The Pro Guide to Dead Horse Point State Park

Last Updated on January 11, 2024 by foxintheforest

With sky-high views of stunning canyon systems, Dead Horse Point State Park is a true gem of the Moab area. Thanks to easy accessibility, quick hikes that deliver big views, and world-famous photography opportunities, there are plenty of things to do at Dead Horse Point State Park.

I’ve been visiting the Moab area many times a year for the last 10 years. Unlike other blogs, I’ve been to Dead Horse Point State Park countless times.

Throughout the years, my visits have changed, making me an expert in any kind of travel to this iconic desert locale. So if you’re interested in visiting Dead Horse State Park like a pro, not a tourist, then keep reading.

About this Guide to Dead Horse Point State Park

Inside this expert guide to Dead Horse Point State Park you’ll find:

  • Practical info for visiting the park including hours, pricing, and how to beat the crowds at Dead Horse Point State Park
  • A look at what you can do with the time you have for your visit
  • The top hikes at Dead Horse Point State Park
  • A mega-list of the things to do at Dead Horse Point
  • Things to do nearby
  • Additional expert resources to plan an unforgettable visit to Moab, Utah.
Dead horse point state park views looking down into a red rock canyon system.

Where is Dead Horse Point State Park?

You’ll find Dead Horse Point State Park along BLM Road 313, at a signed junction along Grand View Point Road. The turnoff is before the Island in the Sky entrance to Canyonlands National Park, about a 40-minute drive from Moab, Utah.

There are a few optional creative ways to get to Dead Horse Point, all of which require a 4WD, high-clearance vehicle.

Gemini Bridges Road is one such option and provides beautiful views as you climb up the mesa to the park.

Pro Tip: As of 2023, there is an initiative going around to close the Gemini Bridges area, so be sure to check up on the status of this initiative in order to avoid any disappointment.

Another road – Long Canyon, practically drops you at the entrance of the park and is one of the most scenic drives in Moab.

Map that uses a blue line to show how to get from Moab to dead Horse Point State Park.

The Best Time to Visit Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse State Park is most popular during the day and sunset. Personally, I enjoy visiting at any time of day, but if you want great photos, sunrise and sunset are where it’s at.

Fall, winter, and spring are great times to visit. Summers are sweltering and crowded, so I typically advise people to avoid the Moab area altogether this time of year.

Winters are very cold (often windy and below freezing) but seeing the red canyons dusted in snow is something out of a fairy tale.

Fall is typically less windy and a little drier than the spring months, making it the optimal time to visit Dead Horse Point State Park.

Avoiding the Crowds

Due to how accessible and easy it is to visit this park, Dead Horse Point State Park does get quite crowded. Okay, so it’s not as intense as nearby Arches National Park, but it’s up there.

In order to avoid the crowds, visit during the week, in the early morning or later in the evening, or during the winter. These are the least crowded times to see Dead Horse Point.

Practical Info for Your Visit

There are a few important things to know before you visit Dead Horse Point State Park. First, unlike nearby Island in the Sky and Arches, Dead Horse Point keeps hours – meaning it does close every night unless you’re camping in the park.

Second, if you have an annual national park pass, it’s no good here. Since Dead Horse Point is a Utah state park, you’ll need to pay a fee to enter unless you have a Utah State Parks Pass.

Here’s a look at some helpful info:

  • Park Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily year-round
  • Visitor Center Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
  • Cell Service: Spotty at best, do not expect cell service. No WiFi
  • Dog-Friendly?: Yes, on leash. Pick up after your pet
  • Fee: $20 per vehicle, $10 for bike-in
  • Red Tape: No drones allowed at any time
A woman standing at the edge of a red cliff overlooking a desert canyon on a sunny day at dead horse point state park.

How Long Does it Take to Visit Dead Horse Point State Park?

You’ll need a couple of hours to up to a half day to see Dead Horse Point State Park. You can see the highlights (namely viewpoints along a leisurely trail) in just an hour or so. If you want to mountain bike or have a picnic you may want to plan for a little longer.

Pro Tip: It’s really easy to hit both Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point State Park in the same day. You’ll miss a few things in the Canyonlands District. However, a lot of Moab Jeep tours will cover both parks in one day.

Can You Drive Dead Horse Point State Park?

Yes and no. There’s a long road to enter the park, which feel a bit like a drive as you make your way down the mesa. However, most of the sightseeing will be done on foot. Don’t worry, there’s a few accessible areas, including the actual Dead Horse Point, and all of the hiking is very easy and mostly flat, making it an easy spot to explore.

Visiting Dead Horse Point State Park with Kids

Dead Horse Point State Park is an excellent outing for kiddos. Although we had to botch our plans to take our toddler her earlier in the year (thanks to illnesses), we wouldn’t hesitate to bring her.

The easy access, quick rewarding views, and fun rock to climb around make for plenty of entertainment. Kids who are prone to wandering off and toddlers should have a close eye on them though, there are very few guardrails and plenty of steep drops in the park!

Dog-Friendly Activities at Dead Horse Point

We used to take our beloved Nina here all the time back when she was around. This is a great park for dogs when compared to other places to see in Moab. Unlike both Canyonlands and Arches, dogs are allowed on hiking trails – making Dead Horse Point a pup-friendly place!

The Best Hikes at Dead Horse Point State Park

A few of the top hikes near Moab can be found in Dead Horse Point State Park. What I love about hiking here is it’s flat, easy to follow (by desert standards) and all hikes lead to super-cool views!

Pro Tip: Most people spend their time near the Dead Horse Point Overlook and around, so the further away you get, the fewer crowds.

Rim Loop Trail

This is the longest hike on the list, but it stops at several overlooks along the way. You’ll get the most complete view of the park along this looped trail.

This route combines many trails on this list for a complete loop of the viewpoints in the park.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for bikes the further you are from Dead Horse Point since the trail is mixed-use.

You can start this trail from either the main parking area at Dead Horse Point (just head in any direction along the trail and follow signs) or at the Visitor Center.

Mileage: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1, 172 feet
Difficulty: easy to moderate (moderate compared to other hikes on this list)
Average time: 4 hours
Highlights: You’ll hit every overlook in the park. If you want to cut down on mileage, you can skip Bighorn Overlook as it’s nearly a 3-mile detour.

Big Horn Overlook

This 3-mile out-and-back trail starts at the visitor center (or campground) and heads out to Big Horn Overlook. From here you’ll get some really nice canyon views without as many people as you’ll find near the Dead Horse Point Overlook.

Mileage: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 229 feet
Difficulty: easy
Average time: 1.5 hours
Highlights: You’ll hit every overlook in the park. If you want to cut down on mileage, you can skip Bighorn Overlook as it’s nearly a 3-mile detour.

Great Pyramids Loop Trail

This short hike takes you to the Pyramid Canyon Overlook. It’s another quieter region of the park and makes for a great hike if you’re staying at the Moenkopi Yurts.

Pro Tip: Most people mountain bike this trail, so keep an eye out or avoid this one if you don’t like hiking with a ton of bikes.

Mileage: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 309 feet
Difficulty: easy
Average time: 2 hours
Highlights: Great for mountain bikers

A Utah juniper in Dead Horse Point State Park. Utah, United States.

Meander Overlook

You can reach the Meander Overlook on a 2-mile hike along the West Rim Trail starting at the Dead Horse Point parking area. This is a quick and easy hike that can be combined with a few other overlooks in the area.

Mileage: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 75 feet
Difficulty: Very easy
Average time: 30 minutes
Highlights: A quick hike with big rewards and plenty of canyon rim views along the way.

Rim Overlook

Continuing up and north from the Meander Overlook, you’ll reach the Rim Overlook about one mile further. You’ll get a bit more of a down-canyon view from here.

You can also reach this point from the visitor center or Kayenta Campground.

Pro Tip: Continuing north on the trail takes you to the Big Horn Overlook if you want to continue onwards.

Mileage: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Difficulty: easy
Average time: 2 hours
Highlights: A down-canyon view with even more drool-worthy scenery.

East and West Rim Trails

These trails connect Dead Horse Point (the terminus of the road) to many of the overlooks. The trails wind their way mostly along the canyon rim, detouring to various overlooks. Each one is roughly 2 miles one-way and there is a connector trail near the visitor’s center that passes by the campground to connect in a loop.

The West Rim has more overlooks, but the East Rim Trail hugs closer to the canyon’s edge.

If you’re short on time, I recommend seeing whichever rim side has more sun (meaning the sun is mostly behind you). You’ll get better photographs and views this way.

A top down view of a read rock canyon on a partly cloudy day at dead horse point state park.

Other Things to Do At Deadhorse Point State Park

There’s more than meets the eye at Dead Horse Point State Park. Although it’s small as far as parks go, there’s quite a bit to see – including a few really unique experiences.

Visit Dead Horse Point Overlook

So technically you’ll visit this spot if you take on any of the East Rim, West Rim or Loop trails, since you can use this as your starting point.

However, this isn’t a hike. It’s a walk. This area is mostly paved, covered, and has a guardrail. It’s the end point of the park and you’ll catch plenty of sweet views here.

It’s also the most popular spot, so don’t expect solitude.

It’s easy to take a quick walk to see either the East Rim, West Rim, or both from this point.

Dead Horse Point at Sunrise showing the Colorado River

Catch a Sunrise or Sunset

Honestly, I think Dead Horse Point State Park offers up some stunning opportunities for sunrises and sunsets. A sunrise here has always been my personal favorite.

You’ve got two options, thanks to the orientation of the point itself.

If you want to see the sun come and go, then choose the side where it’ll appear. If you’re more interested in watching the cliffside light up, then choose the opposite side of the point for better lighting.

Photographers love this place because it’s easy to navigate and the possibilities are endless! Simply drive out to Dead Horse Point and find a spot that tickles your fancy!

Have a Picnic

There is a covered picnic area at Dead Horse Point that makes for an excellent way to wrap up a hike or have a meal with a view.

Just keep in mind it does get windy here, you’re on the rim of a canyon after all, so please pick up your trash. Also, hungry critters here are bold – do not feed the wildlife! It’s not a part of their natural diet and feeding them is harmful.

See the Stars

Stargazing is one of the absolute best things to do in the desert and Dead Horse Point State Park makes it easy!

Plan your trip during a new moon for optimal views of the stunning Milky Way. Or if you want to see an epic moonlit canyon, plan your trip during a fall harvest moon!

Pack several layers (the desert temps drop dramatically at night), a thermos of your favorite beverage, allllll of the camera gear, and watch as the stars come out. There are plenty of awesome photography options along the rim for star gazing, just be sure to pack a headlamp and be aware of the cliff’s edge!

Yurt Stays

There are two pods of yurts at Dead Horse Point State Park – Wingate Yurts and Moenkopi Yurts. A yurt stay in the desert is an exceptionally unique experience.

Plan on bringing all of your essentials – sleeping bag or bedding and food for this fabulous stay. Dead Horse Point State Park Yurts come with a propane grill, utensils, and drinking water. They even have heating and cooling.

Pets are allowed at a few of the Moenkopi Yurts only and a two-night minimum stay is required ($150 per night).

Pro Tip: Reservations fill up FAST for these, so be sure to reserve in advance!

Mountain Biking Dead Horse Point State Park

If you’re looking to break into the Moab mountain biking scene (which is world-famous by the way) then Dead Horse Point State Park offers a plethora of introductory terrain. The trails here are geared towards the beginner and offer up a chance to experience the desert landscape in a unique way.

You can rent your own bikes in town, or opt to rent them at the park in partnership with Bighorn Mountain Biking.

Dead Horse Point State Park Photos

If you’re into photography then Dead Horse Point State Park offers up ample opportunity to get epic shots of beautiful canyons. I’ve done lots of photography here over the years, and the scenes never really get old.

I’d advise bringing a variety of lenses, wide-angle to zoom (my 28-75mm has served me well) to capture different aspects of the canyon.

Sunrise, sunset, and a new moon provide the best times for photography. Winter is a personal favorite of mine, since the Green River down below does get these really cool chunks of ice floating in it.

Dead Horse Point state park photo taken to showcase a teal river with ice flows and a red rock caynon dusted in snow.

Camping at Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park has 2 campgrounds – Wingate and Kayenta. Just like the yurts, spots fill up fast, so plan ahead.

All sites have RV electrical hookups and can accommodate 8 people per site. ADA sites are available and it costs $50 per night to camp. The campground closes from December 1 through mid-February.

Modern bathroom facilities are available, but water is scarce here, so there are no showers.

How Did Dead Horse State Park Get its Name?

According to stories in the 19th century, cowboys used the prominent point as a natural corral, since it’s protected by a cliff on three sides. Horses, unfortunately often died of exposure in this desolate place.

Where to Stay Nearby

Not wanting to stay in Dead Horse Point State Park? Don’t worry, there are several cool places to stay in nearby Moab.

A few of my favorites include:

  • The Gonzo Inn
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott (great for kiddos, lots of pools)
  • Apartment rental in Spanish Valley

Pro Tip: If you want more affordable AirBnB or VRBO options, check out Spanish Valley, about 10 minutes south of Moab.

Nearby Activities

Looking for things to do nearby? There are plenty of amazing activities in the area, including Canyonlands National Park. The Island in the Sky District entrance is quite close to Dead Horse Point, so be sure to check that out. Activities include:

  • Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park
  • The Grand View Point at Canyonlands National Park
  • White Rim Road 4×4 scenic drive (overnight or day permit required) in Canyonlands National Park
  • Long Canyon (4×4 scenic drive)

Additional Pro-Level Advice for Visiting Moab

Looking to visit Moab like a pro, not a tourist? Then check out these amazing resources:

Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.