocaching – Run Wild My Child has a Beginners Guide to Geocaching with Kids
Camping at Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park is home to 2 overnight campgrounds, the Wingate and Kayenta campgrounds.
If you plan on camping in or near the Park you will find our resource very helpful:
There are two campgrounds within the park, the Kayenta Campground, and the Wingate campground. Both have RV sites, tent platforms, and yurts.
We camped in our RV here and highly recommend this as an option for seeing the Moab area and the surrounding national parks. Although the nightly rate is $40, we found it to be worth the fee.
The camp’s RV-equipped sites accommodate vehicles up to 56 feet long, which is much more generous than RV accommodations in the Canyonlands or Arches National Parks
In addition, this park offers yurt (Central Asia round tent) accommodations. Staying in a yurt is an experience itself, and would be a great place to stay in in the Fall through Spring when the desert nights are cold.
Campsites are available for $40 a night and yurts are $140 a night by reservation through the website.
All campsites have lighted shelter structures, fireplace rings, picnic tables, and tent pads. The campgrounds have restrooms with running water but not showers because the water is trucked in.
Pets are welcome but must be leashed and attended.
Kayenta Campground has 21 individual campsites is located within a juniper grove.
All sites have elective hookups. The standard 3 prong outlets are handy for those tent campers who want to bring along their computer and an extension cord.
This campground has Hiking trails lead directly from the campground to the West Rim Trail, East Rim Trail, or the Visitor Center.
We stayed at the Wingate campground. This is the newer of the park’s campgrounds, open in 2018. Located atop the mesa, this campsite offers great views of the canyon and nearby mountains. Of the 31 campsites, 20 of them offer RV pads and electric. The rest are “hike-in” only giving you a little room from your camping neighbors.
The Wingate site, however, does have an RV dumping station, which was quite nice. You can use the dump station if you stay in either campground. We dumped and took advantage of the dumpsters on our way out.
Stay in a Yurt
If you want something more solid but still the feel of tent camping, the park also includes ten yurt camping sites. The yurts have heating and air conditioning, so you can be more comfortable in the summer heat and cold nights.
The Moenkopi Yurts, located near the Intrepid Trail, includes six yurts. The Wingate Yurts opened in 2018 as part of the Wingate campsite and offer four yurts.
We did not stay in one of the yurts but I walked over to take a peek inside and see the view from the deck
Yurts at both sites sleep six people each. Furnishings include bunks, a pullout futon couch, and indoor and outdoor tables. Bedding, however, is not included, so you will need to bring your own.
Yurts rent for $140 a night and are reserved in advance, and the park will issue you a key code with your email confirmation.
Other Places to Stay in Moab
If you want more amenities and a little more luxury there are plenty of places to stay in Moab from private rentals, luxury accommodations, and hotels.
We wrote about camping at the national parks as part of our series on the Moab area. You can learn more here:
Other options for places to stay near Dead Horse Point State Park:
- Private Apartments affordable for a family – we stayed here at Angel Rock
- Luxury property – Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa
- A fun ranch with activities and winery – Red Cliffs Lodge availability
- Hotel with a Pool and Water Slides – SpringHill Suites by Marriott
- Centrally located in Moab – Homewood Suites by Hilton Moab
- Budget hotel with a pool – Super 8 by Wyndham Moab
- Glamping and luxury tent – Under Canvas Moab
- Other options for hotels in Moab check Booking.com for availability
What You Need to Know to Plan Your Visit to Dead Horse Point State Park
The park is open year-round, from 6 a.m., to 10 p.m., and the visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vehicle entry fees are $20, and discounts for seniors bicycles and pedestrians. See the State Park website for details about fees.
How long should I spend at Dead Horse Point State Park?
Dead Horse Point State Park is small enough that you can take only a couple of hours to half-day to visit the park, especially if you are only interested in driving through and seeing the overlooks.
If you would like to explore more of the park with kids and camp under the stars, we recommend at least staying one day one night in the park.
The Best Time to Visit
When planning your visit, in mind that it has a northern desert climate. This means that summers can be very hot, and in winter, there is likely to be freezing temperatures and snow.
Spring and fall are the ideal times to visit, especially if you want to do a lot of hiking. However, visiting during the winter “off season” can offer uniquely beautiful views.
Getting to Dead Horse State Park will involve some driving, but there are plenty of beautiful things to see along the way. We chose to include Dead Horse State Park with a trip through the Moab area.
Distance from Moab and National Parks:
- From Moab – 35 miles and 40 minutes
- The park is off of I-70 and is 35 miles (40 minutes) from Moab. Take US-191 South from I-70. Then onto UT- 313 for drive 23 miles before you reach the park.]
- From Canyonlands National Park – 12 miles and 16 minutes from Island in the Sky Entrance
- From Arches National Park – 29 miles and 39 minutes
If you are flying to the region, the closest major airports are Grand Junction and Salt Lake City which are about 100 miles.
We drive to the area since it is only a few hours for us. We do fly through Salt Lake Airport for other family trips. I like traveling through this family-friendly airport.
Get the secrets to finding the cheapest flights for your family to anywhere – from a mom of 6
If you fly and then drive you will likely need to rent a car. A passenger car will be fine to drive through Dead Horse Point and the other national parks. If you want to have some fun off-roading you can either choose to rent a 4 wheel drive vehicle from the airport or rent a jeep in Moab for more rock crawling experience.
Final thoughts about Dead Horse Point State Park
Recommended Resources for Planning your Trip to Dead. Horse Point State Park:
- 18 Fun Things to do in Moab (10 are free)
- The Best way to see Arches National Park in 1 Day
- Tips for visiting Arches National Park with kids
- Guide to Canyonlands National Park
- Guide to Dead Horse Point State Park
- Essential Guide to RV Camping in Moab – Everything you Need to Know
Dead Horse Point State Park offers a lot for the whole family for a good price. If you go there, you will leave with many beautiful memories. If you’ve been there recently, I’d love to hear any memories you’d like to share.
Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever. We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug! We travel with kids and extended family. I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.
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NOTE*** The content on this page may contain affiliate links, I receive a percentage of the product purchased at no additional cost to you. More information on the disclosure page.