Visiting Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park is like travelling to another planet. It’s a long way from anywhere and the terrain is so unearthly that the movie Galaxy Quest was filmed here. Whether camping for a few days or taking a day trip from Capitol Reef, Canyonlands or Arches National Parks, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Goblin Valley.
The main attractions at Goblin Valley are the hundreds of knobby sandstone “goblins” carved by erosion that extend for miles. They are irresistible for kids and adults who love to climb and explore. My children imagined themselves as wild animals prowling the wilderness while a nearby family played Capture the Flag. My own childhood memories include camping trips where I played flashlight tag and hide-and-seek with friends and cousins among the formations at night. There are plenty of interesting formations to keep a family busy just below the picnic area, but it is easy to find your own private playground by wandering a little farther off.
There are no formal trails, but hikers can make their own trail by wandering the formations and finding unique sights and seclusion that those who stay close to the picnic area will miss. For mountain bikers and ATV enthusiasts, there are many miles of dirt roads and trails nearby.
Goblin Valley is located in a remote and barren part of south-central Utah, 32 miles from the town of Hanksville. Bring a picnic and plenty of drinking water. There is a small visitor’s center at the entrance to the park where you can purchase souvenirs and learn how these unique formations came to be. Kids can participate in the park’s Junior Ranger Program and learn while they play. The entrance fee is $7 per car.
When to Go
Spring and fall are the best times to visit Goblin Valley, though the park is open year-round. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees in the summer and there is little vegetation or shade. Snow is possible in the winter. Despite its remote location, Goblin Valley is one of Utah’s most popular state parks and the campground and parking area can become crowded during spring and fall school breaks. Even then, it is easy enough to beat the crowds by making reservations at the campground or arriving early in the day. Once you are parked, the valley is large enough to accommodate the largest crowd.
There are a lot of fun destinations for families in the world, but how often do you get to take your kids to a place that feels like another planet?