The Ultimate Goblin Valley State Park Travel Guide
Goblin Valley State Park might just be one of the most unique places on the planet. In fact, it seems so otherworldly that it was actually used as the set for the sci-fi movie Galaxy Quest (which came out in the late 90s).
What really makes the state park’s landscape so unique is its famous array of hoodoos, which are formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles that can be several meters tall. The hoodoos, which are locally called “goblins,” are formed from an erosion-resistant layer of rock atop somewhat softer sandstone. Goblin Valley State Park and its neighbor Bryce Canyon National Park actually contain some of the highest concentrations of hoodoos in the world.
Goblin Valley became a state park in 1964, though it has been protected by the state of Utah since 1956 (it was a state reserve before becoming a state park). The park was created in hopes of deterring any vandalism against the rock structures — which for the most part has succeeded.
Today, Goblin Valley State Park is one of the most visited state parks in the whole state of Utah (the park saw nearly half a million people in 2021). This is mostly thanks to the unique landscape, but also because it is a great destination for people with kids, people looking to explore the nearby San Rafael Swell, or people just looking for a chill place to camp out under the stars (Goblin Valley State Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park). Plus, unlike its neighbors Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley is very dog friendly.
Our Goblin Valley State Park Travel Guide below covers everything you need to know about the park; including, directions to the park, the best time to visit, camping information (including where to camp for free nearby!), the best adventures and even a couple of park travel itineraries.
\\ How to Get to Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is pretty darn remote, therefore it takes a bit of time and effort to reach. But with that being said, it is also well located within Utah to easily be added to other southern Utah adventures; including on visits to national parks like Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.
One important thing to note about this desert state park is that it doesn’t offer very many services. Therefore you must stock up on things like food, drinks and gasoline before visiting the state park. The best place to do this are in the towns of Green River (they have multiple gas stations), Grand Junction, Colorado (they have gas, large supermarkets and stores right off of the interstate) and Moab, Utah.
Once stocked up, start making your way towards Goblin Valley State Park. Below are directions from all of the major points within the state of Utah as well as a few popular places out of state.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: if you are thinking of flying into the area and renting a car to explore Goblin Valley State Park (and the surrounding parks) then your best bet would be to fly into Salt Lake City, Utah. You can book a flight to and from SLC here.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH | 3.5 hours // 223 miles
The closest major city (with an international airport) is Salt Lake City, Utah. To reach Goblin Valley State Park from Salt Lake City (SLC) you will need to head down Interstate 15 until you reach Highway 6. Take Hwy 6 all the way to Interstate 70 and then go west for a couple of miles until you reach the exit for Highway 24. Once on Highway 24, it is 36 miles until you see the turn-off for the state park. From the highway, it is approximately 12 miles to the park entrance.
GREEN RIVER, UTAH | 50 minutes // 49 miles
To reach Goblin Valley State Park from Green River, the closest city with any form of services, you will head west on Interstate 70 until you see the exit for Highway 24 (there will be a sign for the state park). Once on Highway 24, head south for 36 miles until you see the turn-off for the state park on the right. From the highway, it is 12 miles to the park entrance booth/visitor center.
💬 INSIDER TIP: looking for a delicious meal on your drive to Goblin Valley State Park? Then consider heading off the interstate and stopping in at Tacos La Pasadita, a small taco truck with ample seating and delicious food (and a wonderful salsa bar). We recommend the huevos rancheros and burritos.
MOAB, UTAH | 1 hour & 35 minutes // 101 miles
The popular adventure town of Moab, Utah (and its neighbors Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park) are only around 100 miles from Goblin Valley State Park, which definitely makes it possible to visit the state park simply on a day trip from Moab.
To reach the state park from town, first head north on Highway 191 until you reach Interstate 70. From the interstate, go west towards Green River. Eventually, you will see the turn-off for the state park and Highway 24. From the exit, it is another 36 miles to the turn-off for the state park and then from there another 12 miles to the actual park entrance station.
GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO | 2 hours and 20 minutes // 151 miles
The closest big city outside of Utah to Goblin Valley State Park is Grand Junction, Colorado. This town is located practically on the border of Utah and offers numerous services along Interstate 70 (including gas, lodging, numerous big box stores and even a small airport). From Grand Junction, it is just over 2 hours to the state park. Start off by heading west on Interstate 70, past the town of Green River, until you reach the exit for Highway 24. Once on Highway 24, keep going south for 36 miles until you see a sign for Goblin Valley State Park on your right.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA | 6 hours and 12 minutes // 429 miles
The farthest point to begin your journey to Goblin Valley State Park is this mega-city in Nevada. Again, we recommend adding Goblin Valley State Park to your larger Utah road trip itinerary (like this one) and not just making it your only destination. For example, if coming from Las Vegas you can easily add it in on your way to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
To reach Goblin Valley State Park from Las Vegas start by heading out east on Interstate 15 until you reach Interstate 70 near the town of Beaver. From the intersection, start heading east on I-70 until you get to the exit for Highway 24. Once on the highway, turn south and drive for 36 miles until you see the sign for the state park on your right.
\\ The Best Time to Visit Goblin Valley State Park
GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK WEATHER BY SEASON
The winter months can be downright cold — especially at night and in the early mornings. For the most part, you can expect the months of December, January and February to have average temperatures in the low to mid-30s (-1° C). This is also when the state park gets most of its precipitation — some of which can occur in the form of snow.
💬 INSIDER TIP: we have visited Goblin Valley State Park a couple of times in the winter and while we struggled a bit with the cold — especially during the night (we were camping), we actually really enjoyed this time of year because the park was practically empty. If you don’t mind the cold, visiting in the months of November and December could be a great option, especially if you want to avoid crowds.
By the time March rolls around the temperatures start to rise into the 50s and 60s and the desert begins to bloom in colors of greens and pinks. Because of the great weather and the extra desert colors, the spring season is the busiest time in the state park. If you want to visit during this time of year we highly suggest arriving at the park early and reserving your campsite in advance.
The hot summer months (June — August) can see temperatures above 100° F (38° C). This is often the most dangerous and uncomfortable time to explore the state park for there is very little shade available and the heat can cause dehydration quickly. Also, due to summer monsoonal rains, heavy thunderstorms can sometimes occur within the park.
The warmer temperatures stick around into September with the average daily high still getting into the mid-80s (29° C). But by October the weather is once again perfect for adventuring — high 60s, cooler nights and plenty of sun. This is another popular time to visit the state park, though it is thankfully slightly less busy during the fall season than it is in the spring.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
Goblin Valley State Park is a great place to visit no matter the time of year. While the summer heat can definitely cause a bit of discomfort — especially during the middle of the day — due to the desert's low humidity the nights are always cooler and quite nice (even in the middle of July).
While the spring season is the busiest time of year to visit, we also suggest checking out the park in the fall and early winter (October and mid-November specifically). During this time of year, the crowds are almost non-existent and the daytime temperatures are wonderful.
\\ Where to Stay in Goblin Valley State Park
CAMPING IN GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
If you are hoping to stay in the heart of Goblin Valley then your best option is to book a night in the state park’s popular campground. Consisting of 25 camping sites and 2 yurts, this campground is extremely popular — especially during the busy spring season.
While we usually choose to free camp out in BLM land (more on that below) sometimes it is nice to not have to worry about finding a comfortable place to pitch your tent or where you are going to get potable water. Plus, and this perk is especially nice during the cold months of winter, the state park campground also has hot showers.
To reach the campground, head into the state park until you get to a T in the road. If you go left you will reach the large parking area for the Valley of Goblins (the main area of the park), whereas if you go right you will reach the campground, which is organized on one loop road.
You can reserve your Goblin Valley State Park campsite here.
| COST: $35 /night (includes entrance fee), then $20 for an extra vehicle (one car is included)
| HOURS: check-in is at 3 PM and check-out is at noon
| SERVICES: in your individual campsite there is a firepit, picnic table, wind and sun guard and a flat tent platform; outside of your individual campsite there are bathrooms with hot showers and running water, large trash bins and firewood for sale. There are no electrical hook-ups in the campground.
GOBLIN VALLEY YURTS
Now if you are looking for a more comfortable and luxurious way to stay the night in Goblin Valley State Park, then consider renting out one of the park’s famous yurts.
The park has two yurts available to rent on a nightly basis, both of which are set up the same way: one single bunk bed over a double bed and then a futon couch (the yurt can hold at least 4 people comfortably). There is also a table and chairs inside and a couple of outdoor chairs on the large deck (along with a grill). Both yurts come with heat and A/C.
Be aware that the yurts do usually get fully booked weeks and even months in advance. Therefore it is highly recommended that once you have dates set for your trip you should go online and make your reservation.
CAMPING OUTSIDE OF GOBLIN VALLEY
While camping in Goblin Valley is a fun and relatively comfortable experience, if you are instead looking to camp outside of the park — either because you don’t feel like paying to camp or if the campground is fully booked — then you are in luck for there are a TON of free camping spots within a short drive of the state park entrance.
Because the whole area around Goblin Valley State Park is BLM land (run by the Bureau of Land Management) you can find a wide array of boondocking sites. Some of the best places to head to are off of Road 1013, which is the same road you will drive to reach the entrance to the state park. While there are numerous large parking sites and dirt roads off of Road 1013 before the state park entrance, we believe some of the best areas are right after the entrance station. If your car can handle it, we recommend heading to this area.
Just remember to follow all Leave No Trace Principles when free camping and to also be considerate of your neighbors and the land you are camping on.
💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are planning to visit Goblin Valley State Park during its busy season (the months of April and May and then September and October) be prepared to find the BLM area around the park full of other boondockers. If possible, try to get a site early in the morning or on a weekday.
LODGING NEAR GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
HOTELS AND MOTELS
The closest towns to Goblin Valley State Park are Hanksville (32 miles away), Green River (49 miles away) and Moab (101 miles away). For the most lodging options (including spots for all types of budgets), we recommend checking out Moab. Below are a few options:
| Whispering Sands Motel, Hanksville: this centrally located motel has all the amenities you could need for a comfortable stay in the southern Utah desert. Book your stay here.
| River Terrace Inn, Green River: another centrally located lodging option is to stay the night in Green River (which is about halfway between Goblin Valley State Park and Moab). This locally owned motel offers free breakfast, a pool, and ample parking. It is also located right next door to some of the best restaurants in town as well as the John Wesley Powell River History Museum. Book your stay here.
| The Gonzo Inn, Moab: this funky spot is located in the heart of downtown Moab, a place with a lot of charm, delicious restaurants and tasty coffee shops. The inn offers high-speed internet, a pool, free breakfast and parking and views of the surrounding red rock cliffs. Book your stay here.
If you are looking to plan a family trip to the Goblin Valley area — or you just want to meet up with a group of friends — then you might want to consider booking a larger place for your desert adventures. Below are a few Airbnbs in the nearby town of Hanksville, which is approximately 35 minutes from the state park.
| Spacious Home in Hanksville: this large home sleeps 16 and comes with massive windows with stunning views of the surrounding desert (including the San Rafael Swell), Wi-Fi and a large modern kitchen. Book your stay here.
| Red Rock Cave Home: this incredibly unique spot — it is literally inside a cave — can play host to 10 people. It was recently remodeled and now has a very cozy and desert-y vibe (including a large wrap-around porch). Book your stay here.
\\ What to Bring to Goblin Valley State Park
The gear you will need to bring to Goblin Valley State Park totally depends on what season you are planning to visit. During the summer the temperatures can easily reach 95° F / 35° C and the sun can be absolutely brutal (aka a sun hat and sunscreen are an absolute MUST). But in the winter you will definitely want to bring plenty of warm layers, especially if planning to camp.
Below are some of the basic outdoor items you will want to bring with you on your adventure to Goblin Valley State Park.
Because the trails are not super long in Goblin Valley and most adventures will include rock hopping and scrambling, you can get away with a shoe that isn’t too heavy duty. This pair by The North Face has the perfect amount of traction and cushion to help you adventure all day in the Valley of Goblins. Recommended hiking shoes (for women).
These socks can easily go from hitting the trails to hanging out at camp due to their moisture-wicking properties and slightly elastic stretch. Plus, they are made partially of recycled materials — meaning they are good for you and the planet. Recommended hiking socks from Smartwool.
No matter the season you are planning to visit Goblin Valley, you will likely want to wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. This one by Backcountry works well during all four seasons since it is lightweight enough to be worn in the hot summer months but also comfortable enough to be your base layer when exploring in the colder winter months. Recommended long sleeve shirt.
Depending on the season, you will likely gravitate more towards wearing either full-length hiking pants or a set of lightweight active shorts. We recommend veering more towards the hiking pants unless it is absolutely scorching out. These pants, also by Backcountry, are durable for all kinds of rock scrambling, while also being comfortable enough to wear even when the temperature starts to pick up. Recommended hiking pants here.
WATER BAG AND HIKING BACKPACK
One of the quickest ways to hate adventuring in the desert — especially in the hotter months — is to not have enough water. Dehydration is one of the biggest dangers of hiking and in a place like Goblin Valley — hot, sunny and almost no shade to speak of — this danger rises tenfold when the temperature starts to rise. Therefore we recommend carrying a backpack with a sizable water bladder inside; not only because it will help you stay hydrated, but because a backpack with a built-in water bladder will also allow you to scramble around on rocks more easily. Recommended water bladder backpack (this one holds 5 liters).
While a wide brim sun hat might not be the most stylish of items it does the job well. If you are planning to visit Goblin Valley State Park in the warmer months (April to October) you will want to make sure you have plenty of sun protection. This Patagonia hat is breathable and lightweight, and most importantly, it will protect both your face (and eyes) as well as your neck. Recommended sun hat.
While a sun hat definitely helps protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays, it is still important to give your skin that extra bit of protection — especially your shoulders, feet and hands. These sunscreens not only protect you against the sun but they are also environmentally safe.
A handy headlamp is a true adventure necessity. We tend to have about 5 headlamps scattered around our van just in case we lose one or the batteries die (which somehow happens quite often…). This one by Petzl is a personal favorite because it is affordable and it has a long-lasting battery.
FOR CAMPING AND RELAXING
We are big fans of having a pair of comfortable shoes to put on right when you get back to camp. This is especially true after coming back from a big, full-day desert adventure. These Teva sandals are comfortable, lightweight, and fashionable.
You will be glad you have a cozy jacket handy once the sun starts to dip below the horizon, especially in Goblin Valley where the temperature often settles in the 50s even in the middle of summer. This one by Cotopaxi is fun and functional.
No matter the season, the mornings in the Utah desert can be somewhat chilly (and downright cold in the winter). Luckily, this 12 oz. camping mug by Camelbak will not only help keep your drinks nice and hot all day long — no matter the temperature outside — but it also works great as a hand warmer. Recommended camp mug.
If you are planning to spend an extended amount of time out in nature you will likely need a spot to store your perishable food. This 50-quart rolling cooler can definitely store a couple of days worth of food, plus some of your favorite alcoholic beverages. And the best part? It also works great as a campfire chair.
In our books, nothing beats ending the day sitting next to a warm campfire with a drink in hand and a plate of steaming hot food next to you. These camping chairs by Stoic are the perfect camping companion because they are not only comfortable to sit in, but they also have a nice side table to hold your beer (or wine). Plus, they pack down nice and tight.
Here are a few other nice to haves in Goblin Valley State Park: sunglasses, a camera, a camping pad or mat to sit on while stargazing at night, and some frisbee discs (the park has a sweet disc golf course, learn more below).
THE BEST ADVENTURES IN GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
\\ Hiking in Goblin Valley State Park
Overall, there are not very many hiking trails within Goblin Valley State Park. Instead, most of the “hiking” consists of rock scrambling and climbing around on the park’s famous hoodoos or “goblins.” — most of which are located in the park’s main Valley of Goblins area. In fact, in this area of the park, you will find no trails or markers, just a wide-open area full of small canyons, tunnels and rock formations to climb around on.
If you are someone who does want to explore other areas of the park beside the Valley of Goblins then your best bet is to head out on these four short hikes, all of which are 3-miles round-trip.
The most popular hiking trail in the park is to Goblin’s Lair, a large natural cave on the other side of the Valley of Goblins. To reach the trailhead, you will walk out along the left side of the main parking lot in the valley. The trail follows a wash for most of the way before heading up a short rocky hill. At the top of the hill, you will be able to see down into the Lair. You can make your way down to the bottom or just take in the view from the top.
💬 INSIDER TIP: while the Goblin’s Lair trail is a great hike on its own, if you are looking for a bit more adventure, then consider rappelling into the lair from above. You can learn more about this route in the canyoneering section below.
CARMEL CANYON LOOP
Another short but beautiful hike in the state park is through the Carmel Canyon, which can be reached via the same trailhead and trail as the Goblin’s Lair hike. This is a good hiking option for people who want to explore some tighter slot canyons and do a bit of scrambling, but don’t have the time for some of the longer hikes in the area — namely the Little Wildhorse Canyon Trail.
This short hike is more of a way of getting around the park — it connects the group campsite and the campground to the Valley of Goblins — than an actual adventure. But with that being said, if you don’t feel like driving or you just want to stretch your legs a bit, this is a good option.
CURTIS BENCH TRAIL
The final short hike within Goblin Valley State Park is the Curtis Bench Trail, which like all of the other hikes above is a short but beautiful way to see a different part of the park. In this case, this hike is great for people who want to get a better view of the nearby Henry Mountains. Similarly, this trail also leads straight to the starting hole of the park’s awesome 18-hole disc golf course.
LITTLE WILDHORSE CANYON
By far one of the best hikes in the area is this roughly 8-mile loop trail. Consisting of actually two different canyons — Little Wildhorse and Bell — this hike is a great option for people looking to explore tight slot canyons, get an up-close view of the stunning rock formations and layers, and spend an afternoon just walking around the beautiful Utah desert.
GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD
Luckily, this hike is super close to Goblin Valley State Park and can easily be added on to a day spent exploring the Valley of Goblins. From the park entrance station/visitor center, drive out until you see another paved road on your left. Turn here (there will be a sign) and drive for roughly 20 minutes (5.5 miles) until you see a large parking lot and a sign for the trailhead on your right.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: during the busy season (namely spring) this trailhead can get super busy. Therefore suggest heading there early in order to find parking.
THE LITTLE WILDHORSE CANYON HIKE
The whole hike is actually in the shape of a lollipop, meaning you first hike out for a couple of minutes before reaching a Y in the trail. The right trail will take you through the actual Little Wildhorse Canyon (which has the best slot canyons), while the left trail will take you through Bell Canyon (which has awesome desert views). If you are short on time and just want to do a bit of the canyon then we suggest heading right towards Little Wildhorse Canyon.
Overall, the whole 8-mile loop hike takes between 5 and 7 hours to complete. If planning to do the full trail we highly suggest bringing plenty of water with you since there is none along the way. Similarly, if you are looking to do the hike in the hotter months (June — August) then we definitely recommend starting early in the morning to beat the worst of the heat (there is very little shade on the second half of the loop).
➳ You can find more information on the Little Wildhorse Canyon hike on Alltrails.
\\ Canyoneering in Goblin Valley State Park
If you want to push your limits and add a bit of spice to your Goblin Valley trip, then consider canyoneering the famous Goblin’s Lair. This canyoneering route consists of only one rappel — but what a rappel it is. For starters, you have to find the actual anchor, which is far easier said than done (last time it took us 2+ hours to find it).
When you do eventually find the right spot — easily marked by a large boulder with webbing around it — strap on your harness and begin the descent into the dark Lair.
Once done with the rappel, hike out of the cave and out onto the wide-open plain that sits just on the other side of the actual Valley of Goblins. From the cave, it is an easy 1.5-mile hike back to the main parking lot via the aforementioned Goblin’s Lair Trail.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: before heading out to the canyon, make sure to fill out the park’s online canyoneering permit. You will need to print the form out and present it to a ranger upon entering the state park. The permit costs $2 per person.
| TIME: if you find the anchor right away it should only take 2 to 2.5 hours to go from car to car.
| RAPPEL LENGTH: the only rappel on the “canyon” is 27 meters / 89 feet high. About half of the rappel is free hanging.
➳ Learn more about canyoneering in Goblin Valley — and Goblin’s Lair specifically — here.
\\ Mountain Biking in Goblin Valley State Park
Opened in 2015, the Wild Horse Mountain Biking Trail System contains 7 miles of dirt single-track trails split into 5 different loops. To reach the start of the loop trails — which mostly run around the high, flat rock structure that sits behind the park campground — you will need to first head out of the campground and turn right onto the dirt road that splits off from the main paved road into the park.
The mountain biking trails all loop around the flat plateau and affords riders great views of the surrounding area; including, the San Rafael Swell, the Henry Mountains and the Wild Horse Butte.
💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are looking for even more mountain biking fun, consider heading out on the various backcountry dirt roads that crisscross the nearby San Rafael Swell. One great option is to do the Temple Mountain Loop, which is just over 10 miles total and rated as a blue. Or if you want to go really big, consider taking on the much longer route A (San Rafael) Swell Night Out, which measures 74.5 miles total. This route could be done in one really long day or as a fun overnight trip.
\\ Disc Golfing in Goblin Valley State Park
While the goblins are great, in our opinion, what really makes Goblin Valley State Park so cool is their awesome 18-hole disc golf course.
But in truth, the park’s disc golf course is pretty awesome.
In fact, while we always come to Goblin Valley State Park to explore the goblins and canyoneer into Goblin’s Lair, we almost always put aside some time to do the disc golf course. In our opinion, this is one of the best ways to spend some time in the park that doesn’t revolve around exploring the Valley of Goblins.
The disc course consists of 18 holes (though as of 2022 some holes are closed due to a park construction project), many of which weave in and out of canyons and around funky hoodoos. You can reach the start of the course in the same parking lot as the mountain bike trails (here). It should take around 3 hours to do the whole 18-hole course.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: the visitor center/entrance station does have printed maps of the disc golf course. They cost $0.50 each.
\\ Goblin Valley State Park Travel Itineraries
If you only have a couple of hours in the state park (or if you are just stopping by on your way to another destination) then we recommend just simply going to the famous Valley of Goblins and doing a bit of exploring. As we mentioned above, there are no set trails within the valley. Instead, it is kind of a choose your own adventure.
Once done exploring, head back to the parking lot and make lunch under the covered picnic area.
If you have a full day in the state park, then we recommend spending the morning exploring the Valley of Goblins, and maybe if you are feeling really adventurous, adding in canyoneering the famous Goblin’s Lair.
After lunch, either hike out to Goblins Lair (if you aren’t planning to rappel into it) or grab a couple of discs and head up to the disc golf course. End your evening camping out under the stars either in the park campground or just outside it on the nearby BLM land.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: try to stay up late enough to get a great view of the star-lit night sky, for Goblin Valley (and the surrounding area) is a designated Dark Sky Park. Meaning, as long as it isn’t cloudy out, you should have zero light pollution and the Milky Way should be easily visible.
If you have a couple of days in Goblin Valley State Park, then we suggest following the itinerary for the full day above and then on your second day heading just outside the park to hike Little Wildhorse Canyon (which is a roughly 8 miles round-trip hike).
While it might not get the same fanfare or notoriety as other parks in Utah — namely the Big 5 National Parks — Goblin Valley State is still definitely worth visiting, especially if you are curious to learn more about the geology of the Utah desert or if you just want to act like a little kid again and spend an afternoon crawling around on rocks.
Hopefully, this Goblin Valley State Park Travel Guide helps you plan the perfect adventure to this alien-like park, but if you do have any further questions about the state park or the area around it, then please either leave us a comment below or reach out to us directly at www.backroadpackers.com.