If you visited the hoodoos – the red pinnacles that look like massive natural towers- in Bryce Canyon and were captivated by its unprecedented and surreal landscape, why not consider visiting Goblin Valley, one of Utah’s little-known nature parks, a stone’s throw away from Canyonlands and Capitol Reef?
It is, you could say, a “younger brother” of Bryce Canyon, discovered in 1920 by some cowboys who were looking for an alternative route between Caineville and Green River. The latter is still serves as a reference point for visitors today, as we will see.
Almost thirty years later, one of the cowboys, Arthur Chaffin, returned to visit Goblin Valley, to explore the area in search of the most fascinating hoodoos in this area. Because of the fungiform shape of these rocks, Chaffin initially called this area “Mushroom Valley”. In 1964, after some acts of vandalism towards the rock goblins, the state of Utah acquired the park and put it under government protection.
All that is left to do now is to answer the most frequently asked questions. How to visit Goblin Valley? What to do? How do you get there? What are the most important things to take into account? Let’s answer these questions one by one.
- Directions to Goblin Valley
- Goblin Valley Hiking Trails
- Goblin Valley: Information and a Fun Fact
- Where to Stay near Goblin Valley
Directions to Goblin Valley
The main landmark for those who want to visit Goblin Valley is the town of Green River, located 50 miles north of the park entrance. From here, you must continue on I-70 westward for about 6 miles, then turn on UT-24 (Scenic Byway 24) and drive south for 15 miles. Turn onto Temple Mt Road and then onto Goblin Valley Road.
If you’re coming from the south, you’ll find Goblin Valley 30 miles north of Hanksville: also in this case, along a truly surreal stretch of the beautiful Scenic Byway 24. This route could be interesting for those coming from Capitol Reef, which is 109 miles away, since it could be a chance to see two landscapes that are very close but completely different.
Goblin Valley Hiking Trails
What will you find in this mysterious and underrated corner of Utah? First of all, it is good to know that it is in the desert, which means that there are very high temperatures in summer, variable weather in autumn and spring, and cold temperatures and occasional snowfall in winter.
This is not a “normal” desert, because, scattered throughout the park, you will find myriads of examples of “Entrada sandstone” rocks, that are either red and stumpy, goblin-shaped or massive and awe-inspiring natural monuments, such as Molly’s Castle (which is visible from a considerable distance) and the Three Sisters (the latter is closer to the road leading to the valley), which bear witness to a very ancient and creative geological history.
In order to best observe these bizarre rock formations, you can follow several itineraries on foot. Here is more information about these itineraries:
What to Do in Goblin Valley if you Have a Little Time?
The fastest and most direct way to discover the geology of the park is to go to the actual valley and walk around among the goblins and balanced rocks.
As you can see in the map of this useful brochure, the valley is divided into 3 zones: Valley 1, Valley 2 and Valley 3. If you park your car here, all you need to do is to walk down from the parking lot and you will find yourself directly in Valley 1, which already contains an infinite number of rock formations to discover. The kids will be entertained simply by exploring. And adults will be too…
If you want to reach the other 2 areas, you will have to keep walking south of the observation point, taking into account that this increases the travel time and that there are no marked trails, but only one big labyrinth of goblins that are thick and tall. Valley 2 can also be reached via the trail called The Goblin’s Lair, which requires a permit. The trail is extremely complicated, especially in the final part, where you must descend into a cave/canyon.
Entrada Canyon Trail
- Length: 1.8 miles
- Difficulty: Easy
This itinerary is perhaps the easiest alternative to visit the goblins. It will take you from the campsite (located just below the imposing Wild Horse Butte) to the goblins along a fascinating trail through the meanders of the canyon, in search of the most unusual rocks that may appear behind a bend in the canyon or above every ridge.
Carmel Canyon Trail
- Length: 1.2 miles
- Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
This relatively short and simple loop will give you the opportunity to observe one of the most famous natural monuments of the park, Molly’s Castle, a massif that resembles a mighty manor.
To get to this point, you will need to take a small detour from the main trail, but the way is well-marked. Most visitors walk along the main trail to the junction to Molly’s Castle and then back, without completing the loop. If you decide to continue, you will have the opportunity to enter one of the slot canyons that are typical of this area. If you get lost, look for the rocks marked with blue paint. The trailhead is located on the northeast side of the Goblin Valley parking lot.
Curtis Bench Trail
- Length: 2 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
In this area of the park, visitors can see the Curtis Formation, which is a geological formation that overlays the Entrada Sandstone. This trail, which is slightly more challenging than the previous one, will take you to some memorable points of view, from which you can contemplate not only the natural amphitheater where the goblins gather, but also Wild Horse Butte and the Henry Mountains. Before beginning the trail, you must pay an entrance fee. The trail is located at the fork between the Goblin Valley and the campsite.
Three Sisters Trail
As I mentioned earlier, the iconic Three Sisters can be seen in the short stretch of road between the park entrance and the main parking lot. Most visitors prefer to see the Sisters from a distance, stopping at the side of the road to take a picture, but there are those who choose to park their car in the clearing closest to the Three Sisters and approach the rock formation on foot. There is no real trail, but the terrain is flat and as long as you watch your step, it is not complicated to get there.
Goblin Valley: Information and a Fun Fact
Now that you have a better idea about the things you can do in Goblin Valley, I would just like to add some useful information and, why not, also a piece of trivia that may entice you to visit this park.
Operating Hours and Fees
The Goblin Valley Park State is open year-round, from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. The entrance fee is $15 per car.
The management of the park advises to be careful during the hikes, both because of the climate (bring plenty of water) and because it is very rugged. Therefore, stay in the marked trails and contact the rangers at the visitor center in case of emergency. It should be noted that the park has been subject to vandalism in the past, so the park is very strict in this regard. Any additional information you may need is available on the official website of the park.
…and here’s a fun fact!
Where to Stay near Goblin Valley
In the valley, as I already mentioned, there is a campsite with a view of Wild Horse Butte. The cost to camp there is $23 ($11 for extra vehicles). Yurts, typical Mongolian cabins, are also available and are located between the pinnacles and goblin heads, but they also cost more.
If you want to sleep in a normal hotel instead, you can go back to Green River or one of the towns south of Goblin Valley (the biggest one is Torrey).