Discover USA: State Parks – Goblin Valley, UT

A two days trip to the mysterious “goblins”.

In my few days trip to Moab – UT, with my best friend, fur-baby companion, Mr. Gary, I decided to pay a visit to the hidden gem of Goblin Valley State Park.

Since many national parks in the USA are not so friendly with Fidos, and I have already hiked what I was initially planning for, I had to give this place a try. Also, I used the March weather in our favor, since both Gary and I hate heat…

After an hour or so of driving from where we were at, facing huge winds, I managed to pick up an intrusive “hitch-hiker” of a tumbleweed on my radiator. Luckily nothing happened and I was able to clean it out fast.

Located in Utah’s famous Castle Country, Goblin Valley State Park is one of the most otherworldly, unique, and fascinating places on our planet.

The natural elements have sculpted a magical wonderland of “goblins”, hoodoos and mushrooms out of the existing rock.  An outdoor playground offering unlimited walking, exploring, and hiking for all ages and aptitudes.

The nearby San Rafael Reef and the Henry Mountains are spectacular in themselves. Goblin Valley – and the surrounding area – is a photographer’s paradise, no matter the hour of the day.

A little nugget of history

Evidence of Native American cultures, including the Fremont, Paiute, and Ute, is common throughout the San Rafael Swell in the form of pictographs and petroglyph panels.

Goblin Valley is noted for several rock art panels, as well as the rock formations. The secluded Goblin Valley was then found by cowboys searching for cattle. Then, in the late 1920s, Arthur Chaffin, later owner/operator of the Hite Ferry, and two companions, were searching for an alternate route between Green River and Caineville. They came to a vantage point about 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Goblin Valley and were awed by what they saw – five buttes and a valley of strange, goblin-shaped rock formations surrounded by a wall of eroded cliffs. In 1949, Chaffin returned to the area he called Mushroom Valley. He spent several days exploring the mysterious valley and photographing its scores of intricately eroded rocks.

The publicity attracted visitors to the valley despite its remoteness. In 1954, it was proposed that Goblin Valley be protected from vandalism. The state of Utah later acquired the property and established Goblin Valley State Reserve. It was officially designated a state park on August 24, 1964. In 2019, the state park was expanded by adding 6,261 acres of federal land.

Fun things to do

Stargazing

Besides hiking, climbing, stargazing is my favorite thing to do and, oh, what a privilege to stare at the clear skies nowadays!

The night sky above Goblin Valley State Park is one of the darkest you’ll find anywhere on the planet, due to its location and extremely low light pollution!  This is the true and raw beauty of being in the middle of nowhere, with zero signal coverage, which gives you the opportunity to fully unplug from the everyday’s life.

Since I wasn’t lucky enough to be there on a new moon, I didn’t quite catch the full splendor of the Milky Way, but the odds were still in my favor with the fool moon shining on the beautiful goblins.

It’s hard to really appreciate what a completely clear view of the night sky looks like until you see it in person. Depending on when you visit Goblin Valley, you may be able to participate in one of the various nighttime activities led by Utah park rangers.

Hiking

There are three marked hiking trails in Goblin Valley State Park, making it easy to explore in an hour or two, five, or who knows when you have such a huge playground.

Follow these trails through the Valley of Goblins and to various viewing sites throughout the park. I know is not cool and safe to rely only on technology, but alltrails app is a lifesaver, especially if you have the pro version where it allows you to download all kinds of maps to view them offline (for when you have no coverage).

Here is the trail system that you can follow if you do not like to get “lost” and explore by yourself: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/utah/goblin-valley-state-park

Visitors are allowed to hike around freely, but extreme caution is requested to preserve the hoodoo structures that have been formed for millions of years. Damaging the “goblins” of Goblin Valley is a crime. But feel free to get as close as you want!

Camping

The best campground i have been in the US, hands down! And they have hot showers too!!!

To reserve your own spot go here.

They also have yurts, but i personally didn’t see them. There are two yurts available for year-round, and are accessible by car and are furnished with bunk beds. Each yurt can accommodate up to five guests. No blankets, pillows, cookware, plates, etc. are provided so guests must provide their own.

Canyoneering

For the more adventurous visitors, Goblin Valley offers some great canyoneering too, but I wasn’t lucky enough or didn’t know about it until I saw a bunch of kids, all geared up with their guide heading out to one of the many sloth canyons where this activity is permitted.

From this website, I found out that on the east side of the park is a cave-like slot canyon called Goblin’s Lair, which extends 70 feet through a sandstone cavern. Those with canyoneering experience can rappel into the deep crevice and then hike back out the east side. A $2 permit is required for each person rappelling into Goblin’s Lair. Print the permit and fill it out before showing it to a park ranger when entering Goblin Valley State Park.

Groups of up to 8 people are permitted to enter together. Guided rappelling and other Capitol Reef Country tours can be booked through Get In The Wild.

Mountain Biking

The Wild Horse Mesa Mountain Bike Trail system is a variety of looping trails that take mountain bikers to various scenic views within the park. The Wild Horse trails are exciting and a great way to see lesser-known parts of Goblin Valley. View a map of the Wild Horse Mountain Bike Trail system. I do not know how to bike, but I found this info useful for bike lovers all over, so enjoy!

How to get there: The GPS coordinates for all of these points are: 38.5737° N, 110.7071° W

Entrance fees:

  • To get into Goblin Valley State Park costs $15 per vehicle and $10 per vehicle for Utah senior citizens. Annual passes are also available.
  • $75 for an annual pass (available for purchase at the park)
  • $35 annual “Senior Adventure Pass”
  • The camping charge per night is $35.00, which includes the park’s entry fee. An extra vehicle may be brought in for an additional $20.00 per night.
  • Dogs and people both enjoy the park all year round. But please keep pets on leashes and pick up after them.

Weather:

Gear-up:

  • Because the overall terrain is strenuous and quite technical, I highly recommend you to use hiking boots or approach shoes.
  • BRING TONS OF WATER, I usually carry camelback or Nalgene bottles and food; IT IS A DESERT and in the warmer/summer months heatstroke is no joke (during the  hot months I wouldn’t bring any dogs with me)
  • And as a photographer, I took only my Canon EOS Mk 2 with the 16-35 mm USM IS2 f2.8 lenses

The whole day trip map is here: https://goo.gl/maps/GpWBMQbThPHgZwpL9

Photo: Diana C.
Photo edits: Diana C.
Text: Diana C.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt