White evaporation pools of salt are visible at right, among canyons and towers of red rock. The white-topped La Sal Mountains are visible in the background.

The Intrepid Potash evaporation pools, visible at right here, are the namesake of the bike system inside Dead Horse Point State Park. Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

I don’t want to drag a state park for failing to entertain me. Public lands are meant to do more than entertain.

I guess I’ll put it this way: If you are new to mountain biking, and you want to pay $20 for a little ride, Dead Horse Point is a good option. If you want to experience a view nearly as scenic as Delicate Arch but without the hiking, Dead Horse Point is a great pick.

If you are looking for anything other than an easy bike ride, especially if you want to forego an entrance fee, take a left before you arrive at the Dead Horse turnoff and go to Magnificent 7 or Navajo Rocks.

The irony of the Intrepid Bike System in Dead Horse is that there are much more interesting trail systems on the same mesa, and they are all free to access. But the benefit of Intrepid is that it is much more easily accessible to beginners, and Moab needs trails like that.

A bike rack at left with my bike, next to a sign that reads "Colorado River Overlook." Another sign reads "Hiking Only" on the way to the ledge.

Certain areas along the Intrepid Trail System offer bike racks for a quick hike to a ledge for appreciating the view. It’s always a joy to walk right up to a ledge around here and peer out for miles. Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

As a not-quite-expert rider with two years of riding experience in Moab and many more in North Carolina, Dead Horse is not the kind of place I am hoping to ride again. If I want an easy ride, I’ll go to the Moab Brands and do the blue and green routes.

If you primarily care about vistas, Dead Horse has a panoramic viewing area unmatched in terms of viewshed — save for some spots accessible by higher entrance fee or by four-wheeling.

If you just want a look-see over the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point Overlook is a great option in that respect. I see tons of photographers there the two times I have gone; it’s a wonderful spot for landscape photography, particularly if you bring a zoom lens.

As a long-time local and avid biker told me, the Intrepid Trail System is “meant for Disneyland visitors from Utah County.” The park is beautiful, and it’s far from the white-knuckle riding that the rest of Moab offers. If you see that as an asset, go visit Dead Horse.

Red rocks, textured with afternoon shadows and layers of varying rock groups, sit between the viewer and the Colorado River, barely visible at the bottom of a distant canyon.

This is one of those ledges I was talking about. I dropped a small piece of wood off one of these ledges and never saw nor heard it hit the ground. I think that will always impress me. Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

My mom’s a novice mountain biker; she would have fun riding the Intrepid system. However, I prefer the Grand View Point in Canyonlands, and if I took her biking, I would probably take her to the Moab Brands instead.

It costs $20 to get into Dead Horse if you drive in with any old vehicle. It costs $30 to get into Canyonlands National Park the same way. It’s a different story with the annual passes.

You can pay $100 for one year of access to Dead Horse Point, a state park 8 square miles in size; or, you can pay $55 for access to Southeast Utah’s two national parks and two national monuments, which total to over 650 square miles.

In other words, the cost of an annual pass to Dead Horse is the same as the cost of five separate visits. The cost of an annual pass to southeast Utah’s national parks is less than the cost of two visits.

Two bikers ride down a dirt singletrack trail in Dead Horse Point State Park, toward the La Sal Mountains in the background.

Dead Horse has 16.6 miles of singletrack, which is about the distance of a good-length bike ride for me. You could easily ride the entire thing in an afternoon. Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

With that in mind, I felt disenchanted by the entrance fee the whole time I was riding. I’ve heard anecdotes of visitors griping at the entrance booth once they learn about the cost of entry. I’m sure that also happens at the national parks, but it feels more apt at Dead Horse.

Of the trail itself: The network is just flat. The state has rated two of the trails between the black diamond and blue square difficulties. I would rate the whole thing green circle. Trailforks editors have granted the harder Intrepid trails with blue squares.

Dead Horse Point Overlook, which is at the end of the paved road in the park, is definitely one of the places you have to experience at least once, whatever the fee. But, you won’t get that panoramic view from the bike trails.

For all my griping about easy trails and expensive fees, at the end of the day, Dead Horse has thousands of positive reviews on Tripadvisor. It has an average rating of 4.5 out of 5. It’s very popular, and people genuinely love it.

I’m glad that people enjoy the park. It’s an area worth protecting in perpetuity. Even better: If people are willing to pay the entrance fee that keeps the place staffed, I think that’s good for everyone.

My bike stands by brush, in front of S-shaped curves in the trail.

Like any trail in Moab, even the very flat and simple trails in Dead Horse go over a few drops. For the most part, though, it’s dirt like in this photo, bumpy but zero-grade rocks, or sometimes annoyingly deep sand. Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use