It’s called Dead Horse Point State Park and it lies in the Utah high desert, about nine mikes north and 22 miles dead west of Arches National Park, right on the eastern boundary of Canyonlands National Park.
Some think it is indeed the most beautiful state park in all of the U.S. I’m not jumping into that fray. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. But to this beholder, I can’t think of many that are more stunning.
We visited over the weekend. From Dead Horse Point, 2,000 feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River, we could see for miles. Immense vertical cliffs meet with canyons carved by ice, water and wind creating a visual masterpiece. You just stand there, mouth open, blown away by the majesty.
The unusual name of the park goes back to the cowboy days of the late 1800s.
Back then, mustang herds ran wild on the mesas of the area. The unique promontory that now is part of the park provided a natural corral into which the horses were driven by cowboys. The only escape was through a narrow, 30-yard neck of land controlled by fencing. Mustangs were then roped and broken, with the better ones being kept for personal use or sold to eastern markets. Unwanted culls of “broomtails” were left behind to find their way off the Point.
According to one legend, a band of broomtails was left corralled on the Point. The gate was supposedly left open so the horses could return to the open range. For some unknown reason, the mustangs remained on the Point. There, they died of thirst within sight of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.
We spent a day there, driving our new Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX down from Salt Lake City, where we had attended an RV show the week before. We hiked, gazed at the canyons and even took naps, trying to shake nasty colds we both caught at the RV show.
There are a few short hikes around the edge of the mesa with stunning views into the deep canyons. Dogs are welcome on the rim trail as long as they are leashed. Bo seemed as blown away by the scenery as we were.
The Intrepid Trail System offers 16.6 miles of hiking and biking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. The easiest and shortest loop is Intrepid, and Twisted Tree is the most challenging. The trails offer opportunities for visitors of all ages and abilities, and provide breathtaking views. No dogs are allowed on the longer trails.
Be careful. This is rugged wilderness. There are no guardrails and 2,000 feet is a long way to fall. Even in mid-March, with the temperature around 50, the fiercely bright sun can dehydrate you fast. So take water with you, even for a short hike. There is no cell service.
There are two campgrounds but they fill up most every night, proof that others besides us may just think this is the most beautiful state park the’ve ever seen, too.