Utah – Dead Horse Point SP, Delicate Arch, & Colorado National Monument

July 2020

Exploring & Rafting Arches & Cataract Canyon in Utah

Part 5 – Dead Horse Point, Arches Delicate Arch & Colorado National Monument

Dead Horse Point State Park

Since the rafting trip was ended and it was still early afternoon, we returned to the hotel to check-in and then immediately drove in the car to Dead Horse Point State Park. This park follows a narrow mesa that juts out and overlooks Canyonlands National Park with spectacular view and was recommended by the River Guides for us to visit.  At this park, the Entrance Gate was open and there was a $20 charge to enter. Dead Horse Point is a small and narrow mesa connected by a very narrow “neck” where early cowboys would drive wild horses to capture and secure them.  Apparently, one time, they left a large pen of horses trapped there, but with no way out and no water, they all died, thus giving the area its name. At the park’s “Point”, the trails follow the mesa’s edge and one can see amazing views of the Colorado Canyons.  After exploring each of the easy trails and views, clouds began to roll-in, so we began the trip back.  On the way out of the park, we noticed signs for “Yurts”!  Not knowing what “yurts” are, we followed the signs and came upon a group of wooden platforms supporting large, round, pointy “tents” that are apparently for rent from the park.  Most of them were occupied by families with off road bicycles, which the park supports with a large number of dedicated biking trails.

Dead Horse Point State Park Map

After returning to the hotel, we showered and went to the liquor store to buy a celebratory bottle of wine.  However, it turned out that today was “Pioneer Day” – a State Holiday in Utah, and the store was closed.  Then we went to dinner at our favorite eatery – The Brewery – and bought a bottle of wine with dinner from them.  That night we packed and prepared for the next day’s adventures.

Colorado River from Dead Horse Point
Cataract Canyon from Dead Horse Point
The Loop from Dead Horse Point

Arches Park’s Delicate Arch

On Saturday we awoke early and immediately drove to Arches National Park and drove to the “Wolfe Ranch” trailhead to the famous and oft-photographed “Delicate Arch”. The moderate morning weather would make the 3-mile 2.5-hour hike more enjoyable. 

Hike to Arches Delicate Arch Map

Upon arrival, there were only ~10 cars already there and the trail in front of us was vacant.  The trail starts with a few ups and downs, but soon starts a steady ascent over slick rock petrified sand dunes with the trail marked by stone cairns and an occasional “trail” sign. The final part of the trail is a small ledge that circles a rock spire before coming into view of the arch located across a steep, circular depression. The backside of the arch is a very steep drop to the mesa floor, but the few people that are there are respectful taking turns taking their pose under the “Delicate Arch”.  After taking our fill of pictures and relaxing to enjoy the view, we begin the hike back to the trailhead passing an increasing number of people making their trek to this landmark.  Upon getting back to the parking lot by ~9:30am, the number of cars now number in the 100’s and we are glad we began early before the crowds came and the temperature rose.  We return to the hotel for breakfast and showers before packing, loading up the Jeep and checking out to begin the uneventful drive back to Grand Junction.

Arches Delicate Arch
Side view of Delicate Arch
Hike Down from Delicate Arch

In Grand Junction, we check into our hotel located only 1/2 -mile from the airport and unload our gear.  This hotel is a throwback to hotels of the west from 30 years ago, but the rooms are huge and comfortable. Once we are settled, we decide to grab some lunch on the outdoor patio of a local “Buffalo Wild Wings”, which we have not visited in over a year.

The Colorado Nation Monument

After lunch, we decide to take one last scenic drive along the 26-mile Rim Rock Drive of the Colorado National Monument Park. Colorado National Monument Provides some great views of the town of Grand Junction, towering columns, and red rock canyons. The drive ascends to the top of a mesa and follows its edge along every nook and cranny.  At the end of the drive before the descent off the mesa, we stop and visit the Visitors’ Center where the Ranger tells us that we just missed seeing a group of the park’s Bighorn Sheep.

Grand Junction from Red Canyon Overlook on Colorado National Monument Rim Road
Ute Canyon from Colorado National Monument Rim Road
Artist Point from Colorado National Monument Rim Road
Independence Monument at Colorado National Monument

Our final drive is to the airport where we drop off our Jeep rental car and call the hotel for a shuttle ride back.  After showering, we enjoy drinks at the hotel’s old-time bar where a live musician is performing. Then, it is off to bed for a very early rise the next morning, and flights back to Orlando. A Great Trip.