7 Unforgettable Things To Do At Goblin Valley State Park

Post Summary: The best things to do in Goblin Valley State Park and a guide to visiting the park.

Sitting in the heart of Utah’s desert landscape is the remarkable Goblin Valley State Park. This otherworldly park presents a landscape so dramatic and alien, it’s often likened to the surface of Mars.

Goblin Valley’s unique allure lies in its thousands of orange hoodoos, aka “goblins,” that populate the valley floor. These peculiar, mushroom-shaped rock formations, sculpted by the hands of time through the erosion of sandstone, present a maze-like playground that begs you to channel your inner child and run amok through the goblins.

More relaxed than nearby National Parks, this outdoor wonderland is touted as one of the best things to do in Utah with kids. Do we agree? Yes, wholeheartedly.

If you’re thinking about adding Goblin Valley to a Utah Mighy 5 road trip, do it. Few will regret exploring this oddball park in the middle of nowhere, Utah. Goblin Valley and the nearby Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon. was hands down one of our favorite experiences in Utah.

Here’s our complete rundown of what to do in Goblin Valley State Park and a simple guide to visiting the park.

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THINGS TO DO AT GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK

Young boy plays at Goblin Valley State Park.
Woman descends into Goblin Valley between two large hoodoos.
The descent into the Valley of Goblins.

1. Explore The Valley Of Goblins

This is where most people spend the brunt of their time…because it’s so fun! For us, we free-roamed while our child went bonkers running around.

If you crave more structure to your exploration, Goblin Valley is loosely divided into three valleys. I’ll go into them below, but there is no signage, and the State Park Map does not clearly delineate it.

  • Valley 1 – You’ll descend into the First Valley from the picnic area near the parking lot. It’s a large sprawl with toadstool hoodoos, mushroom hoodoos, and more. Generally, the hoodoos here are shorter.
  • Valley 2– East of the First Valley is the second valley of goblins. To get there, you’ll descend the staircase at the entrance and head toward the big white dome. The hoodoos over here are taller. It’s also where you can canyoneer into Goblin’s Lair.
  • Valley 3 – The Third Valley is south of the First Valley and connects to the Big Wild Horse Mesa Wilderness Area. It’s over a mile away from the picnic area/lookout point at the entrance.

YOUNG CHILDREN TIP: We traveled with a rambunctious three-year-old, and he thought he had won the playground lottery. I tried to keep up with him, but there were times I felt like, man, I’m going to lose this kid. If I were to go again with young kids, I’d put an air tag on them as a small safety precaution.

2. Goblin Valley Hiking Trails

Three large hoodoo formations on a flat mesa t Goblin Valley State Park.
The Three Sisters.

There are five hiking trails that range from easy to moderate. It’s a good choice if you want a structured path to follow or want overview lookouts of the valley.

  • Goblin’s Lair: (3 miles out and back, strenuous) Tucked away on the park’s eastern edge, The Goblin’s Lair is a vast slot canyon, not a cavern, accessible via a marked trail starting from Observation Point. The trail is part of the Carmel Canyon Loop but veers off for the last half mile. The hike requires scrambling. You can enter the “lair,” but permits are required. You can read more about it in the section on “Rapelling Goblin’s Lair.”
  • Carmel Canyon Loop: (1.5 miles round trip, moderate) This hike is on the way to Goblin’s Lair and includes views of the Three Sisters. It’s a fun choice because it includes a little bit of light scrambling and a short walk through a slot canyon.
  • Three Sisters: (1/4 mile out and back, easy) When driving into Goblin Valley State Park, you’ll see the three sisters, three towering hoodoos, on your left. If you want to see it closer, this short trail will take you to three sisters.
  • Entrada Canyon: (3 miles out and back, moderate) A wash trail that connects the campsite to the parking lot/observation deck.
  • Curtis Bench: (3 miles out and back, easy) Accessed near the Entrada Canyon Trail, the ridge trail offers parallel paths at a higher elevation, showcasing the grey-green Curtis sand and siltstone layer. You’ll get views of the Henry Mountains and the Valley of Goblins.

3. Rappelling Goblin’s Lair

For anyone needing more adventure, then rappelling into Goblin’s Lair is the way to go. If you are an experienced rappeller, you can get a permit at the visitor center desk for $2.

If you’ve never rappelled and want the safety and reassurance of an experienced guide, you can book a four-hour guided canyoneering tour. You’ll scramble through the Valley of the Goblins till you reach Goblins Lair, where you’ll gear up and descend 90 feet into what’s called the Chamber of the Basilisk. We would have loved to have done this, but we were traveling with a toddler. The tour is for ages 7 and up. You can learn more and book a tour here.

4. Stargazing in Goblin Valley

With its remote location far from the light pollution of urban areas, Goblin Valley State Park offers one of the darkest night skies on earth. The excellent visibility makes it a haven for amateur astronomers and night sky enthusiasts. If you’ve never seen the night sky without a trace of light in the distance, then put it on your bucket list. It’s extraordinary.

The park occasionally hosts night sky events and guided stargazing tours, offering visitors a chance to delve deeper into the cosmos with the help of telescopes and knowledgeable guides. These events are designed to enhance the stargazing experience and educate participants about constellations, planetary sightings, and the science of astronomy.

5. Disc Golf Course

We didn’t disc golf, but I can imagine it would be really fun to do in this landscape!

A fun kind of quirky thing to do in Goblin Valley is to play disc golf. I get the feeling that most people who are doing disc golf are campers who are hanging out in the area, as most day trippers won’t spend the time to do disc golf. That being said, we took a look at the course, and it seemed fun!

You do need to bring your own discs or rent discs for $1 per disc. The course is 1.8 miles and flat until hole 12. Holes 12-20 are more strenuous and have steep climbs and descents. You can see a map of the course here.

6. Mountain Biking Trails

If you’ve got time ( and mountain bikes at your disposal), a great way to explore a different area of the park is to bike the Wild Horse Trail System. The mountain biking trails opened in 2015 and sit on a mesa to the west and above the campground, with the imposing Wild Horse Butte towering to the north. There are seven miles of single-track trails, and they vary from beginner to difficult.

7. Sunset Photography

Woman stands by large hoodoos looking off into the distance with the glow of sunset around her.
Goblin Valley State Park at sunset.

We arrived a few hours before sunset so we could capture Goblin Valley in the “golden hour.” The warm orange tones of the hoodoos make for dreamy, warm photos that amateur and professional photographers will love. Anyone who loves the desert knows that sunset is a sublime experience. Even if you don’t love sunset photography, bring some camping chairs and bask in nature’s best light show. It’s a bewitching experience.

PLANNING A VISIT TO GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK

Goblin Valley State Park Entrance Fees And Hours

The park is open from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day. If you’re visiting in high peak times, there could be a wait to enter the park. Your best bet is to arrive early in the morning or late afternoon.

The entrance fee to Goblin Valley State Park is $20 for private vehicles.

Best Time To Visit Goblin Valley State Park

The most pleasant times of the year to visit are spring and fall when the weather will have significantly cooled down. This is also when crowds will significantly increase. You can reduce crowds by visiting on the weekends and aiming for early spring (March) and late fall (November).

Summers are scorching hot, with temperatures sitting at 100 degrees. With little to no shade in the park, summer can be a brutal time to visit. Many still do!

Winter is the slowest time of year, but icy, snowy conditions can make it unenjoyable for hiking and exploring the hoodoos.

We visited in early March and loved it. There were people, but it wasn’t overwhelming at all. The temperatures were cool but nothing that a light sweater couldn’t make more comfortable.

How to Get To Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park is in Utah’s San Rafael Swell in southern Utah. The closest town to the park is Hanksville, Utah. The route is paved and well-marked, with signs for the last 12 miles directing you to the park. We used Google Maps and found it to be accurate, but always trust signs on the road over GPS!

Driving Distances To Goblin Valley
From Hanksville, Utah: 20.4 miles (37 minute drive)
From Capitol Reef National Park: 57.1 miles (1 hour, 20 minute drive
From Arches National Park: 97 miles (1 hour, 3o minute drive)
From Salt Lake City: 223 miles (3 hours, 50 minute drive)

What To Bring To Goblin Valley

Woman looks straight to camera and sits on a big hoodoo with a mesa in the background.

Here’s a short list of essential items to bring to Goblin Valley State Park to help you enjoy your time.

  • Water: Bring a reusable water bottle with plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you’re there in the summer.
  • Sun Protection: The desert sun can be intense, even in cooler weather. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn.
  • Appropriate Footwear: Wear waterproof shoes with good grip. Depending on what time of year you visit, the ground could be wet and muddy.
  • Headlamp: If you’ll be staying for sunset and want to play around the hoodoos at night, bring a headlamp.
  • Bag: A trash bag to pack out all your trash.

Where To Camp + Stay Near Goblin Valley

Camping at Gobling Valley is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the experience of the park. Can you imagine walking through the hoodoos at night? Fun or scary?

The campground in the park has 24 campsites, 2 yurt rentals, and group sites. There are no hookups for RVs. The campground fills up FAST in the warm months, so make your reservation early.

Other than the campsite and boondocking in the area, there is no conventional lodging in the area.

We were on a road trip through Utah in our renovated camper, so we opted to stay in Hanksville, Utah, the closest town to Goblin Valley before Capital Reef National Park (our next stop). There are a handful of motels and RV parks where you can comfortably rest your body for a night.

Subsequently, if you’re heading toward Moab and Arches National Park, you can go in the other direction toward Green River, Utah. It’s the best halfway point between the two and offers a small handful of RV parks and motels. You can check for highly-rated hotels here.

Tips and Last Thoughts On Visiting Goblin Valley State Park

Mother and son pose next to two large hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park.

Before you head out to explore all the fun things to do at Goblin Valley State Park, here are a few essential tips.

  • Goblin Valley is an easy day trip activity and can be done in a few hours. If you’re looking for more to do, we highly suggest adding in Little Wild Horse Canyon. A great beginner slot canyon hike! It’s only 25 minutes away and an absolute blast.
  • As visitors, we all have to do our part to keep the area immaculate. Don’t litter, and pack away all your trash. It’s that simple.
  • There is no cell service in the area, so make sure all your maps are downloaded before you leave.
  • Make sure you have enough gas in your tank. There are gas stations in Hanksville and Green River. We suggest filling your gas tank up before you head out.


That’s our list of the best things to do at Goblin Valley State Park. Happy adventuring!

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