Rock goblins: Play among mysterious hoodoos of Utah’s Goblin Valley

Goblin Valley State Park is like no other place on Earth. Visitors can wander through the maze of hoodoos and imagine they are on another planet. Spring and fall are the best seasons for visiting Goblin Valley, as the temperatures are less extreme, but still plan to take plenty of water and sunscreen with you.



It it Shrek with his ears sticking out? Or is it a rock with a turtle on top that is stretching out its neck? Part of the fun of Goblin Valley is how the hoodoos morph to resemble various things.



Mushroom-shaped hoodoos fill Goblin Valley State Park createing a unique landscape through which visitors can wander for hours. Spring and fall are the best seasons for visiting Goblin Valley, as the temperatures are less extreme, but still plan to take plenty of water and sunscreen with you.



Mushroom-shaped hoodoos fill Goblin Valley State Park createing a unique landscape through which visitors can wander for hours. Spring and fall are the best seasons for visiting Goblin Valley, as the temperatures are less extreme, but still plan to take plenty of water and sunscreen with you.



QUICKREAD

GOBLIN VALLEY NOTES

■ Although old-timers say they used to drive their cars down around the hoodoos, it’s not allowed anymore. However, dogs are allowed on a leash.

■ Be careful to only let wind, water and time modify the landscape here. Goblin Valley became famous last fall when Boy Scout leaders toppled a delicately balanced hoodoo, recorded it and posted it on YouTube. For their act of vandalism, they were sentenced last month to probation and ordered to pay costs to erect signs warning other visitors not to damage the rock formations, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

■ If you get lost, remember the valley runs north to south, with three sub-valleys. You can always look up to the observation point and find your way back to the parking lot.

■ The 1999 sci-fi mockumentary “Galaxy Quest,” starring Sigourney Weaver and Tim Allen, was filmed here.

If you go

Be prepared for extreme temperatures in the summer. Spring and fall are perfect times to visit Goblin Valley State Park. However, check the forecast before you go. High winds can make a visit to the hoodoos very unpleasant, as you will probably be sandblasted from all the grit blowing around.

If you decide to visit one of the nearby slot canyons, such as Little Wild Horse Canyon, check the forecast to make sure rain is not expected anywhere near the area. Flash floods quickly turn the narrows in the canyons into a dangerous, raging rivers. Even vehicles parked at the trailhead have been washed downstream by powerful floods in the past.

Remember, it doesn’t have to rain exactly where you are for a flash flood to occur. Any storm event occurring uphill from where you are can create a flash flood in the desert.

Be sure to fill your gas tank in Green River and take plenty of water with you. There are no services.

Park hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and there is an $8 use fee per vehicle. Camping is extra and reservations are recommended (for tent, RV and yurt camping). For information, go to stateparks.utah.gov.



GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK, UTAH — Driving 2 1/2 hours might seem like kind of a long trip to get lost in a maze of rocks, but it’s not that far considering that it feels like entirely another planet.

There’s a reason Hollywood movie producers have used this place to depict other worlds — the middle of nowhere, Utah, it looks like no other place on Earth.

Goblin Valley is the kind of destination you visit and never forget. It’s just that bizarre and breathtaking in its own barren way. Maybe it’s the stark beauty of the red rocks framing the brilliant Utah sky. Perhaps it’s the disorienting feeling of hiking amongst the hoodoos, left behind by the magic of geologic time and erosion. Or maybe it’s the thrill of being alive in a harsh environment where little else thrives, knowing that you’re only a few gallons of water away from shriveling up and blowing away like the rust-hued dust.

This ethereal place seems to come from some long-lost dream world. But it’s real, and it’s nestled in a long valley running on the eastern edge of the San Rafael Reef, referred to as the Swell for the geologic formation created by an upheaval, which left ridges that make it look like waves on the ocean. In Goblin Valley, softer shale and siltstone eroded away, leaving the harder Entrada sandstone capping the hoodoos on their pedestals — sentinels of the desert, crowding this long valley.

The 2,000-square-mile reef area isn’t visited by as many tourists as nearby Arches National Park. It’s harder to reach and many parts are still very isolated today. If you’re looking for rugged Utah country, this is a good place to start.

The San Rafael Swell area teems with history and mystery. Rock art, dinosaurs, pioneers and stories of outlaw ruffians abound. And Goblin Valley is the kind of place that oozes mystery, with all the eerie rock formations creating a sense of déjà vu as they seemingly stare down at passersby. 

All the mushrooms and turtle-rocks start to look the same, but from different angles they morph into dogs, squirrels or even Shrek. Is that someone mooning me, or is it a gluteus maximus-shaped rock? Who knows anymore? I’ll just keep walking and see what’s past those mushrooms up there.

There’s no real trail there, but it sure is fun to wander aimlessly and forget where we are. It’s the ultimate place to play an echoing game of Marco Polo or hide-and-seek, among these rock goblins. And at the end of the day, we’ll head back home ... to planet Earth.


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