Goblin Valley State Park: The Coolest State Park In Utah

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Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is the perfect side stop on a southwest US road trip.  It’s much less visited than the nearby national parks and can be visited in just a few hours on your way to other parks, like Capitol Reef or Lake Powell from Moab.  It’s my favorite state park in Utah so far because it’s such a fun place.

Opposite of how things usually are, I actually had heard of Goblin Valley before I got to Bullfrog.  Where or what it was though, was still a mystery to me.  A few weeks later, someone mentioned it to me and told me it was like a playground for adults with caves and climbing.  I had to go.

A couple weeks after that, someone told me a group of people were going after work one day, and I happened to be working in the morning.  Sign me up!  That was that and the next thing I know we were on our way.  It’s about an hour and a half from Bullfrog, about 30 minutes from Green River.  If you’re in the area, I would highly recommend it, even just for a few hours.

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As soon as we got there and had all of our stuff ready (read: lots of water, but could have been more) it was time to explore.  From the parking lot, we went down the stairs and all eight of us ran off in different directions immediately.

We were in the Valley of the Goblins and climbing over everything.  The valley is full of these weird goblin-mushroom shaped rock formations in all shapes and sizes.  There aren’t really any official hiking trails in Goblin Valley, it’s more of a free for all around the valley and into the nooks and crannies.

We split up and regrouped I don’t even know how many times in the valley alone.  The valley is surrounded by a huge wall basically made up of these formations, but staggered, making it super easy to climb up.  Like always though, make sure you can get back down before going all the way up.  Some of the tops of the goblins are perfect for sitting and hanging out in for a little bit to recharge for more running and climbing.

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This place really is like a giant playground.  Eventually, we set off for the goblin wall in search of caves.  Everybody loves a good cave, right?  Ok, maybe not everyone, but we all wanted one.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find any, but we also may have gotten distracted and ended up on top of the wall instead.  It’s hard to not want to climb up all the way.  The view over the valley and the flat desert on the other side is outstanding and totally worth the climb.

We hung out at the top for a while and got split up one last time before leaving.  This time it was on the way down.  It’s crazy how different everywhere we went looked for being the same.  It was all impressive in its own way.  I would end up coming back a few months later, but more on that in another post.  This was a wonderful first experience and evening is a great time to go, or morning, because it isn’t quite as hot.  And bring lots of water.  Like, a lot.  And don’t forget your sense of adventure.

Where is Goblin Valley?

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What to bring Camping in Goblin Valley

NatGeo National Parks Book – This is one of the best national park guidebooks and I take it on all my park trips.  Plus, it’s got the nice glossy pages.  Buy the book here.

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry!  I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese.  There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the strong desert sun.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking.  This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one.

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Tent – I love the REI Passage 2 tent for one or two people.  It’s small and fairly light.  If you need a four-person tent, I’d go with this one, the REI Half DomeYou can check out my tent here.

Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy!  The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way.  Buy the sleeping pad here.

Sleeping Bag – I have the Nemo Viola 35 and love it because it’s not as restrictive as the mummy bags.  It has ventilation slits for those warmer nights.  Check out my sleeping bag here.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts here.

Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow.  This is a good non-inflatible option.  Here is a good inflatable option.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it.  Buy the LuminAID lantern here.

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Goblin Valley Camping

Whether you’re camping in Goblin Valley State Park or outside of it, but near it, you’re going to have a great time.  This is a great area for camping and the stargazing is out of this world thanks to being so far from everything.

Goblin Valley Glamping

There are two Yurts at Goblin Valley that you can rent for the night to do a little Glamping!  If you’ve never done this, you definitely should.  It’s perfect if you want to camp but don’t want to be in a tent.  This is the middleground between tent and hotel and maybe it will help you ease into camping.  They yurts are heated and have AC.  Pets are not allowed.  You can see everything about them and book them here.

Goblin Valley Campground

The campground at Goblin Valley has 16 spots for RV’s and tents.  They cost $30 per night and include the $15 entrance fee.  The campground isn’t right in the Valley of the Goblins, but it is still surounded by cool rock formations.  You can find out more about the campground at Goblin Valley and book it here.

Camping near Goblin Valley

Here are some free campsites near Goblin Valley.  You can also find a spot on BLM land to camp for free with dispersed camping.  Just make sure you follow the Leave No Trace principles and are in a place you’re allowed to be.  Here is a full guide to that.

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Hotels near Goblin Valley

There aren’t any hotels right by Goblin Valley, but there are in Hanksville and Green River, the two closest towns.  If you don’t want to stay the night, this is the perfect stop if you’re driving between Moab and Capitol Reef.  It’s right on the way and great for breaking up the drive.  I haven’t stayed at any of these.  There are only two in Hanksville so I included both and chose two of the highest rated in Green River.

Whispering Sands Motel (Hanksville)

This is part regular looking motel, part cute little barn shaped cabin things.  I would actually like to stay here because I’m very curious about the little barn rooms.  It’s right in the middle of town by two gas station/convenience stores and Stans Burger Shak.  Try their peanut butter shakes.

Hotel Hanksville (Hanksville)

I won’t lie, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this.  Or at least haven’t noticed it.  It doesn’t look the most modern in pictures but it does have a little picnic are outside with a grill that looks like it would be perfect to enjoy in the spring or fall.

Skyfall Guest Rooms (Green River)

This place looks absolutely adorable and I would love to stay here.  It’s got modern rooms with a delicious restaurant on site (I’ve eaten there) and a perfect view of the Green River outside.  The Green River Adventure Center is here as well.

Comfort Inn (Green River)

If you’re part of the Choice Hotels reward program (like me) they have a Comfort Inn here so you can get points for your stay!  It may not be as cute as Skyfall, but it will definitely get the job done for exploring in the area.

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Other things to do nearby:

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Caves of Goblin Valley

I’ve combined my two posts on trips to Goblin Valley and this was the story from my second visit.

I went back to Goblin Valley!  I wanted to go back this summer to try and find some caves since we didn’t see any last time, which was totally fine because the views we got were totally awesome.  We were camping in the San Rafael Swell (here’s an awesome map, too) on Behind the Reef Road exploring more of this area one weekend so it was the perfect time to go.

We set off just before noon and it.  was.  hot.  So hot.  I would not recommend going in the middle of the day in the summer.  This is a good early morning or evening trip, especially since most of where you’ll be is out in the open.  There is shade, it can just take a bit to get to or find.

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We picked a direction and just went.  We climbed up a bit and saw another couple before going into a little cave.  They went above the cave.  We got to the end of the cave and found this little hole looking up (in the picture below), which is where they were, but we didn’t know that.

I take pictures of rocks that look like butts, which I need to say to preface this.  I took a picture, looked at it and practically yelled “What a butt!”  This is when we found out that other couple was right above us.  I scared them with my comment because they had no idea we were there.

Eventually, I went to the top of the cave and got why they were freaked out.  From the top, you couldn’t see the hole pretty much at all and would have no idea a cave was even there.  I love Goblin Valley.  There is just sooo much to do there and it would take so long to actually see all of it, or even a good portion of it.  Definitely visit if you’re in the area.  It is totally worth it.

Have you been to Goblin Valley?  What did you think of it?  Do you want to go?

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