Itching to explore the great west, but wary of overcrowded national parks and tourist traps? Goblin Valley, Utah may be the perfect antidote. The unusual park is situated near Utah’s more popular national parks, like the crowded Arches Park and is in close proximity to the Little Wild Horse slot canyon, which offers fun and adventure for young and old alike. Goblin Valley contains thousands of mushroom-shaped pinnacles– nicknamed goblins for their appearence– which are sand and rock formations created by millions of years of the combined effects of wind and rain. In a new article for GoNomad.com, freelance writer and photographer Emily Fagan explores the often overlooked Goblin Valley with her family, and finds it to be a true gem.
Enjoy the excerpt below:
Gothic Cathedrals and Goblin Greeters
On the approach to Goblin Valley, a huge rock formation thrusts up out of the surrounding flat plains, dominating the horizon. As broad and tall as a downtown city block, it resembles the buttressed base of a massive gothic cathedral.
To one side three “goblins” stand together like greeters, welcoming visitors. Utah has created a lovely state park here, tucking the campground into the embrace of the mammoth rock formation’s rust colored flanks.
We explored the steep walls and crevices of this seeming monolith, and discovered that the entire formation is like a child’s sand dribble castle at the beach. The sandstone is literally dripping away as it erodes.
What seems like an impenetrable fortress from a distance is actually delicate to the touch. The sandstone sounds hollow when you tap it, and it breaks off in your hand if you are too forceful.
The campground offers spacious sites with terrific views for RVs (no hookups) as well as cozy tent sites hidden among the rocks where you can commune with the sandstone and have complete privacy. Each site has a shade ramada for the picnic table, and there are flush toilets, showers and an RV dump. Bring plenty of provisions because the nearest grocery store is 20 miles away.
Entrada Hike to the Goblins
The mile-long Entrada hiking trail goes from the campground to the heart of the Valley of the Goblins, and on the way it weaves through a maze of sandstone. The walls of this maze are just high enough to obscure the view of where you are headed, and is narrow enough to make you feel like a mouse scampering along the trail.
The route doubles back on itself many times and passes lots of domes and small hills. As we approached the valley and saw the fully formed goblins in the distance we realized that these nearby domes were actually goblins-in-the making: some domes are partially eroded, revealing the craggy, lumpy beginnings of goblins underneath.
When the path opens onto the valley you can’t help but feel a childlike awe at the scene laid out before you. The basin is filled with funny shaped red rock formations, each standing about 10 to 15 feel tall. Scanning the valley floor, nature’s whimsy is apparent.
There are red rock mushrooms, spaceships, birds, sea turtles, and a myriad of other shapes all strewn about. The far side of the valley is bounded by cathedral buttresses that match the imposing structure at the campground.