Are you planning a trip to Southern Utah? Goblin Valley State Park is one of the state’s best destinations for families.
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 weekend or taking a day trip from Capitol Reef, Canyonlands or Arches National Parks, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Goblin Valley.
I visited Goblin Valley as a kid and have returned twice with my own children. It’s one of those places they beg to return because it’s so much fun.
Here are my tips for visiting Goblin Valley State Park.
What to Expect
Hundreds of knobby sandstone “goblins” carved by erosion fill Goblin Valley for as far as the eye can see. 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. 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.
There is a parking and picnic area above Goblin Valley with great views. Parking can fill quickly on busy weekends and school breaks, so arrive early or late in the day to avoid problems. Once you are parked, Goblin Valley is large enough to accommodate everyone.
The picnic area is a covered pavilion with tables. The only bathrooms in the day use area are nearby. Once you walk down into the valley, there will be no bathrooms or trash cans.
Walk down the short gravel path from the picnic area into the hoodoos and unleash your imagination from there!
Little Wildhorse Canyon
Little Wild Horse Canyon is a fun day hike through a slot canyon. It’s not inside Goblin Valley State Park, but it’s just 5 miles away. Look for signs near Goblin Valley.
The full trail is an 8-mile loop, but my husband and I hiked in about a mile and hiked back out after getting our slot canyon fix. Our kids and extended family who were traveling with us decided not to hike much beyond dry riverbed at the beginning.
There are some rugged spots on the trail – including a tricky spot early on. After that, most of what we hiked shouldn’t be a problem for families. We saw young children and babies in backpacks along the way.
My friend and TFFT contributor Natalie has hiked farther into Little Wildhorse Canyon with her kids. Read all her tips at Utah’s Adventure Family.
What to Bring
There are few services within 20 miles of Goblin Valley so bring what you need for the full day. Fill your car with fuel before you head into the desert. Pack plenty of drinking water, snacks and a picnic. Check the forecast and dress for the weather. Wear sturdy shoes with some traction. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Where to Stay
There are no hotels at Goblin Valley. There is a campground, which fills quickly during warm weather months. RV and tent sites and two yurts are available. Reserve campsites and yurts in advance at https://www.reserveamerica.com/.
My family camped at Goblin Valley a couple of times when I was a teenager – once with extended family and once with friends. It was so fun to play among the goblins after dark!
With my own kids, we have always paired our Goblin Valley visits with a trip to Capitol Reef National Park. There are a number of hotels to choose from in Torrey, which is less than two hours drive from Goblin Valley.
Green Valley, Utah is even closer – only about an hour away. It’s right on Interstate 70 and only about an hour from Moab too, which makes it easy to pair Goblin Valley with Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Click the button below to see rates and availability for Green River on TripAdvisor.com.
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 shade. Snow is possible in the winter, but you’ll likely enjoy lighter crowds.
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?
Good to Know
Where: Goblin Valley State Park is located on Highway 24 in southeastern Utah, not too far from Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks. From the official website, here are driving directions.
- 24 miles south of I-70 on Highway 24, turn at Temple Mountain junction, follow signs 12 miles to park.
- 20 miles north of the town of Hanksville on Highway 24, turn at Temple Mountain junction, follow signs 12 miles to park.
When: Open year-round. Spring and fall are the most pleasant time to visit. Parking is limited, so arrive early to beat the crowds.
How Much: Current day use fee is $15 per vehicle. A senior discount is available. Check the official website for updated fee information.
How Long: 2+ hours
Amenities: Camping, picnic tables, primitive bathrooms, small gift shop and visitor center. Junior Ranger program.