Goblin Valley State Park lies in the desert hills of Utah between Green River and Capitol Reef National Park. Highway 70 is a major route connecting Colorado (the pass through the Rockies from Denver) and the highways on the western side of Utah, but it passes through no cities and only a few towns in the desert hills and mountains. At a junction west of the town of Green River Highway 24 bears southwest, following the line of the San Rafael Swell. This is barren and rocky country and in a high desert section, a road goes northwest to the park. There is one back road that rises up through the San Rafael Reef and a few 4×4 tracks on the south side of the reef. Goblins has a campground, access to some rough jeep roads, and a number of hiking trails. Just north of the park are some wonderful canyons for scrambling and hiking, some of which are accessed by driving through the park. On this day of hiking, we parked right near the park center and hiked most of the designated trails within the park, but we could have forged off in many directions to explore the fantastic hills of the area
The main showcase is the Valley of the Goblins, hard to describe, but we might can it a geological hallucination. Shaped and colorful sandstone pillars, gnomes, mushrooms, hoodoos, columns, erosion gullies, and twisted shapes fill the basin. Every one is different and just wandering among them is a delight.
We followed the trail to the Goblin’s Lair, a cave which we had to climb down to the floor and out again, but not before crawling through some side tunnels into the dark.
We followed the Carmel Canyon Trail which winds through a narrow slot canyon and then emerges below the Three Sisters.
There is a lot of terrain to be explored as long as off-trail scrambling is your preference. We spent a day exploring, but we could have camped there and had 3 full days of hiking. Better yet, we may return to camp at Goblins and continue our hiking and scrambling in the canyons of the San Rafael Reef.
We did do two more days of hiking nearby. The loop up Little Wildhorse Canyon and down Bell Canyon was the best hike of 2017 (a story to follow). The loop up Ding Canyon and down Dang Canyon (another story to be published) was another adventure to remember.