A Day Visit To Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky

Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands.jpg

Plan To Visit Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky

When we planned our visit to the Utah parks, we really only had the big 5 National Parks on our radar. But we were so glad we learned more about the great state parks in Utah too. We were so glad we visited Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky on a day trip from Moab, Utah.

An Early Morning Stop

We knew it would be a busy day. So we were up and headed were out early when we explored Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.

As we drove, we continued to be amazed with rocks. Our first stop was at the Monitor and Merrimac viewpoint. These two buttes (or cliffs) towered over 600 feet and were made from Navajo sandstone deposited over 200 million years ago. They were named after two Civil War ironclad ships. The Monitor was a Union ship and the Merrimac a Confederate ship. Both ships now lie on the bottom of the ocean.

When we passed by in the morning, there were a fair number of clouds in the sky and the two mountains were in shadow. But then we watched the sunbeams start to move across our field of view. We got brief glimpses when the mountains were lit.

Monitor and Merrimac Buttes Utah.jpg

Monitor and Merrimac Buttes Utah.jpg

When we returned the same way on the trip home, both peaks were fully lit. It was yet another reminder of how different light made such a difference.

First Views At Dead Horse State Park

Most of the stops we planned in Utah were National Parks. But on our visit to Salt Lake City, we learned that some of the state parks were also great to see. The Dead Horse State Park was on our route to Canyonlands National Park. So we wanted to add these views to our day.

Once inside the park, we passed several different hiking areas. But we wanted the view from the Dead Horse Point. A vast panorama was laid out before us. Far below we saw the twisty path of the Colorado River about 2,000 feet below us. This was the first but not last time we saw this river on our travels.

Dead Horse Colorado Overlook.jpg

Dead Horse Colorado Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

On both sides of the viewpoint we saw steep rock cliffs. And out on the point was the rock that this park was named after.

Dead Horse Point - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Dead Horse Point - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Dead Horse Point.jpg

We knew there was much more to explore. But on our day visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky, we could not see it all.

Island In The Sky In Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park covered a vast area on the Colorado Plateau. It covered 337,598 acres of colourful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in three distinct districts. If we wanted to visit different areas, we would have needed hours to travel from one to another. Unless you plan to explore just Canyonlands, you need to focus on one area per visit.

On our stay in Moab, we knew we could not see it all. Island in the Sky was closest to Moab. And the easiest park to explore. The scenic drive provided easy access to the great viewpoints. So we chose to visit here on this visit.

Canyonlands Sign.jpg

The Needles was less accessible. It required more time to explore. A four-wheel drive vehicle would have been needed to reach every part. But the scenery would be worth it on a longer trip. The Maze was an even more isolated area east of the Green River. It was really for more experienced explorers. Both the Needles and the Maze could also be seen on a boat trip. That is how we would do it on a return trip to Moab.

Looking Over The Shafer Trail In Canyonlands National Park

We arrived at the first viewpoint in the Island in the Sky and excitedly looked down. When we did our research about Canyonlands National Park, we learned about the Shafer Trail. From the park we could drive off road over twisty roads that wound down into the canyon. The road ultimately came out close to Moab.

We looked down at the path into the canyon. Several jeeps moved slowly while we watched. It looked like such a fun thing to do.

Canyonlands Shafer Trail Overlook.jpg

Canyonlands Shafer Trail Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Shafer Trail Overlook.jpg

Canyonlands Shafer Trail Overlook.jpg

But we were not comfortable driving our rental SUV along the path. So we looked at options to rent an off-road jeep to explore the Shafer Trail. We ultimately decided to take an off-road jeep tour. And they easily convinced us there were much scarier routes to take than Shafer Trail.

The View Through The Mesa Arch

On our day in Arches National Park, we saw a great array of rock arches. But we were delighted when we found that the next stop in Canyonlands National Park was for Mesa Arch. On the map it looked the arch was close by. But as we moved to the path, it soon became evident that there would be some hiking to see the arch. I was just sorry I left my hiking poles in the car.

When we finally got close, we saw the arch in the distance. People climbed around and were posed in the arch.

Canyonlands Mesa Arch - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

By the time we reached the arch, we were able to get close for photos. And a great view down through the arch.

Canyonlands Mesa Arch - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Mesa Arch - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Our stop at the Mesa Arch was a treat on our day trip visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky.

Heading Far Into The Park To The Grand View Point Overlook

Our stop at the Mesa Arch took longer than we expected. So we decided to head straight to the Grand View Point Overlook at the end of the park road. We then stopped at other viewpoints on our way back.

This stop provided us with a stunning vista at 6,080 feet elevation (1,853m) out over canyons that looked like tears in the earth. The walls were sheep and sharp. Far off in the distance was the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands Grand View Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Grand View Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Grand View Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

At the next viewpoint, we saw more panoramic views. The valley was flatter at this area. And we saw the river as it wound through the plateau off in the distance.

Canyonlands Grand View Overlook.jpg

At these great viewpoints, we certainly understood why this park was called Canyonlands. These were the vistas we wanted when we planned our day to see Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky.

Buck Canyon Overlook

We almost passed on stopping at Buck Canyon Overlook. We thought the view might be the same as we got from the Grand View Point Overlook. And while similar in style, it offered more stunning views into the deep canyons carved into the plateau.

Canyonlands Buck Canyon Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Buck Canyon Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Buck Canyon Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

We tried to capture a perspective on how deep and steep the canyon walls were. David even went out to the edge of a rock shelf to shoot down.

Canyonlands Buck Canyon Overlook.jpg

Our next stop was at the Candlestick Lookout. We got a great view of the rocks standing on their out on the plains.

Canyonlands Candlesick Overlook.jpg

Canyonlands Candlesick Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

On our day trip visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky, the canyon views left us speechless with wonder. Each one just a little different than the next.

Heading For Whale Rock and Upheaval Dome

We headed back towards the Visitor Centre and took the other arm of the path into Canyonlands National Park. When we saw the massive rounded rock, we knew it was the Whale Rock.

Canyonlands Whale Rock.jpg

Canyonlands Whale Rock - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

At the end of the path we found a large parking lot for the trail head to Upheaval Dome. We could see the dome far off in the distance. But by this point in the day, we were not up to a long hike for this last view. So we left it for another visit.

Canyonlands Upheaval Dome.jpg

Canyonlands Upheaval Dome - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Seeing The Power Of Water At The Green River Overlook

As we drove back towards the visitor centre, we caught glimpses of the canyon on the other side. These brief views convinced us that we needed to stop at the Green River Overlook. And we were so glad we did.

As we approached, we saw a large butte. Far off in the distance other buttes were visible in other areas of Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands Green River Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Far below the canyon walls, we saw the Green River as it wound its way along. The Green River divides the Island in the Sky from the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park. It ultimately joins with the Colorado River about 20 miles from this point.

Canyonlands Green River Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

Canyonlands Green River Overlook - Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.jpg

The stop at the Green River Outlook gave us a different but equally interesting view of the sculpted earth of Canyonlands National Park.

An Amazing Visit To Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky

We were so glad we decided to visit some of the Utah State Parks on this tour of the Utah National Parks. State parks around Salt Lake City offered us great fall colours. The Goblins Valley State park was a fun stop on our visit to the Capitol Reef National Park. Dead Horse State Park provided a stunning vista to start our day.

The many viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park demonstrated how this park got its name. The canyons offered broad vistas. And the deep canyons looked like rips in the earth. We had a much better appreciation for Mother Nature as a sculptor after our visit.

When you visit Utah, don’t miss Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky.

Did you visit Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky? If you missed Dead Horse State Park, are you convinced to visit on a return visit?

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Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands.jpg

Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands.jpg

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40 Comments

    • Suzanne, We were so glad we added in Canyonlands and Dead Horse State Park on our Utah park trip. It was fascinating to see the variety in the formations in different areas. Linda

  1. I always find so many interesting articles about national parks in the US on your blog. This time you surprised me with the Dead Horse state park and its amazing dried scenery. Every time, I browse these picture I see myself camping in this infinite immensity. The Canyonlands Island seems like heaven on earth, I mean, really, I have never been to such a place so far. It’s absolutely amazing.

    • Iuliana, I am glad you enjoyed the introduction to Dead Horse and Canyonlands. We were glad we had both on our plans. They had such amazing vistas and interesting rock features. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda

    • Deb, I am glad you enjoyed reading about Dead Horse State Park. We have another post all about Arches. We certainly did not miss it. But this one was about Canyonlands. Linda

  2. Utah is so beautiful and filled with endless trails to explore. I didn’t make it to these parks on my road trip in that area, but i’d like to go back to spend more time in bryce/zion that area. Thanks for the review!

  3. What a breathtaking view of the canyons. The formations are really something. It kind of reminded me of Ladakh in India. The barren land literally coming to life with these beautiful formations. Love your photography.

  4. I’ve never heard of Dead Horse State Park until now! I think this one is my favorite on the post, the views are incredible! I love the sign that talks about the geology that’s visible to the visitors. I remember looking out over the Grand Canyon and wondering, “But, what IS all of that? What is it made of?!” I know – weird. But, I wondered the same thing looking at photos of Dead Horse in your post. Finally got some answers from that sign post. What a great read!

  5. I’m so sorry I didn’t come across your post earlier this year, Linda. We’ve been in Utah in January and could have visited the Dead Horse State Park, but didn’t know about it. Truth is that there are so many great places in Utah, that it’s hard to know about all of them, unless you live there. These red rock formations seem very similar to the ones in Sedona, Arizona.

  6. One of my goals once the travel ban is lifted is to visit more national parks in the US. Both Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island in the Sky are new to me, but look like spectacular places. I really like those arches in the park; it’s something iconic of many parks of this region in the US.

  7. Another great trip! I like the places you described; I was in them several times. Dead Horse State Park has a spectacular view of the bend of the river. In Canyonlands National Park, I was most delighted by the sunrise over Mesa Arch. Grand View Point Overlook is one of my favorites, too, I love this abyss. It is a great photo spot for sure.

  8. I had never heard of the Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Islands In The Sky before I read this post, but it made me plan a road trip through The U.S. and Utah right now! All the different viewpoint in park looked beautiful, so a good reason to not overlook the state parks in the U.S.

  9. I would love to take a jeep through there too! Utah is calling my name more and more, especially with COVID-19 pepping me inside for so long! Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Islands In The Sky are a definite must for me! I’m looking forward to checking out the sunrise by Mesa Arch!

  10. This post has definitely increased my curiosity to travel to the States and check out the different National Parks of USA. Posts like these are perfect to be posted at times like these, as these provide an awesome visual escape from current surroundings.

  11. I appreciate that you took the time to visit the State parks as opposed to just the National parks. It is easy to plan an itinerary around the most popular destinations, but I think you proved that it is sometimes worth taking the risk to visit some place new. The geological features in Dead Horse state park are incredible and the maze of canyons in Canyonland park are just beautiful. Utah is such a beautiful place.

  12. I have been reading about such a lot of places to visit in Utah, I need to plan well. Dead Horse State Park sounds so exciting. I want to halt at Mesa Arch too for those stunning views. Your pictures are alluring. Those deep canyons of Buck Canyon Overlook look out of h world kind of place. I hope I get to photograph them some day.

  13. I have not been to this park, and I am thankful that you shared your experience and virtually bringing us with you. The whole view is breathtaking, and makes me wonder how this place was created by nature. It is reddish and looks like a bloody mountains during sunsets.

    • Blair, I am glad you enjoyed a look into our visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands. It was amazing to me how different each of the parks looked. But all so stunning in scenery. Linda

  14. Yes, definitely keep posting! And, because people are going to travel local and this looks like an amazing place to do that. The landscape and rock formations are so incredible. Such a nice contrast of colour between the red rock and blue sky. I haven’t been and wish it was local.

    • Renee, I think that local travel will re-start before other places. So trying to show people some of the amazing places there are to visit a little more locally. I wish this was more local to me too. Linda

  15. These both look like great places to visit! I have been seeing and reading about so many national and state parks lately, I think one of my first trips when we are able to travel again will be a road trip to visit as many of them as I can. I will now have to add Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands to the list. I would love to watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch. Such amazing views!

  16. I would love to return to this area and explore it some more. The landscape is truly breathtaking. I’ve never been to Dead Horse State Park or the Canyonlands Island In The Sky, but it’s definitely on my bucket-list now. I really enjoy the scenery of the rock formations. I bet the drive alone was amazing.

    • Candy, These were definitely two great parks to explore. Moab is a great base for exploring a bunch of the Utah parks. Such variety in the scenery. Hope you get to visit. Linda

  17. I would love to go for such state parks expedition on my next trip to US. This Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky looks splendid and worth visiting too. Your decision to stop at Buck Canyon Overlook is good decision as it really offered more stunning views into the deep canyons carved into the plateau. The view of Green river outlook too is amazing as in that view it divides the land into parts.

    • Yukti, There were so many amazing spots for great view in both Goblins Valley and Capitol Reef. Always amazed at the variety you find. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda

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