Dead Horse Point State Park: the top things to do for a perfect afternoon

Dead Horse Point State Park would be a must see attraction anywhere else in the world. In America it flies under the radar, overshadowed by the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. This is a huge bonus for those that do take the time to visit, you’ll get epic canyon views with non of the crowds you’ll find in the nearby national parks.

Characterised by its sheer cliff drops and gooseneck riverbend, it’s hard to overstate just how incredible this place is and photos rarely do it justice. However, don’t come here expecting incredible hiking trails. There are a couple, but they aren’t comparable to the ones at Arches or Canyonlands.

Here’s how to get there, what to do and why it’s worth adding a stop here to your South-West itinerary.

The rocks just below Dead Horse Point Overlook

The rocks just below Dead Horse Point Overlook

What to see in Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point is all about the awe-inspiring panoramic canyon views. There are a couple of trails which can be joined to make a loop which will get you to the best of them, as well as extensive options for mountain bikers.

If you’re just after a truly memorable picnic spot or a beautiful place to watch the sunset you’ll find it here too. The campsites looked pretty phenomenal too.

Check out the best viewpoints

The essential thing to do in Dead Horse Point is to take in at least a couple of the spectacular viewpoints, but only Dead Horse Point Overlook and the view from the Visitor Centre are accessible by car. You can get to six others by taking the East & West Rim hiking trails.

The most famous (and popular) viewpoint is the Dead Horse Point Overlook (it’s one of the best photography locations in the Southwest). This lookout is huge and the view seems to extends for miles. You can also see the iconic Colorado River snaking round the deep red rock canyon. Either side of the railed overlook area are some very steep cliff edges which present more stunning views.

The view from Dead Horse Point Overlook

We also enjoyed the Rim Overlook and Shafer Canyon Overlook on the West Rim Trail that point east towards Canyonlands National Park. Both these lookouts had huge rocky areas where you could sit and take in the outstanding views, and as they are not accessible by car we were the only ones there. A real treat and to be honest pretty hard to comprehend given how spectacular the scenery is.

The view from the lookouts on the West Rim Trail

The Basin Overlook is also pretty good and faces the La Sal Mountains and Arches National Park in the distance. However, a Potash Mine blights the landscape here and detracts from a really naturally beautiful spot.

The view from the Basin Overlook

The view from the Basin Overlook

Hike the East & West Rim Trails

Distance walked for the whole loop (inc all side trails except Big Horn): 5.7 miles (9.29 km)

Elevation: 150m

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re keen to see multiple viewpoints, the East & West Rim Trails are the way to get to them. The trails connect up several overlooks and create a loop from Dead Horse Point Overlook or the Visitors Centre. If you prefer you can pick one or the other, if you only want to do one go for the West Rim.

The trail itself isn’t all that interesting as essentially you follow the edge of the rim round. At first the views are spectacular, but after a while you realise that the trail doesn’t offer much other than different angles of those same stunning views.

It may sound complacent - those views are incredible - but the trail is just a flat gravel path which couldn’t compare to the last few days we’d spent hiking in Arches National Park.

Some of the view points are a slight detour from the path but there is never much elevation to factor in so it’s worth stopping at most of them. The only one we skipped because it is a much bigger detour was the Big Horn Overlook as it would have added an additional 2.5 miles to the walk.

Overall, it is a leisurely hike and a good way to connect the viewpoints, if we hadn’t been so spoilt by Arches and Canyonlands National Parks we would have found it much more impressive.

Read next: Winter in Zion and Bryce - is it worth it? and Grand Canyon Hikes that will show you the best of the South Rim

Catch a spectacular sunset

Our favourite thing to do in Dead Horse Point State Park was watching the sunset from the canyon edge. Dead Horse Point Overlook is a great spot to pick as the sun dips below the horizon directly in front of you and you can choose to watch it either from the railed area or a more natural lookout you reach by climbing down a few rocks.

However, if you visit in high season and find it busy, walking even just a short distance from the view point should take you to a spot you can have to yourself. Any of the viewpoints on the West Rim Trail will be great for sunset as they all point in the right direction.

Sunset from the rocks below Dead Horse Point Overlook

Essential info about Dead Horse Point State Park

Entrance Fee

Dead Horse Point is a state park so your annual National Park Pass won’t work here. The entrance fee is $20 which we felt was a little steep but we didn’t regret making the visit.

Getting to Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point is a 45 minute drive out of Moab and not too far from Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park. It is a pretty small park and there is ample parking at Dead Horse Point Overlook and the Visitor Centre.


What to pack for Dead Horse Point

You’ll want some the usual gear for hiking and a daypack to ensure you’re fully kitted out for Dead Horse Point. We always wear Merrall hiking boots as they last for years, are supportive and are the most comfortable shoes we’ve bought. Our daypack is always Osprey as they are long lasting, light and fit like a glove.

You can check out our recommendations on Amazon by clicking below.

Where to stay for Dead Horse Point - Moab

Unless you are camping at Dead Horse Point then the best place to stay is in the nearby town of Moab.

We loved Moab, not as much as our beloved Sedona but it wasn’t too far behind. It’s a small town which is surrounded by mountains and has great coffee. What’s not to love?

Hotel Downtown Moab

We stayed in the Hotel Downtown Moab and whilst it had a few issues we thought overall it was great value. The rooms are big, comfy, clean and fairly modern (something we didn’t really experience in this price bracket very often). So we loved it until the wifi didn’t work for our whole stay (although they did refund us $30 for this) and we found some of the staff to be really unfriendly. If it hadn’t been for this we would have given it a fully glowing review.

Expedition Lodge

The place I was actually going to book before it sold out was Expedition Lodge as it had fabulous reviews so you might want to check that one out too.

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Are you planning a trip to Utah? Do you know any stunning spots that we should visit on our next trip? Let us know in the comments below!

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