Dead Horse Point State Park

Afflicted by a geology obsession? Give it full scope at Dead Horse Point State Park near the small city of Moab.

The bones of the planet are fully exposed here: Red sandstone pinnacles and buttes, the products of ongoing erosion, stand arrayed against a sky overwhelming in its breadth. At sunset, the cliffs and mesas glow with an incarnadine light that seems to issue from within the rock, while 2,000 feet (610 meters) below, the Colorado River glimmers like quicksilver as it uncoils sinuously on its 1,400-mile (2,253 kilometer) run to the Gulf of California. The 5,200-acre (2,104 hectare) park was first exploited by local cowpokes seeking wild mustangs. At Dead Horse Point itself, a flat promontory accessible only by a narrow neck of land served as a natural corral for captured ponies.

Today, the park constitutes a requisite side-trip for anyone visiting Moab, a recreational mecca for mountain bikers, rock climbers, and desert trekkers. Camping is available, and trails wend across the landscape, affording varied perspectives at every switchback. Watch where you’re going, though; this is a place of extreme topography, and an accident, as locals say in their characteristically understated fashion, could ruin your day. Alternately, simply park at the Dead Horse Point overlook and stare in slack-jawed appreciation at a 150-million-year-old work-in-progress.

 

When to Go Summers are punishing in southern Utah, so go in spring or fall. Even then, midday temperatures can be trying. For the ultimate experience, visit at dusk or dawn, when alpenglow suffuses the cliffs and spires with fluorescent pink light.

How to Find it: From Moab, drive 9 miles (14 km) northwest on U.S. 191, then head southwest on Utah 313 for as far as you can go (about 23 miles/37 km) to reach the park entrance.

Planning Salt Lake City, UT, Phoenix, AZ, Albuguerque, NM, Denver, CO, and Las Vegas , NV, are good starting points for an itinerary that takes in the park. Moab is the nearest town to stay, and car rental is a must.