Dead Horse Point State Park

Utah > Dead Horse Point State Park

The high grassy plateau between the Green and Colorado rivers has a long history of ranching and cattle grazing, and one episode is remembered by the name given to a narrow promontory that overlooks a large area of eroded red rock cliffs and canyons on the east side. The story goes that local stockmen rounded up a group of wild horses and corralled them by building a fence across the narrowest part, leaving the herd trapped at the far side. The animals were left too long without water and all died of thirst, so the area became known as Dead Horse Point, and because of its far reaching views over the Colorado valley was declared a state park in 1959, several years before the creation of Canyonlands National Park which contains a much larger area of similar scenery to the south. Today, most visitors see only Canyonlands which at $10 offers much better value, but the state park (2014 price also $10) is still spectacular and has overlooks of tributary canyons in the northeast that are not visible from the national park.

The Park

Dead Horse Point is a small state park covering just a few square miles of land at the edge of the plateau just north of the Island in the Sky region, and is reached by a 4 mile side road off the main approach to Canyonlands, just before the national park boundary. Facilities are limited to a visitor center, picnic area and a well-equipped 21 site campground, plus several short trails. There are none down from the rim but a few miles of paths run quite close to the unfenced cliff edge and through meadows on the plateau. The entrance road passes over a narrow neck of land with a sheer drop off just a few yards away to the left and right, and ends at a parking lot close to the far end of the promontory, where 500 foot high vertical walls of Wingate sandstone fall away at all sides.


The main overlook of Dead Horse Point State Park has a 270 degree vista over the Colorado and its side canyons, from the bright turquoise tailing ponds of a potash mining complex in the northeast, along the river and south across vast areas of eroded ridges, buttes, pinnacles and cliffs with the La Sal Mountains in the far distance, then west to the near side of the Island in the Sky mesa and northwest along several branches of Shafer Canyon. Plenty of the river and its corridor of greenery is visible, 1,900 feet below, including one big gooseneck meander close to the viewpoint. A dirt track winds over the rocky desert at the base of the cliffs - this is Potash Road, which follows the Colorado river starting just north of Moab. It is paved at first, as far as the potash mining complex, then unpaved for the next 17 miles, ending with a steep ascent up the cliffs at the head of Shafer Canyon where it joins the national park drive.


The nearest town with hotels close to Dead Horse Point State Park is Moab (30 miles).
Highlights: High promontory at the edge of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands NP, overlooking several bends of the Colorado River and various tributary canyons
Nearest city with hotels: Moab, 30 miles
Management: Utah State Parks
Location: 38.470, -109.739
Seasons: All year

Dead Horse Point State - Photography

  • QTVR panorama of Dead Horse Point
  • photograph
    Canyons south of the river
    Cliffs at the end of the promontory
    Nearby places Similar places

    Arches National Park (28 miles) - many arches and other eroded sandstone formations

    Island in the Sky (7 miles) - elevated plateau between the Green and Colorado rivers
    Nearby places Similar places

    Muley Point, Utah - high plateau overlooking canyons of the San Juan River
    Dead Horse Point SP is part of the Colorado River and Grand Circle itineraries


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