Goblin Valley State Park Utah is home to thousands of bizarre shaped goblins.
This incredible, isolated area of sandstone pinnacles is one of the few spots in the world where you will find such a mass collection of hoodoos. Bryce Canyon National Park, four hours drive south, also shares this phenomenon.
Many visitors compare the landscape here to that of the planet Mars.
Goblin Valley Utah
We knew we needed to explore this area when we were intrigued by the Goblin Valley sign we noticed on the drive to Moab from Salt Lake City, on Highway 70.
The experience here is like no other and away from the crowds that are attracted to the other famous destinations on the Colorado Plateau, such as Capital Reef National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon National Park.
Drive along one of the world’s most scenic roads to experience Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Goblin Valley Geology
How did the mushroom-like Goblin Valley Hoodoos form?
These continuously eroding hoodoo-like formations are made from Entrada Formation weathered sandstone.
During the Jurassic period almost 170 million years ago, Goblin Valley was a muddy tidal flat for an enormous sea. The continual deposits of sediment and erosion made by waves and wind caused the red hued Entrada sandstone formations of the strange whimsical hoodoos.
Travel Scenic Byway 12 and Highway 24 through some of the most spectacular, ever-changing landscape of Utah from Moab, Canyonlands to Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
A massive collection of goblins wait to be explored in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Wild Horse Butte Goblin Valley
Towering Wild Horse Butte can be viewed as you drive into the park. The butte is composed of four different Jurassic period rock layers: Morrison Formation, Summerville Formation, Curtis Formation and Entrada Formation.
The oldest Entrada Formation is at the bottom. It is called Entrada sandstone, but is also comprised of shale and siltstone and is a reddish colour.
The next layer, the Curtis Formation, is greyish-green in colour and has a ripple-like appearance similar to a tidal wave pattern found on a sandy beach.
Moving upwards, the Summerville Formation shows distinct thin layers of various colours ranging from white to tan to chocolate brown. The layers of white are made out of gypsum.
The top layer, or cap layer as it is sometimes called, is the Morrison Formation. This formation layer is known globally for the discovery of dinosaur bones, although no finds have been documented at Wild Horse Butte.
Find out more about the geology of Goblin Valley State Park.
Travel Scenic Byway 12 and Highway 24 through some of the most spectacular, ever-changing landscape of Utah from Moab, Canyonlands to Bryce Canyon National Park. This route also allows access to Goblin Valley State Park. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Molly’s Castle Goblin Valley
Molly’s Castle displays two distinct layers of Jurrasic rock, Entrada on the bottom and the harder Curtis Formation layered on top. This structure rises about 265 feet tall from the desert floor.
Molly’s Castle in the Goblin Valley is formed from two different Jurassic rock formations. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
San Rafael Swell
Rising above the desert, the San Rafael Swell can be seen in the distance when standing at the Goblin Valley viewing area.
This ancient area formed more than 60 million years ago. Carved by the natural forces of erosion, this vast remote area boasts canyons, arches and rock towers for experienced hikers to discover.
Learn about the geology of the San Rafael Swell in Goblin Valley, Utah. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Learn about the geology and history of the San Rafael Swell in Goblin Valley, Utah. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©Learn about the history of the San Rafael Swell in Goblin Valley, Utah.
Goblin Valley Stargazing
The skies above Goblin Valley are among the darkest on earth and perfect for stargazing. Experience total blackness during the evening hours.
The nearest bright source of light is more than 10 miles/16 kms away.
On a clear night the sky will be filled with bright, shimmering stars. It is one of the few areas where you will be able to view the Milky Way.
Goblin Valley State Park was official named an International Dark Sky site in 2016.
Here is a complete list of Dark Sky Parks around the world.
Goblin Valley State Park Hiking
There are four easily accessible hiking trails and one that requires more advanced skills in the Goblin Valley.
- Three Sisters can be reached from a short 500 yard round-trip trail just off the parking lot.
- Curtis Bench offers a good perspective of the valley and its unique formations. This easy trail is 2.1 miles round-trip.
- Carmel Canyon provides a 1.5 miles loop from the parking lot through the goblins.
- Entrada Canyon is a more strenuous trail leading off the camping area and about is 1.3 miles in length.
- Goblins Lair is accessible on the east side of the valley. A backcountry permit is required. If you plan to rappel into the 90-feet sandstone cavern, which is actually a slot canyon, special equipment and a permit is needed. Half-day guided canyoning adventures can be booked in advance through a private company called Get Into the Wild. These tours run from March through November.
Goblin Valley State Park hiking trails to explore. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Be prepared and keep safe in Goblin Valley
- This is an extremely remote location. It will take a long time for medical services to reach this area.
- Do not climb the goblins. Rock surfaces are unstable.
- Temperature during the day can swell to over 100 F /38 C. In the winter months, the temperature can drop quickly at night. There is snow occasionally.
- Make sure to carry plenty of drinking water.
- Watch for flash floods in slot canyons.
- Lightning strikes and thunder can occur in the summer months. Take shelter in a car or building.
- Scorpions and rattlesnakes inhabit this area, so watch where you place your hands and feet.
- Wear layered clothing and good reliable, sturdy footwear. Wearing sandals in the desert areas may seem like a good idea, but not where there are scorpions and rattlesnakes.
- If you plan to be in the area when it is dark, be sure to have a flashlight or wear a headlamp.
- Use sunscreen.
Wildlife Viewing in Goblin Valley
Animals living in the Goblin Valley area have adapted to the extremely hot conditions of living in the desert. They only come out at night when temperatures drop.
Look for the kit fox and the pronghorn (an antelope-like mammal) in cooler, shaded spots during the morning or evening. You will also find scorpions, rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats, jackrabbits and coyotes.
Fast Facts about Goblin Valley
- Goblin Valley’s elevation is 5,000 feet.
- Large herds of desert bighorn sheep make their home in the San Rafael Swell.
- Goblin Valley became a state park of Utah in 1964.
- Miners came to the San Rafael Swell looking for uranium in the 1950s, when there was a possibility of a nuclear war.
- The brightest light is more than 10 miles/16 kilometers away.
Goblin Valley Camping
There are 25 campsites available in Goblin Valley State Park.
The park has two yurts for rent to provide comforts like a bed and air conditioning. The yurts are built in the traditional Normadic style. Bedding is not supplied.
Find out how to reserve a spot.
Additional equipment rentals are also available and can be ready when you arrive. Trailer and canvas tent packages are provided by Utah Camping Company. Their services are not offered during 2021 due to COVID-19.
Make sure to reserve a campground spot in advance at Goblin Valley State Park in the canyonlands of Utah. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
How to get to Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is located between Bryce Canyon National Park and Moab, in the incredible canyonlands of Utah. The remote valley is just off of Highway 24, one of the most scenic roads in the world. Be sure to check back to find out more about Highway 24 (coming soon).
Driving between Hanksville and Green River, turn into the state park from Temple Mountain Junction and follow the road 12 miles.
Fly into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and rent a car. The closest train or bus depot is in Green River, Utah.
We rented a car in Tuscon, Arizona and drove east to Santa Fe, New Mexico before heading west again into Colorado and then Utah.
We drove about 2,500 miles before we dropped off the vehicle at the Tucson airport.
We hope this guide to Goblin Valley State Park will save you time and be a valuable resource for your incredible journey. Please leave any comments, questions or suggestions below and remember to subscribe, so you will see the next updates. Get the latest travel tips and learn about destinations from near and far.
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