Confession: Goblin Valley is my absolute favorite state park so if you could do me a solid and stay away, I’d sure appreciate it. Already hard enough to get a campsite there, I don’t want even more crowds. This out-of-the-way park makes you feel like you’re eight years old and the world is just waiting to be explored at no less than a sprint.
I was eight the first time I visited this place. I had only one day there as we stopped on our way home from Lake Powell, which is just down the road. The next time I visited, I was an adult with nephews. Would it be as remarkable and fun as I’d remembered? So many things on a second visit aren’t how you idolized them. I dropped my fears in the dirt as I ran full-out down the trail, outpacing my nephews. We scrambled over, under, and around the monster rock formations.
What’s makes this place so much fun for families is you don’t have to hike miles up a mountain to get to the fun part. It’s there at the edge of the parking lot.
The valley is actually separated into three valleys and now that I’m a little more experience, I head south until I hit the wall that marks the edge and then make my way west until the crowds start to thin out. Last time I visited, the kids were old enough to start scrambling up the walls, which is how we got the above panorama shot. Very rarely in life do we see something that stops us short and all we can say is, “Oh.” Topping out on this ridge did that to me.
Plan a couple of days in the valley alone. Not only does it take that long to explore it, there are trails around the valley (one that leads to a small cave). Camping in the park itself is hard to come by during peak periods (March–May and September–November). The earliest you can reserve a spot is six months ahead of time and you have to be at your computer making the reservation six months and not a day later or you’re SOL. Luckily there’s miles of BLM land surrounding the park you can camp on just be sure to bring the necessities.
After a long day of hiking, hit Stan’s Burger Shak in nearby Hanksville for a well-earned shake and burger. Also check out nearby Little Wild Horse Canyon, one of the most inspiring and accessible slot canyons.
I always had a wish I could witness the absolute power of a flash flood in the desert—from a safe distance. One April my wish came true. As we pulled into the parking lot, the rain fell so hard and fast we could see the rain drops before the storm hit us. We huddled in the truck to wait it out. Within ten minutes, rivers formed where there had been only dry sand before. The rain retreated but the flood remained a while longer to remind everyone the power of Mother Nature and to always be vigilant when in the back country.
Within ten minutes, rivers formed where there had been only dry sand before.
There are few actual trails in the park, but one of which is the Goblin’s Lair. This trail is 3 miles roundtrip without a lot of elevation gain. The hike itself is a bit boring but well worth the ending. The huge cavern can be accessed by other the trail around the front of the valley, marked on the park maps or from the top, where people can repel down through a hole in the ceiling.
The trail requires some scrambling into the cavern but nothing that requires ropes as long as you take the main trail. Once you hit the floor, turn left and you’ll find a hole in the rock with more cave to explore. This is much more what you expect a cave to be and requires flashlights to sufficiently explore because it goes about thirty yards back.