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Ultimate Guide to Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

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Dead Horse Point State Park Sunset
Sunset at Dead Horse Point

There’s no better time to experience the mesmerizing beauty of Dead Horse Point State Park than at sunset.

With its panoramic vistas and dramatic cliffs overlooking the winding Colorado River, this Utah gem offers a captivating backdrop for an unforgettable evening.

Despite having visited Moab numerous times, it wasn’t until our 5th visit that we finally made it to Dead Horse Point State Park for a sunset we’ll never forget!

In this guide, we’ll delve into the enchanting experience of visiting Dead Horse Point State Park at sunset, from the best vantage points to capturing that perfect shot, ensuring that your twilight adventure is nothing short of extraordinary.

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Quick Guide to Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

  • Location: Moab, Utah
  • Entrance Fee: $20 per vehicle
  • Hiking Required: No
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, on a leash
  • How Long to Visit: 1-2 hours

Where is Dead Horse Point State Park?

Located just a 35-minute drive from Moab, Dead Horse Point State Park sits perched atop a lofty mesa, offering sweeping views of the Colorado River winding through the rugged canyons below.

To pinpoint its exact location, Dead Horse Point State Park lies about 32 miles northwest of Moab, accessible via State Route 313, also known as the “Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway.”

Surrounded by the iconic red rock formations of Canyonlands National Park, this park is a testament to the raw splendor of the American Southwest.

How to Get to Dead Horse Point State Park

If you’re coming from Moab, one of the closest urban hubs, hop onto US-191 South and follow it for about 30 miles. Soon, you’ll reach the junction with State Route 313. Hang a right, and brace yourself for a visually stunning drive along this scenic byway, known as the “Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway.” As you wind through the rugged terrain, keep an eye out for the iconic road sign marking the entrance to the park. From there, it’s just a short drive to the park’s entrance station, where you’ll pay the entrance fee before embarking on your adventure.

Why Go to Dead Horse Point State Park for Sunset

Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the best places in Moab to watch the sunset for good reason.

Accessible: Dead Horse Point State Park is only 35 minutes from Moab, and once you arrive, no hiking is required to see epic views.

Expansive Views: Because of the unique location of Dead Horse Point, you get canyon views to the east and the west.

Fewer Visitors: Dead Horse Point State Park sees fewer visitors than nearby Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, making it a more serene spot to enjoy the sunset.

Dead Horse Point State Park Sunset

Sunset or Sunrise?

Because you can get views to both the east and the west from Dead Horse Point, both sunset and sunrise are excellent times to visit. The views will be comparable, so if you are trying to decide whether to go at sunrise or sunset, here are some considerations:

  1. Weather: Is the forecast looking more favorable for morning or evening?
  2. Time: What fits into your schedule better?
  3. Photography Goals: Are you hoping to photograph the sun itself in the east or the west?

Where to Watch Sunset at Dead Horse Point

There are eight overlooks in Dead Horse Point State Park, but not all of them are ideal options for watching sunset.

Of the eight overlooks in Dead Horse Point State Park, we think these three are the best for watching sunset:

1. Dead Horse Point Overlook

Dead Horse Point Overlook is the best spot to watch sunset in the park in our opinion! Because you get both east and west facing views at the end of the peninsula-like mesa, you can watch capture views of both the sun itself in the west, and the glowing canyon to the east basking in the sun’s light.

2. Visitor Center Overlook

The Visitor Center has a paved and accessible overlook facing east, with dramatic views all the way to the La Sal Mountains. While this is the easiest view to access, it’s not as beautiful of a view as Dead Horse Point itself.

3. Colorado River Overlook

The third best spot to watch the sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park is the Colorado River Overlook. As the name suggests, here you can get a view of an S-curve of the Colorado River. Like the Visitor Center Overlook, the Colorado River Overlook faces east.

What about the other five overlooks?

The remaining five overlooks (Big Horn Overlook, Rim Overlook, Shafer Canyon Overlook, and Basin Overlook) all require some degree of hiking to access. We share more information on these hikes below, but unless you are up for a hike back to your car in the dark, we recommend one of the non-hiking overlooks instead.

Dead Horse Point State Park Sunset

More Things to Do at Dead Horse Point State Park

Take a hike

Explore about seven miles of easy-to-moderate hiking trails at Dead Horse Point State Park, offering access to eight scenic overlooks amidst rimrock and desert plateaus. Dogs are welcome on leashes.

If you hike at Dead Horse Point State Park at sunset, make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp with you so you can safely navigate your way back once it’s dark. You’d be amazed how quickly it becomes pitch black in the Utah desert.

Trail NameDistance (Round Trip)Difficulty
Dead Horse Point Overlook400 feetVery Easy
Visitor Center Nature Trail1/8 mileVery Easy
Colorado River Overlook1 mileEasy
Big Horn Overlook Trail3 milesModerate
East Rim Trail3-4 milesEasy
West Rim Trail5-7 milesModerate
Image Courtesy of stateparks.utah.gov

Mountain Bike

The Intrepid mountain biking trail system comprises 16.6 miles of singletrack trails over slickrock and mixed terrain. The main trailhead starts at the Visitor Center Parking Lot.

Don’t have a mountain bike? Rentals are available in the park through Bighorn Mountain Biking.

Image courtesy of stateparks.utah.gov

Practice Photography

Dead Horse Point State Park is a photographer’s paradise, especially during sunset.

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind if you hope to get the perfect shot at Dead Horse Point State Park!

  1. Arrive Early: Get to your chosen spot well before sunset to scout the area and set up your equipment, ensuring you’re ready to capture the changing light.
  2. Experiment with Settings: Adjust your camera settings as the light changes rapidly during sunset. Start with a wide aperture for optimal light intake, and be prepared to adjust shutter speed and ISO accordingly.
  3. Composition is Key: Look for interesting foreground elements to add depth to your photos. Experiment with framing and angles to capture the dramatic landscape of Dead Horse Point State Park against the colorful sky.

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Explore the Visitor Center

Time permitting, stop by the Visitor Center before sunset to check out the park’s current exhibitions. When we visited in 2023, the Moab Museum was holding an exhibit about Dead Horse Point State Park’s ranching history.

Go Camping

There are two campgrounds in Dead Horse Point State Park if you want to get even closer to nature after your sunset adventure! Some sites are also equipped with electrical hookups for RVs. You can stay in either the Wingate Campground or the Kayenta Campground.

Glamp in a Yurt

There are two places where you can stay in a yurt in Dead Horse Point State Park: the Moenkopi Yurts and the Wingate Yurts. Sleeping in a yurt is a must-do experience in the Southwest, and it’s hard to imagine a better place to do it than here.


What to Bring and Wear

  1. Layered Clothing: Temperatures can drop quickly after sunset, so bring layers to stay warm as the evening progresses.
  2. Sturdy Footwear: Comfortable shoes with good traction are essential for navigating uneven terrain, especially if you plan to explore the trails.
  3. Camera or Smartphone: Capture the breathtaking sunset with your camera or smartphone to immortalize the moment.
  4. Tripod: For steady shots and long-exposure photography, a tripod is indispensable, ensuring sharp images even in low light conditions.
  5. Water Bottle: Stay hydrated by bringing 2 liters of water in a bottle, especially if you’re hiking or spending an extended period enjoying the sunset.
  6. Snacks: Pack some snacks to enjoy while watching the sunset, whether it’s a simple energy bar or trail mix to keep you energized.
  7. Sun Protection: Don’t forget essentials like sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to shield yourself from the sun’s rays, even as it sets.
  8. Blanket: Bring a blanket that can double both as an extra layer for warmth as well as a picnic blanket that can soften your sunset viewing spot for comfier viewing!
  9. Flashlight or Headlamp: If you plan to stay until after dark, a flashlight or headlamp will come in handy for navigating back to your car safely.

Where to Stay Near Dead Horse Point State Park

If the camping or yurt glamping options mentioned under More Things To Do above aren’t for you, the best place to stay is in the town of Moab.

Here are our recommendations for where to stay in Moab:

>>Read our review from our stay at Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa

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