Updated: Sep 15
Goblin Valley is one of the weirdest and most unique landscapes in all of Utah. It has such an other-worldly feel to it that Hollywood producers decided to make it the location of the alien planet in the 1999 film Galaxy Quest (a cult classic with a star-studded cast including Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, and more).
Goblin Valley is one of Utah's top 10 state parks by number of annual visitors, but it still relatively unknown to out-of-state visitors. Anyone planning on visiting Utah's National Parks should it add it to their Utah Bucket List - it's located exactly in between Capitol Reef and Arches national parks. It takes just a quick detour to see it but we recommend staying the night for the unique experience of glamping in a yurt nestled among the hoodoos and goblins.
Goblin Valley Yurts
Goblin Valley is located quite literally in the middle of nowhere around 30 minutes to the nearest town (Hanksville - population 270 and Green River - population 856). The only lodging options are the campground for tent camping (there are no RV hookups) or the two yurts, which you can reserve here. The yurts are solar-powered, have a swamp cooler for the hot summer days and heater for cold winter nights, a deck with a propane grill, and can comfortably sleep five. The yurts are very popular, so you'll want to reserve them months in advance!
In our case, we actually got lucky with a cancellation. I checked the availability and there happened to be 1 night open on an upcoming Saturday so I quickly booked it for a spur-of-the-moment adventure with the kids. And it really felt like an adventure! We pulled up to the campsite and we were all grinning ear-to-ear as soon as we saw the yurt. It felt like we had landed on another planet - personally the yurts reminded me of Luke Skywalker's desert home on Tatooine.
As far as the glamping experience goes, this is more on the camping side. You still have to bring your own sleeping bags and the amenities are pretty bare-bones. The bathroom is an outhouse about 100 yards away from the yurt. But for only $100/night, I wouldn't expect glamour, anyway. Even so, sleeping on a bed beats the ground any day, in my opinion. There isn't a fridge, so you'll want to bring your own cooler - like this Yeti cooler on Amazon.
Cooking on the grill on the deck looking out over the desert landscape or over the fire is well worth the effort. They have a spatula for you to use but you may want to bring your own cooking equipment or get a camping cooking kit. But what really makes this yurt bucket list-worthy is the unique location nestled right among the cliffs, with your own private hoodoos, goblins, and mini canyons to explore.
After the sun goes down, the experience just gets better and better. Goblin Valley is officially certified as an International Dark Sky Park. The nearest towns are 30 minutes away, so there is zero light pollution whatsoever. Combine that with the fantastical shapes that the hoodoos and goblins take on at it, it really makes for quite the show. You can easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye. We went during the Perseids Meteor Shower in August and it was the ideal place for seeing some shooting stars. There are two chairs on the deck that you can use, but we have this camping hammock chair that is ideal for stargazing while sitting out on the deck on a cool desert night.
By the way, there is no cell service in the park. You really want to disconnect and get away from it all? Doesn't get much better than this.
What to do in Goblin Valley
Explore Valley of the Goblins & Three Sisters
This is where you want to come if you only have time for a quick detour on your way to/from Arches or Capitol Reef. You'll see the the Three Sisters as you drive to the overlook and you can stop for a quick hike out and back, if you like. It's an odd formation that seemingly rises up out of nowhere and definitely resembles three goblins standing guard. Then you quickly arrive at the parking lot overlooking the valley, which is the best-known and most popular part of the park. There was some debate among our kids whether or not the rock formations actually looked like goblins, or if they more closely resembled giant mushrooms. But they're scattered over a large area and they make it feel like a giant maze or playground. There is no marked trail so you're free to explore and wander among the goblins however you like. You can even climb on them. Our kids could probably stay there all day if it weren't for the heat. The best time to visit is in the spring or fall, but if you do visit during the summer, just go in the morning or in the evening as the sun is setting.
Hike to the Goblin's Lair
We didn't have a chance to hike this one, but if you have more time you could do the 2.3 miles easy trail to this cavernous formation. According to the description on All Trails, it's not actually a cave, but a slot canyon that has had its entrance sealed off by a rock fall. Best name for a slot canyon in all of Utah, if you ask me!
Disc Golf Course
This was unexpected, but there is actually an 18-hole disc golf course near the campground. It's free to play if you have your own or you can rent discs for $1/each. You can buy a beginner's starter pack on Amazon.
Mountain Biking on Wild Horse Trail
This a relatively new trail system, unveiled in 2015. There are 5 interconnected loops for a total of 9 miles of singletrack trail. You don't actually ride among the hoodoos, which would be awesome, but you do ride on a mesa with some amazing vistas. Most of the trail can be ridden by beginners. There some more intermediate technical parts, but you could just hop off the bike and walk momentarily.
Photo credit: Utah State Parks
Little Wild Horse slot canyon
Near Goblin Valley, only 20 minutes from the park, is one of the most popular non-technical slot canyons in Utah - Little Wild Horse Canyon. Many people, including kids, will just hike in for a bit to get a taste and then turn around the way they came. If you do the full loop, it's an 8-mile moderately strenuous trek. It's famous for having sections of the canyon that are so narrow you have to turn sideways to squeeze through. If you're claustrophobic, you might want to sit that part out! Also, always be aware of the potential for flash floods and watch for thunderstorms, especially during the August monsoon season. The weather can turn quickly and unexpectedly. When in doubt, talk the ranger at the entrance of Goblin Valley before hiking.
Photo credit: Utah.com
Whether you're a local weekend warrior looking for a family-friendly adventure or a visitor to Utah's nearby national parks, I'd highly recommend adding a night in a Goblin Valley yurt to your itinerary. You won't regret it!
Before you go, make sure to download your free Utah Bucket List for more ideas for affordable adventures and other things to in Utah!