Camping Under The Stars In Goblin Valley

We had a memorable trip to Goblin Valley State Park to enjoy some of the trails and dark night skies for stargazing.

Wandering through the rock formations in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, it is easy to let your imagination run wild. Located just north of Hanksville off Highway 24, Goblin Valley State Park is as remote as it is unique.  

It’s an International Dark Sky Park and boasts some of the best views of the Milky Way you are likely to ever see.   This combined with incredible rock formations and easy access to the Little Wild Horse Canyon trails make it a bucket list getaway for van lifers.   

Our opportunity to cross Goblin Valley off the bucket list came in January and it would be dishonest to say that our evenings were not cold.   The facilities in the park’s campground were limited to pit toilets; all of the running water except for the frost-free spigot at the park entrance had been winterized, and that kept the people camping in the park to a minimum.   It was the perfect way to walk with goblins and among the stars.   

dark sky in Goblin Valley State Park
Views of Goblin Valley State Park at night. Photos by author (Mati Bishop)

Before our late afternoon arrival, we enjoyed an incredible drive from Blanding on Highway 95 that took us through parts of Bears Ears National Monument and across the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park.   The area north of Hanksville approaching the park was not that impressive compared to what we had experienced earlier that day, until we got into the valley with the goblins.  

The sun dipped low in the horizon as we explored the valley full of “goblin” formations that created a landscape photographer’s paradise.  We passed on any of the designated hikes and instead joined the majority of the visitors experiencing the valley floor and all of the wonder it had to offer.   

dark sky in Goblin Valley State Park
The goblins at night Photo by author

As the sun set, we darted between the goblins making up stories about how they were going to come alive and visit us after sunset.   It was a paradise for the imagination and we lived it to the fullest.  

Later that evening, we waited at camp for the goblins and the moon to rise while we were treated to an appearance by the Milky Way that I have only seen topped at high elevations in the Rocky Mountains and South America’s Andes.   It was breathtaking.   Beefing up on your nighttime photography skills and equipment is something you won’t regret doing before you head out to mark Goblin Valley off your bucket list.   

The moon rose a couple hours after sunset, chasing away the views of the Milky Way and lighting the landscape around the campground in a unique and eerie fashion.   We woke to the mercy of the sun bringing the temperature up from the single digits of the night before to the fairly typical mid-forties of the Utah winter.  The morning put a whole new look on the goblins and we enjoyed another adventure into their valley for pictures before we headed out to Little Wild Horse Canyon for a slot canyon hike.   

dark sky in Goblin Valley State Park

Although not the feature of our trip to Goblin Valley, Little Wildhorse Canyon stood on its own as a unique Utah experience.   At times, the canyon walls heading up the canyon were so close together that an adult had to turn sideways so their shoulders would fit through.  

There was some scrambling over terrain and choke stones that blocked the easy walk through the canyons, but nothing that was too difficult or unnerving to get past.   Shortly after noon, the sun found its way to the upper reaches of the canyon and ignited the red rock light show that the San Rafael Swell area is known for.   It was the perfect finish to a bucket list trip.   

You can read more reviews on Goblin Valley State Park on Campground Reviews. To learn more about the park, check out this video from As GOODE As It Gets:

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