Exploring the Hoodoos, Mushrooms, and Goblins of Goblin Valley

Sunset in the Valley of Goblins, Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
Sunset in the Valley of Goblins, Goblin Valley State Park, Utah Louis Arevalo
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Located along the San Rafael Reef, south of Interstate-70, Goblin Valley is unlike any other place in the world. Bring the family and experience this amazing place by hiking, camping, mountain biking, and exploring the surrounding canyons.

Before Art Chaffin stumbled upon Goblin Valley while searching for an alternative route between Green River and Caineville in the 1920’s, only a few cattleman had known about the colorful desert cliffs that surrounded a basin of smooth sandstone boulders perched atop dwindling towers of dried mud. By the 1950’s the place had gained enough attention and traffic that protecting the area was proposed. Soon the state of Utah acquired the land and ultimately made it a park in 1964.

Night falls on Goblin Valley, Utah
Night falls on Goblin Valley, Utah Louis Arevalo

What Makes It Great

The Valley of Goblins, the park’s main attraction, is located at its heart. Here there are three established trails, which are suitable for most anyone. They lead hikers to overlooks, views of the surroundings, and deep within the maze of sandstone formations. But the best thing about the valley is that you are allowed to hike freely, off trail, to explore the hoodoos, mushrooms, or goblins on your own.

If you brought mountain bikes be sure to check out the Wild Horse Mesa Mountain Bike Trail. It’s a non-technical, non-strenuous out and back 21-miles of graded dirt road. It goes through drainages and washes and the highlight is a 360-degree view that includes Capitol Reef, Thousand Lake Mountain, Boulder Top, Factory Butte, and the Henry Mountains.

Ding and Dang Canyon, Goblin Valley, Utah
Ding and Dang Canyon, Goblin Valley, Utah Louis Arevalo

Outside the park, hidden in the sandstone dome called the San Rafael Reef, there are a couple of half-day canyon adventures to be had. Little Wild Horse Canyon is a well-known classic and is a perfect intro to canyoneering for most ages and anyone in reasonable shape. Its trailhead is located five miles west of the Goblin Valley visitor center along an improved dirt road (Little Wild Horse Road). The canyon begins the width of a one-lane road and gradually narrows to less than a couple of feet at points, leaving only a slice of open sky visible above. Pools of water may be encountered as you wind your way through the sculpted and featured sandstone ramparts and you might get wet, but for the most part water won’t be more than ankle deep. Little Wild Horse can be done as an out-and-back or as an eight-mile loop by connecting to Bell Canyon from the Behind the Reef Road.

If you are looking for more of a challenge Ding and Dang Canyons are a fun five-mile loop whose trailhead is located 1.5 miles beyond the Little Wild Horse parking area. Usually done in counterclockwise direction this hike takes you up the cliff along the rose-lined Ding slot and down Dang. There are a few technical 5th-class sections that may require a bit of short roping depending on your climbing abilities.

What You’ll Remember

Hiking off-trail and discovering your own goblins; unforgettable views of the surrounding mountains and buttes seen from the seat of your bike; peering up at only a slice of sky while on your first canyoneering adventure.

People wandering around the Valley of Goblins in Goblin Valley, Utah
People wandering around the Valley of Goblins in Goblin Valley, Utah Louis Arevalo

Who’s Going to Love It

People of all ages and abilities will enjoy the offerings of Goblin Valley. The sights can’t be beat, and the trails have a nice range of difficulty, with some of them accessible for non-hikers and others challenging for the more experienced.

GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations

GPS Coordinates: 38.573932, -110.7136506

Park Hours are daily from 6am-10pm. There is a fee of $10 for a day use pass.

Goblin Valley State Park has a campground suitable for tents and RVs and has restrooms, water, and showers. Outside the park, seven miles north, near the junction of Temple Mountain Road primitive Bureau of Land Management camping is available with pit toilets. Additional primitive camping is found west of the park along the Little Wild Horse Road.

Contact the park with more questions by calling 435-275-4584.

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