Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse State Park

Another area around Moab that we visited was Canyonlands National Park. We took TON’S of pictures so I tried to whittle them down a little for the blog but I’m afraid it was very hard. It’s hard to take a bad picture in areas like this.

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Canyonlands is split into three districts (The Island in the Sky, Needles and the Maze) by the Colorado and Green rivers. And because there are no bridges across the rivers you do a lot of driving to visit more than one area. For example from The Island in the Sky, Needles is just 15 miles south as the bird flies but 137 miles by road.

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The Island in the Sky is best known and probably most visited because of its 34 mile scenic route that has numerous overlooks with some great views. And it’s the easiest to get to from Moab. And the Needles is known for its hiking and has the park’s longest and most strenuous hikes. The Maze District has free admission, but can only be accessed by rough roads that most won’t want to travel. Butch Cassidy used to hide there and it remains pretty much untouched since then.

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Canyonlands is located about 68 miles from Moab so for us it was a long drive just to get there before the exploring even started so we limited our visit to two separate days. The first day we didn’t really do our homework so didn’t know just how far of a drive it was and didn’t take full advantage of a full day but did check out the visitor center and all of the overlooks plus a couple short walks. We spent about 6 hours there that day.

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One thing we sure notice about hiking in areas like this compared to similar area’s on the east coast is the lack of guardrails along the trails. It seemed if you could find drop offs like his on the east coast there were fences and guard rails keeping you from the edge. We like this much better.

The second day we spent in Canyonlands was a long one and kicked our butts. We headed out early and were able to squeeze in 4 nice hikes in Canyonlands AND visit the Dead Horse State Park.

We have been using the Old Fart Pass for all of the National Parks so I guess we could pay the $10 entry fee to get into Dead Horse LOL!!

The Legend of Dead Horse Point goes something like this:

Before the turn of the 19th century, mustang herds ran wild on the mesas near Dead Horse Point. The unique promontory 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.

Today, Dead Horse Point is a great mesa where you can look for miles into Canyonlands National Park or 2,000 feet down to the Colorado River. There are a few short hikes (walks really) around the edge of the mesa with great views into the deep canyons.

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There are a couple campgrounds closer to Canyonlands than staying in Moab that IF we ever decide to visit again and wanted to spend more time in Canyonlands we might opt to stay at. One is Dead Horse Campground but it’s pretty tight for rigs our size and the other is Horse Thief campground which we would probably stay at, it is pretty much dry camping but has nice sized sites and certainly would cut down on the drive. It would depend on weather, we don’t normally like to dry camp in hot temps.


On our way home after a long day in Canyonlands and Dead Horse I decided to check out a road we heard about that would give us a different drive home called Gemini Bridges Road. The road can be driven by pretty much any high clearance vehicle with or without 4 wheel drive. I opted to slip into 4 wheel so I could disconnect the front sway bars and get a better ride.

Along the way we took a short side trip to see the Gemini Bridges before continuing on.

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The road was bumpier than anything else and I would consider it an easy 4×4 road with some areas of soft sand and only a few very short ledges to deal with. Depending on which direction you drive the road some 2 wheel drive rigs may have a harder time in a couple spots because of slick rock on a couple accents. And if you don’t like heights there are a couple areas that will have you hugging the mountain side wall.

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It adds some time to the drive but the scenery is great and you certainly won’t have much traffic.

Once home from the long day we showered, had dinner and watched our taped version of the new Tonight Show which to be honest I didn’t think held a candle to the Steven Colbet Report Show but time will tell.

I have always said that Diane is the real hiker between the two of us but at one point during our long day she actually asked me if I had turned into a hiking machine or if I was just trying to burn her out LOL!!! I didn’t think I would ever hear her say something like that. But it was a pretty warm day and it’s hard to find shade on the trails around here, I was pretty worn ou myself but wasn’t going to let on.


That takes care of our update on Canyonlands and Dead Horse State Park. We have done a lot more in the area ad we will get caught up on that in another update.

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5 Responses to Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse State Park

  1. explorvistas says:

    Wow…that area is beautiful, Dave! We will definitely put that on our list of places to see. Thanks!

  2. says:

    Hi Guys, We are Steve and Rory and have been following your adventures for quite a while til our Rv was being built… now that she is here.. we still cant wait to see what new adventure you have conquered!!! We noticed you are in Utah doing the Big Five..we plan on doing that next May? Had a bunch of questions to ask you if yo dont mind helping us out.. first we have 2 months to play with.. leaving sarasota Florida and traveling to Arizona the southern route and then stopping off to see grand canyon and Sedona… and then on to Utah for the big parks…

    can we do that all in 2 months? how long should we stay at each park? we have 3 dachshunds, are dogs allowed? do you recommend they do NOT go on hikes with us? What time of year should we leave as to avoid tornados, boiling heat…? do we have to reserve a site in these parks? our rig Tiffin 38 footer class A? if not, what do you advise in other parks, we are not new to rving, we are newbies in taking off for 2 months to travel to see if we like the full time lifestyle!

    anything and everything u can tell us we would appreciate… we want safety first of course… worried about cliffs, giant mountain s turns? and snakes and bad insects cause of our dogs…

    we also would like advise on leaving florida,(those campsites we already know) but once we leave we only want to do 200 miles a day and do not know how to plan a route and how to find Good places and safe place to overnight..

    appreciate, once again in advance.. your followers, Steve, Rory, Jack, Bentley and Darla our doggies!!! 2015 Tiffin 36 LA

    Sent from my iPad


    • Dave & Diane says:

      Hello guys!! First off it sounds like congratulations are in order on the new RV!!
      First off I suggest you use a combination of Travelers Point and MapQuest to start mapping out a route. Here is a link to Travelers Point and I imagine you have used MapQuest.
      I think you will find that even taking the shortest route it will be a little over 2000 miles (4000 round trip). Only traveling 200 miles per day will mean 20 days of just traveling with a little touring at the end of the day. That leaves roughly 40 days to see the sights.
      So can it be done,, sure. Will you have a lot of time to have kick back days,,, nope.
      We have not visited all the parks yet so I really don’t know how long you should stay at each park but we will have spent 2 weeks in Moab and there are still things we didn’t see or do but for the most part we feel satisfied with our visit. And we plan to spend 5 days in Capital Reef, 5 days in Bryce and 7 days in Zion. If you plan to visit the North and South rim at the Grand Canyon you will use up another 7 days pretty easy. And Sedona, I don’t know, 7 days? That all adds up to 45 days right there so you will have a busy 2 months. It comes down to how extensive you want to tour the parks.
      As far as dogs, a lot of the trails in the National Parks do NOT allow dogs and that will be a case specific thing but I certainly would not plan on hiking with them a whole lot. And to be honest I wouldn’t want a dog along on most of the hikes we have done, hot days, hot rocks, sticker bushes ect.
      As far as campgrounds go I suggest if you are not already you should familiarize yourself with RV Parks Review’s website. Here is a link in case you don’t already use it. . We use it (mainly) for every move we make. You know what type of parks you like and at what price point you want and his site will help a lot. There are others to look at and if you want more info on them just ask.
      As far as roads, I would suggest “if you are not already” you join the Tiffin Forum online. There is a section that talks about roads & routes that you can search and if you don’t find anything the members are VERY helpful in answering any questions. I have asked many times and have always gotten great answers. Here is a link
      As far as boiling temps, I use this site to get an idea of what we might expect as we travel. It should help you as well. And if you look at this site you will se that June, July & August are the hottest months in Moab just an FYI.
      I may not have answered you question specifically but hopefully I have given you some tools to help in the planning process. Actually I find the planning to be very educating and a huge part of the fun, I hope you will as well.

  3. sue says:

    love that area, especiall how the river looks like the bottom dropped out and formed the canyon. Gorgeous 🙂

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