Dead Horse Mesa: Scenic Byway 313
The Colorado River slices its way through Canyonlands, a swath of green against the red rock. The colors make this patch of Utah seem permanently ready for Christmas, but not in that tacky, left the lights up for a year because nobody could be bothered to climb back on the roof kind of way.
SR-313 lures you into a stone tunnel, with scudding clouds forming the ceiling. The road rises to the top of a butte, where there’s a viewpoint of the Monitor and Merrimac rock formations.
Light filters down through the clouds, making you suspect you’ve wandered into one of Rubens’ religious paintings. But it’s not just artists who would appreciate these views. Dead Horse Point State Park was discovered by Hollywood in the late 1940s. It has provided a backdrop for movies like Con-Air, and the pilot television episode of MacGyver.
We had the main overlook to ourselves, probably due to the wind, which cut through our clothes like a sword forged from an icicle. Remember that cliff in the last scene of Thelma and Louise? The one with the 2000-foot drop? Yep, this would be it.
- To reach SR-313, follow the 191 north of Moab for nine miles, then make a left. Parts of the drive pass through open range. Keep an eye out for cows and cattle guards.
- Facilities are available at the Monitor and Merrimac Viewpoint, at the Dead Horse Point State Park visitor’s center, and at the overlook.
- Entrance to Dead Horse Point State Park costs $10 per car.
- Leashed dogs are welcome in the park, except for on the Intrepid Trail.
- Wear layers as there is little protection from the wind this high up.
- The park is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. but the visitor’s center hours vary seasonally. Those seeking solitude should go in early November – just bundle up first.
What’s your favorite Utah drive?
Four paws! Look at this drive with these great views. There’s even a place for me to walk at the end.
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.