Explore: Island in the Sky’s panoramic puzzles, prismatic phenomenon

Tami Thomas enjoys the view from the Dead Horse Point Overlook, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

MOAB — Two of the world’s top scenic overlooks stand conveniently located just a few miles from each other, and, when combined, become one of the most easily accessible duos that can be visited together in a day. In southeastern Utah, only 30 miles from the comforts of Moab, Dead Horse Point and the Green River Overlook provide panoramas of one of Earth’s greatest natural labyrinths: Canyonlands National Park.

These lesser-known viewpoints are musts for the life list, especially for those who want to savor tremendous beauty without overexerting their body.

Enjoying the view from the Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Tami Thomas, St. George News
Enjoying the view from the Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Tami Thomas, St. George News

The panoramas offered by Dead Horse Point and Green River Overlook encompass a region that looks like it was left unfinished during Creation. Canyons, carved by ice, water and wind, coalesce into an enormous, half-completed marvelous puzzle sprawling across the earth’s surface. These curvy pastel pieces, like mini-continents, have since sunk at irregular speeds into the core of the earth. What’s left is an incredibly deep terraced valley of melting shelves, sharp fins, precise plateaus, and impossibly narrow sandstone skyscrapers. Perched high above the sinking puzzle, the viewpoints on this daytrip are on par with the grandest in the world.

Tami Thomas enjoys the view from the Dead Horse Point Overlook, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Tami Thomas enjoys the view from the Dead Horse Point Overlook, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

Dead Horse Point, your first viewpoint, is a miniature sky island right on the edge of Canyonland’s mega-plateau: “the Island in the Sky.”

The Point is perched thousands of feet above the desert floor and accessible by car across a natural land-bridge called “the neck.” Driving off the large plateau, across the neck, onto Dead Horse Point is a headrush in itself and once across the bridge, the island’s unique topographic design offers unthinkable 360-degree views.

The Point is a stadium-sized, mushroom-shaped sky island with a short circular trail around the rim, marked with intermittent overlook areas.

If you’re not feeling up to the short hike around the rim, just walk 200 feet straight to the Dead Horse Point Overlook, and get the immediate payoff.

Snapping shots from the Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Snapping shots from the Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

Dead Horse Point is a small gem of a state park. But, once you’re done, drive out of the state park and into neighboring Canyonlands National Park for your final viewpoint.

Eleven miles up the paved road, you’ll cross the boundary into Canyonlands and, after another 10 miles, park at the Green River Overlook parking lot. Try to time your arrival just before the sunset. Walk literally 200 feet along a paved trail, and you’ll be knocked of your feet again by a view designed in the heavens.

View from the Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Tami Thomas, St. George News
View from the Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Sept. 15, 2014 | Photo by Tami Thomas, St. George News

The Green River Overlook is a long sandstone ledge which juts out into the abyss, overlooking the sinking labyrinth of lowland Canyonlands.

Pull up a sandstone slab, and enjoy a remarkable phenomenon as the sun sets; shadows and light appear to peel apart the Earth’s crust, the labyrinth opens, and the core of the world seems to pour out colors only the soul can comprehend.

Watching the sunset here is a rarely seen topographical spectacle, revealing Mother Earth’s big purple heart – wide-open, fiercely glowing for all to see.

Don’t miss this Utah daytrip – it’s one of the most sacred scenes the world has to offer.

Directions

  • Moab to Dead Horse Point Overlook, 30 minutes or 40 miles: From Moab, head north on U.S. Highway 191 for 11 miles. Turn left (west) onto Utah Highway 313. Stay on UT-313 for 14.6 miles. Turn left at the signs for Dead Horse Point onto a continuation of UT-313 for another 3.7 miles until the road reaches the park; once in the park, you have to drive roughly 3 to 4 miles until the road reaches a dead end at the Dead Horse Point parking area. Walk 200 feet to the Dead Horse Point Overlook, and explore the paved trail and various other nearby overlooks.
  • Dead Horse Point Overlook to Green River Overlook, 36 minutes or 19.4 miles: Canyonlands National Park: Travel out of Dead Horse Point State Park on SR-313 north for 3.7 miles. Turn left onto Grand View Point Road, following the signs to Canyonlands National Park and Island in the Sky district. After entering the national park, stay on Grand View Point Road for 13.1 miles. Turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road. Shortly thereafter take the first left onto Green River Overlook Road. After 1.4 miles, park in the Overlook’s parking lot. Walk 200 feet along the paved trail to the overlook.

Notes

  • For a quieter, more solitary experience, visit these overlooks during the Parks’ nonpeak times, November through February, or year-round during early morning sunrises
  • Dead Horse Point costs $10 per vehicle to enter the park
  • Canyonlands costs $10 per vehicle to enter the park

Resources

  • More info about Dead Horse Point here
  • More info about the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands here

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Email: dallred@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Desert Walker October 16, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Went to Moab a week ago – October is always our favorite month to go. This time a great walk to Delicate Arch ( though tourists were letting their children scratch designs into the rocks and had to be told off by a local) , beautiful views and a scary exciting drive down the Shafer Trail, and past Thelma and Louise point, we could look up and see the Dead Horse Point visitors overlook. Back to Moab on Potash Road – where the petroglyphs are best seen by a walk and scramble behind the overgrowth. 300 pictures and none do justice to the place. You have to be there.

  • Katlyn October 25, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    I found Grand View Point at Canyonlands Island in the Sky to be incredibly affecting. After viewing and taking pictures, I walked back to my car and had tears rolling down my face. It looked to me like what creation might have been like. A very primitive view.

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