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.
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.
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.
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.