Sunday, December 5, 2010

Intrepid Trails at Dead Horse Point

The Intrepid Trail System explores the north section of Dead Horse State Park in southeast Utah. The access to Dead Horse Point is Utah Route 313, an east turn on the way to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. The most famous views in the park are at the Dead Horse Point at the south end of the park.

The trailhead is at the north end of the Visitor Center parking lot. There is a short 15 point interpretive trail around the visitor center that provides an introduction to the desert environment that the Intrepid Trail explores. The inner loop of the trail system is the 1.1 mile Intrepid Loop and the next loop is the 4.2 mile Great Pyramid Loop. The outermost loop is the 9 mile Big Chief Loop.
The first segment has two parallel trails, one for mountain bikers and hikers, and the other closer to the rim segment for hikers only. The hikers only segment passes though a sandstone pothole area where the potholes were filled with frozen over water. These potholes are important for the wildlife that lives in the area.
About 0.5 miles along the route there is a marked Colorado River Overlook point. There is a glimpse of the entrenched Colorado River deep in the canyons, about 2000 feet below. There are also views along here of the evaporation ponds of the Potash industrial activity in the canyon bottom.

It took me about 0:40 minutes to arrive at the Great Pyramid Overlook. The cliff forming layer at Dead Horse Point is the Wingate Sandstone, and the cap rock layer is the Kayenta Sandstone. 

The staircase rocks below the cliffs are the Chinle formation. Other layers visible here are the Moenkopi and Cutler, and the Colorado River flows on the Honaker Trail Formation.

The trail junction with the Big Chief Loop is about 0.5 miles further. At the junction, a hiker can loop back to the Visitor Center or continue on the longer loop. I continued, skipping the connecting segment. I hiked on a 40 F degree early December day. There were a few patches of snow along the way but the trail was mostly dry and easy to follow. (The Big Chief Loop is continued on the next post, or use the labels.)

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