Visiting Goblin Valley State Park With Kids: A Child’s Playground!
Utah is home to many of the country’s most well known national parks: Zion, Arches, and Bryce. While these all should absolutely be on your bucket list, it can be easy to miss the smaller, but just as fun state parks located in Utah. Goblin Valley State Park is one of those, and if traveling with kids, it is a must visit!
Like nearby Bryce and Zion National Parks, you can find the well known and frequently photographed Utah hoodoos in Goblin Valley State Park, but unlike these two parks, kids and adults alike are free to roam about, climb up, under, and even through the hoodoo and other rock formations found in Goblin Valley! It can be likened to a natural playground for the kids!
What To Know When Visiting Goblin Valley State Park With Kids
Goblin Valley State Park is open year-round from 6am to 10pm. The visitor center is open daily 8am to 5pm .
The day use fee for vehicles is $20 (good for two days). Motorcycles, bicycles, or walk in pedestrians are $10 each. Once inside the park you will find parking located just outside the valley, with only steps to reach the goblins below.
Goblin Valley is located quite remote (Warning: No internet service to be found within the park!) on Goblin Valley Road in Green River, off of Utah Highway 24 in Southern Utah within the San Rafael Desert.
The closest town to Goblin Valley State Park is Hanksville, which can be found 12 miles to the South and about a 40 minute drive.
Where to Stay
While there really are no hotels in or around Goblin Valley State Park, you can find several options within a couple hours driving time. If you want to stay in Goblin Valley you can find camping sites and RV sites, but you have to reserve these well ahead of time.
Another option is to stay in Torrey, Utah, which is less than 2 hours away. You will find plenty of hotel options here, several restaurants, and it is practically in Capitol Reef National Park’s backyard! Green Valley is another great option, especially if you are looking to combine your trip to Goblin Valley with a visit to Moab and nearby national parks. Green Valley is about an hour from Goblin Valley State Park.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Goblin Valley State Park with kids is the Spring or Fall months. In the summer you will find temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees, which can be torturous for kids hoping to run around, climb, and play on the goblins.
Goblin Valley State Park sits in the San Rafael Desert in Southern Utah on 3,654 acres covered with some of the world’s largest hoodoos. These hoodoos are Entrada Sandstone pillars that have undergone years and years of erosion to develop into the many unique shapes that can be seen today. The sandstone was deposited during the Jurassic period about 170 million years ago
Things to Do In Goblin Valley State Park With Kids
Explore the “caves” found within the structures.
Okay, so for an adult, these caves may not come across as that impressive (but still lots of fun!). But for a child, it will seem like they are climbing through a castle (as my daughter described it). Throughout the formations found in the park you can find various caves of different shapes and sizes, plenty to keep the kids entertained for a while!
Make a Game Out of It!
The hoodoos in Goblin Valley State Park come in all different shapes and sizes. Take some time and explore them all and much like the finding objects in the clouds find hoodoos that are shaped like different items! With the imagination of a child, the game could last all day!
Goblin Valley State Park’s remote location makes it the perfect destination to spend the night under the stars! Goblin Valley has 25 camping sites, two yurts, and RV sites.
Camp sites are available for $35 a night and the yurts are available for $100 a night
Goblin Valley State Park has three marked hiking trails that are perfect for families: The Carmel Canyon Loop, Goblin’s Lair Hike, and Three Sisters Loop. The Carmel Canyon loop trail starts at the north end of Goblin Valley and takes you away from the goblins. It is a moderate, 1.5 mile trail with an elevation gain of 95 ft. The Goblin’s Lair hike is a moderate, 1.5 mile hike with an elevation gain of 219 ft. The trail follows a rocky incline up to Goblin’s Lair.
The Three Sisters loop is one of the easiest and may be the best choice for families visiting with young kids. The trail is a loop trail with an elevation gain of 88 ft. Along with the easier hike, this loop also boasts some great views of the Goblin formations in the park.
But the great thing about Goblin Valley State Park is that you are allowed to wander freely among the hoodoos. Extreme caution is recommended to avoid damaging the structures, but as long as you are careful you are free to climb on and explore the structures! This is one of the things that makes it such a great place for kids to explore!
Another activity that we did not have the opportunity to personally experience during our visit, but one that comes highly recommended by so many! The area around Goblin Valley State Park, a member of the International Dark Sky Association, boosts one of the clearest views of the night stars found in the country. So after spending the day finding shapes in the hoodoo formations, lay out a blanket, relax, and find some shapes in the night sky!
Have a Picnic
Make your visit to Goblin Valley State Park a full day trip and pack a picnic lunch! There are covered picnic tables in a pavilion just off of the parking area where you can relax and enjoy your meal overlooking the goblins sitting below. Or if you prefer you can bring a blanket and sit beside the goblins while enjoying your lunch.
Other Important Information/Tips
- There are bathrooms located at both the visitors center and near the parking area of Goblin Valley.
- There are no trees in Goblin Valley State Park. Be sure to bring your sunscreen and maybe an umbrella!
- Goblin Valley is in the San Rafael desert! That means it will be hot! Be sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated! (There is a water station at the visitor center)
- Scorpions and rattlesnakes are sometimes seen in Goblin Valley (we didn’t see any during our visit). Be aware of this and be cautious while visiting.
- Parking within the park is limited and the park experiences high visitation during the summer months. Expect some delays with getting into the park (on our visit we had to wait about 15-20 minutes to get in to the park as we waited for others to leave). The wait was worth it!
- Pets are allowed in the park, but must be on a leash and you are responsible for cleaning up after them.
Things to Do Nearby
Utah is full of natural wonders, so naturally one could expect there to be many more opportunities to get outdoors and explore what Utah has to offer! For some other more family fun options when visiting Goblin Valley State Park with kids, be sure to check out some of these nearby activities!
- Little Wild Horse Canyon: A slot canyon that offers hiking and climbing activities. The full trail is about 8 miles long, but you can do it in smaller sections. Be sure to enjoy the side trails and explore the canyons.
- Capitol Reef National Park: Located about an hour away from Goblin Valley State Park, Capitol Reef National Park is a great option for seeing more of Utah’s stunning landscapes. The park offers plenty of easy, family friendly trails, scenic viewpoints, and fun activities.
- Moab: About an hour and a half to the East of Goblin Valley State Park you will Moab and more US national parks to explore. You can visit Arches National Park where you can visit the well known Delicate Arch among others or head over to Canyonlands National Park and witness more rock pillars, cave paintings, and Mesa Arch. Other fun activities in Moab include rafting, off-roading adventures, ziplining, and mountain biking.
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