The next morning we woke up, and decided to go back to the diner and grab a quick breakfast so we had energy to do some hiking at Dead Horse Point State Park.
That was my breakfast.
We stopped by Arches en route to Dead Horse to see if by chance it was open because the snow/ice had miraculously melted overnight. Alas, it hadn’t, so off to Dead Horse Point State Park we went, which was about 40 or so minutes from where we were staying in Moab.
On the way to Dead Horse, I saw the sign for Canyonlands National Park since they’re basically next to each other, and I really really wanted a sign selfie, so I asked Justin if he could drive to the sign just so I could get a sign selfie. He agreed and we drove towards the park. The road hadn’t been plowed at all, and we were basically driving on a sheet of packed ice and snow, but needless to say we made it to the sign. The Canyonlands National Park sign also had a “selfie” helper in front of it, and we decided to take advantage of it.
We didn’t even try to venture into Canyonlands because the road was basically a death trap. Also nothing was open at Canyonlands, like Capitol Reef, it isn’t one of the more popular national parks, so the state didn’t pay to staff it.
Then we turned around and headed back to Dead Horse Point:
Note: All the pics in this entry were taken with my Nikon DSLR, prior to this entry, the pics were taken with my Sony A6000, I’m only noting that in case any photography enthusiasts are curious.
Dead Horse was pretty crowded. Unlike the national parks, the state parks within Utah [and probably most other states] were open because they aren’t funded by the government, they’re funded by the state. Therefore, the parking lot and roads were plowed. The visitor center was closed, but that’s only because it was New Year’s Day.
So how did Dead Horse Point get its name?
In the 1800s, wild mustang herds were common in this area. The peninsula, which was 2000 feet above the Colorado River was used as a natural corral to capture the wild horses behind a 50 foot fence at the neck of the formation. The natural corral was fenced off with branches and brush. There was no escape from this corral because it was surrounded by precipitous cliffs. Cowboys would then choose the horses they wanted and let the rest go free. However, for some reason, one time, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, which was 2,000 feet below. It’s sort of a sad story, in my opinion.
Dead Horse has a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. The state park covers 5,362 acres of high desert at an altitude of 5,900 feet. The park has several scenic overlooks, which are driveable, and a 9 mile loop hiking trail that allows access to the east and west rim trails, we hiked the east trail. There are several campgrounds for both RVs and Tents, as well as a mountain biking trail within the park.
Dead Horse was used as the final Grand Canyon scene in the 1991 movie Thelma & Louise.
Justin and I hiked the East Rim trail, which is about 2 miles one-way, but we hiked about 5 miles because we hiked down to the Basin Overlook.
It was a pretty easy hike. There was an elevation gain of 908 feet, but it was a slow climb. The trail is marked by rock cairns that sort of look like little hoodoos:
The cairns were a little bit hard to see since they’re not all the same height, and there was a decent amount of snow and ice on the trail, but the trail was heavily populated trail, and we could make out the trail just by following people’s footprints in the snow.
I fell about 4 times on this hike because my chains got caught on the little hook on my hiking boots. My knees are still recovering from my falls. Despite my falling, however, ice spikes were definitely a VIP on the hike. The snow was pretty deep. I would say there were up to 6 inches on certain parts, and spikes helped me walk through the snow/ice instead of falling through the snow/ice,which made the hike easier. On my last fall, it was right before the end of the trail, as we arrived back, and there was this family about to start the trail, and I fell hard, and after they saw me fall, they decided to drive to the overlook instead. That was probably a good idea anyways since the hike took a good 3 hours to hike, and it was around 3 when we got back, and they would’ve finished the trail in the dark.
Justin ended up carrying my camera because I kept on falling, and I was worried about falling on my camera and the lenses getting cracked.
Here are some pictures from the beginning of the hike:
We took a slight detour to the Basin Overlook, which was about .5 miles down from the main trail. The trail is a descent, so to get back, you need to ascend, but it wasn’t too bad.
The trail then continues and eventually ends at the Dead Horse Lookout Point:
After we saw the lookout, which was very similar to Horseshoe Bend, we turned around and headed back to the Visitor’s Center, where we had parked our cars.
Interesting note, in some of my pictures you can see bright blue pools of water. Those are Potash ponds. They’re manmade ponds that are used for collecting potash, which is a potassium-containing salt used in farm fertilizers. Workers pump the potash from way below the Earth’s surface into the ground level pools, where the sun evaporates the pond water and leaves the potash behind. The water is dyed electric blue so that it will absorb heat and evaporate more quickly. The entire process takes about 300 days.
We both enjoyed Dead Horse Point. It was our longest hike, and it was a nice hike. It was much better than staying at the Bed & Breakfast and doing nothing for another day.
It sucks that we didn’t get to see Canyonlands [aside from the sign] while we were in Moab, but we’ll just have to come back, after all Arches didn’t really get a fair judgment either.
The next morning we got up at the butt crack of dawn and packed our car. The stars were absolutely beautiful, and one day I’ll master astrophotograpy so I can share beautiful star pictures. We drove all the way to Amarillo, Texas, and then the next morning we drove back to our house. Both days were probably 11 hours of driving to get home.
Even despite the government shutdown, we had an amazing time on the trip. If you asked me 10 years ago, if I thought I’d ever get to see the Utah National Parks, I probably would’ve told you “no.” We did tons of hiking, saw so many beautiful and amazing things, and it was an awesome way to spend our winter vacation.
I have no idea what our next vacation is or when it will be, but I’m sure it will be just as amazing.
Thanks for following along.
Til next time.