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Dead Horse Point - East side trails
(Intrepid Trail System,
Includes Big Chief, Great Pyramid, and Intrepid Trails)

The Intrepid Trail System opened in 2009 in Dead Horse Point State Park. The trails were designed to please riders of differing skill and fitness levels, and they succeed well. This is one of the few dirt singletrack systems that I can recommend for families with younger children.

New trails opened west of the highway in 2014, expanding the riding area. See the Dead Horse Point west side trail page and the Shafer Canyon Rim video for additional riding options!

View southwest from the parking area. The La Sal Mountains are in the background. Photos and trail review June 29, 2009 by Bruce.

The trail altitude is around 6000 feet. It's usually at least 10 degrees cooler here than in Moab (1800 feet lower). Altitude change while riding is less than 100 feet. Climbing is fairly gentle over most of the trail. On the larger loop there are a couple of very short (20-30 feet) steeper climbs.

Technically the trail is easy. There are a couple of spots on the larger (Big Chief) loop that will make beginners nervous, but they're not tricky. Most of the trail can be ridden with a single-gear bike.

Visitors center. Bookstore, friendly riding directions, bathrooms.

The trail system starts at the north end of the Dead Horse Point visitor's center parking lot. After a short length of two-way trail, it forks into a loop. (At this point, the "Prickly Pair" trail forks left across the highway to the west side singletrack.) Two connectors cross the main loop to create shorter rides. The Intrepid Loop uses the first cross-link for a 1.1 mile option. This short loop has very easy trail and is good for young children and true beginners.  

Typical trail section. Rocks or branches define the riding line. The trail flows well, with constant gentle turns.

The Great Pyramid Loop (4.2 miles) shortcuts across the middle of the larger 8-mile Big Chief Loop. The Great Pyramid ride is suitable for beginners who have some experience at riding and shifting on dirt trail. 

From the first (Colorado Overlook) viewpoint, we're looking past skirts of Moenkopi mudstone to the evaporation ponds where potash is recovered from the Paradox Salt Formation.

The trail is easy to follow. The trail corridor is broad with rocks and logs defining the riding line. There are signs at every intersection.

Turning a little more to the southwest, we see a little bit of the Colorado at mid-left. We're standing on a ledge of Kayenta sandstone, as the cliffs fall away down toward the river.

There's only one bump that beginners might not be able to ride (shown in the photo). Intermediates will have no problem here -- it's smoother than it looks. You've just got to know how to get forward, find the right gear, and grind up the rock.

Toughest spot on the Great Pyramid Loop, and it's not that tough. 

The trail is well-packed; but if you bobble to the side of the trail, the dirt is very soft and your tires will dig in. Areas of loose dirt and sand in the trail have been reinforced with tiny dolomite rock (magnesium carbonate) which works very well to harden the tread without causing a "gravel road" feel. I encountered a couple of short sandy spots, but they were easy to ride.

Signs at every intersection show the way, but also show you where you are on the trail system.

The trail flows well and is a joy to ride. Riders of all ability levels will have a good time. No, there aren't any scary tricky challenges, and there are no ugly painful long climbs. Go elsewhere if you're looking to suffer. This trail is where you take your family and friends so you can addict them to mountain biking.

The Big Chief loop goes past a group picnic area, where you can use a flush toilet, wash in a real sink, or stock up on more water.

The trail stays well away from the cliffs (60 feet or more), so parents can relax while biking with kids. At two viewpoints, wooden bike-parking racks await while you hike out to the overlook.

An interesting section of trail on the Big Chief loop, as you roll around and down a rock outcrop on a broad ledge. No cliffs -- the ledge is barely a foot off the dirt.


For trail riders, there are bathrooms in the visitors center at the trailhead and at the group picnic site.

View toward the La Sals from the Big Chief Overlook, the highest point on the ride. The Kayenta underlying the trail is flat here, as we're near the center of the salt dome -- see geology!)

Dead Horse Point State Park is open year-round. The park plans to keep the bike trail open all year, but will revisit that policy if rutting and other trail damage becomes a problem. Dead Horse Point campground has developed campsites.

The trails of Dead Horse have become popular for bike tours. So the east-side trails may be crowded with newb bikers, even on a weekday.

View south along the cliffs from the Great Pyramid Overlook.

Riding notes, counter-clockwise loop:
0.0  North end of parking, N on ST. N38 29.336 W109 44.170
0.4  Trail splits, fork R. N38 29.578 W109 43.980
0.6  Keep R; L to return (Intrepid Loop). N38 29.626 W109 43.793
0.6  Colorado River Overlook on R. N38 29.622 W109 43.762
       Park bikes and walk to viewpoint
1.5  Great Pyramid Overlook on R. N38 29.990 W109 43.194
       Park bikes and walk to viewpoint
2.2  Keep R for loop; L for Great Pyramid Loop  N38 30.243 W109 42.880
       (consider out-and-back on connector to add 1.2 miles)
3.0  Rock ledges
5.2  Highest point, Big Chief Overlook. N38 31.178 W109 43.501
6.3  Pass group site (bathroom). N38 30.361 W109 43.481
6.5  Great Pyramid connector joins, keep R. N38 30.279 W109 43.407
7.2  Intrepid connector joins, keep R. N38 29.641 W109 43.797
7.5  Back at fork, keep straight
7.9  Back at parking

A typical section of trail; dirt plus some rocks that are easy to roll over, even without getting up on the pedals. Constant turns keep experts from getting bored.

While in the park, be sure to head down the road further to Dead Horse Point itself, a virtual island of rock connected to the mesa by a 30-foot passage. There are amazing views of yawning canyons in every direction.

The return side of the loop is fast and smooth, with views in all directions. The gray areas in the trail are where dolomite microaggregate has been added to harden the surface.

Getting there:  About 10 miles north of Moab, turn west off Highway 191 towards Canyonlands National Park on Highway 313. Drive 14 miles and turn left toward Dead Horse Point. Four miles later, pay your entry fee ($15 per car in 2018, significantly higher than most Utah state parks) at the gate house and drive another two miles to the visitors center. The trailhead is at the north end of the parking lot.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Multi-track file of individual trails   Big Chief Tour
    Big Outer Loop (14 miles)
High-res topo (includes west-side trails):  View 2014 topo   Classic (2009) loop system
Lodging, camping, shops:     Links to Moab area resources

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