Goblin Valley State Park Itinerary
Goblin Valley State Park might be overshadowed by Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks, but it absolutely deserves a spot on your travel itinerary. It is one truly wild landscape. Maybe you’ve already been to parks like Arches and Zion, but until you’ve seen Goblin Valley, you just don’t know all the magic and splendor that Utah’s backcountry has to offer. Walking through Goblin Valley feels a bit like walking through Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland: it’s hard to believe it’s real.
This park exists to protect and showcase the Goblins: thousands of squat sandstone hoodoos. Over millions of years, time and erosion has reduced the Entrada sandstone rock layer down to funny looking rock formations, and you’re invited to explore them up close.
The tour could take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, or more, depending on how much you plan to hike. The actual drive time, however, will only be about an hour and twenty minutes total. That includes an optional half-hour side trip to a popular beginner-level slot canyon that you won’t want to miss. Because there’s so much to explore, we recommend getting an early start, that way you won’t have to cut your exploration short!
claralieu, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
As Shaka Guide tours go, this one’s on the small side. The entire park is only about 4.5 square miles, but the good news is, you can explore almost all of it on foot! There are only 7 official stops, but with 7 trails and three Goblin Valleys to explore, you could easily spend a whole day in the park. Even though the park is open from 6am to 10pm, you can actually enter Goblin Valley State Park 24/7 because of the campground. And since it’s an International Dark Sky Park, visiting at night is highly recommended. Because the park’s situated in the high desert of Southern Utah, it’s a good idea to have plenty of water on hand, especially if you plan to hit the trails.
Goblin Valley State Park is located between the small towns of Green River and Hanksville. Both towns have options for lodging and restaurants, so you won’t be too far away from creature comforts.
Goblin Valley State Park Itinerary
1. Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph Panel
Tricia Simpson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph Panel is a famous display of Barrier Canyon and Fremont style pictographs. Fremont pictographs and petroglyphs usually consist of animals, geometric shapes, and anthropomorphs. They were created by the Fremont People, and you can find more examples of their petroglyphs in nearby Capitol Reef National Park. The Barrier Canyon pictographs were likely created by the Archaic people, 2000-7000 years ago. The greatest example of Barrier Canyon pictographs can be found in Horseshoe Canyon, in the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park. But you can also see examples on Shaka Guide’s La Sal Mountain Loop Tour in Moab, Utah.
Pro tip! Combine this tour with Shaka Guide’s Canyonlands National Park Tour for even more fun.
2. Wild Horse Window Trail
The Wild Horse Window Trail is a moderate, 1.8-mile hike. It’s named after the Wild Horse Window, which is a natural bridge you can walk right up to! From far away, it looks like a cave, because it’s so close to the cliff behind it. It’s also known as the Eyes of Sinbad, or the Eyes of San Rafael, because looking up through the 35-foot skylight is like looking through a giant eye. Getting there does require walking across some open desert, without much of a trail. But just keep walking toward the bridge, and you’ll be fine. This hike is suitable for families.
3. Visitor Center
Stop at the visitor center to pay the entrance fee, pick up some maps and/or souvenirs, and talk to a Park Ranger.
4. Goblin Overlook
Jessicakemper2, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Goblin Overlook is the gateway to Goblin Valley. From this overlook, you can look out over Goblin Valley and hundreds of squat little sandstone formations. There are no trails in the valley – you’re free to go wherever your feet can take you. The area just below the overlook is actually the first of three Goblin Valleys. If you want to find the second valley, stand at the overlook, at the top of the stairs, and look straight out in front of you. In the distance, you’ll see a white dome. That dome marks the start of the second valley. The third Goblin Valley is more than a mile south of there. And beyond that, you find Goblin Square, a collection of goblins situated in a near perfect, 600-foot square!
If you’re looking for hiking trails, you can jump on the Carmel Canyon Loop from the overlook, or hike into the Goblin’s Lair. The Carmel Canyon Loop is a moderate one-and-a-half mile, or 2.4 kilometer trail, that passes through the only visible Carmel Sandstone in the park. The Goblin’s lair is a beautiful narrow canyon, known as a slot canyon, with sides that rise up more than 100 feet. At just the right time of day, sunlight spills in and makes for an almost magical experience. There’s even a second, smaller canyon called Goblette’s lair, only a quarter-mile further down the trail. The Goblin’s Lair trail is 3 miles round trip and it’s strenuous because of some rock scrambling that’s necessary to enter the canyon.
5. The Three Sisters
Enrico Stirl a.k.a. Germaneon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Three Sisters, a collection of three hoodoos, is probably the most famous rock formation in the park. It’s only a three minute walk from the road to visit the Three Sisters.
6. Entrada Canyon & Curtis Bench Trails
CGP Grey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
10 minutes - 1 hour
From the same small parking lot, you can access the Entrada Canyon and Curtis Bench trailheads, as well as a fun and challenging 18-hole frisbee golf course. Yeah, really! You can pick up a map, and even rent discs, at the visitor center. The Entrada Canyon Trail is a moderate 1.5 miles, and passes some unique goblin formations you won’t see from other vantage points. The Curtis Bench Trail is an easy 1.5 miles and runs parallel to the Entrada Canyon trail, but at a higher elevation. This means bigger, better views of Goblin Valley.
7. Little Wild Horse Canyon
Fabio Achilli from Milano, Italy, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Little Wild Horse Canyon is a popular beginner-level slot canyon. Along the half-hour drive there and back, you’ll hear stories about the history and geology of the area. So even if you don’t hike, at least you’ll enjoy the ride! You can hike as little, or as much as you want of the moderate eight mile, or 13 kilometer loop. The canyon occasionally gets so narrow, you’ll have to do your best impression of a pancake just to fit through! This hike is good for all age levels.
Goblin Valley State Park may be small, but it packs a wallop. Just ask the men who discovered it, and were stunned speechless at the sight. There’s no place quite like it.
While you’re in the area, make sure to check out Shaka Guide’s tour of Capitol Reef National Park, which you can start on highway 24, just a few miles south of Goblin Valley. Or take our tours of Arches, Canyonlands, and the La Sal Mountain Loop in nearby Moab, Utah. We at Shaka Guide are dedicated to bringing you the best tours of the best locations, and we believe our Southern Utah tours fit that description nicely.
Oh, and while you’re in the park please remember to follow the “Leave No Trace” principles by packing out what you bring in, staying on trail, and leaving the park better than you found it. Happy travels!
Ready to explore Goblin Valley State Park? Here’s everything you need to know before you go!