With Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks, it’s got to be hard for smaller parks to get some attention. Don’t let that stop you though! Goblin Valley State Park is so much fun for kids and a must visit if you are in the area.
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We first heard about Goblin Valley in our Utah Lonely Planet and we thought it sounded kind of fun, but then another family we were hiking with in Zion National Park with kids said it was one of the most fun places he’d ever been. After getting a third recommendation on Instagram, we knew we had to add it to the list.
At this stage of the trip, our kids had been hiking for 15 days straight and deserved something just for them, so we decided to take them to Goblin Valley.
We have an entire post full of all our best tips for hiking with kids.
Goblin Valley State Park is a giant outdoor playground for kids. The main attraction is a series of three connected valleys filled with hundreds of small “goblins”; odd shaped rock formations which are small enough for kids to climb on, yet big enough for them to be filled with excitement and adventure. These rocks have small tunnels for kids to climb through, hills to run up and over, rocks to climb up, etc. If your kids love running around getting dirty in the outdoors, they’ll go nuts over this place.
You can really let your imagination go wild here as you’ll see all kinds of shapes in the rocks; my imagination saw lots of dinosaur faces in the rocks, but I suppose some looked like goblins too. The towering cliffs in the distance are pretty cool too.
We only had a few hours in Goblin Valley SP and we spent our entire time exploring the Goblin Valleys, but there are several short hiking trails as well, including Carmel Canyon, Curtis Bench and Entrada Canyon.
Goblin Valley Hiking Stats
Distance: We spent all of our time in the Valley of the Goblins, which has no set hiking trail. It’s a literal free-for-all, where kids can run wild exploring the fun rock formations. In 90 minutes, our kids ran 1.3 miles / 2.1km.
Elevation Gain: The valley is very flat with no discernable elevation change.
Difficulty: Goblin Valley is an easy hiking destination. You’ll spend your entire time chasing your kids around, so you should be able to keep up.
How to Get to Goblin Valley State Park
How to Get There: Goblin Valley State Park is about halfway between Moab (1h40m) and Capitol Reef National Park (1h20m). It’s just off Utah Highway 24 on Goblin Valley Road.
Goblin Valley with Kids
- There are bathrooms at the trailhead. Be sure to use them as the only places to go on this trail are places that other little kids will want to explore.
- There are no water bottle filling stations on this hike. If you feel you need a refill before starting, the Goblin Valley State Park Visitor Center has a water station.
- The goblins are made of sandstone. If your kids will want to climb up and over the goblins, be sure they have shoes with good traction.
- There are no trees in the valley, so you need to be prepared for full sun exposure. Bring lots of water and sunscreen.
- The ground around the goblins is hard packed. An off-road stroller could be used down here, but during our time in Utah, the most common way parents enjoyed activities with their small kids was to use a backpack carrier – we like the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 for hiking with babies or toddlers.
- Dogs are allowed in Goblin Valley, but must be on leash. Dogs are not allowed on most national park trails, so if you are traveling with a dog, it’s another great reason to stop here!
- Keep your eyes open for wildlife, but chances are you won’t see any as most of the animals in the park are nocturnal. Jackrabbits, pronghorns, foxes and coyotes all call this park home.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There is a huge, covered picnic area in the Valley of the Goblins parking lot with many picnic tables.
Cautions & Tips for Goblin Valley
- The sun can get intense in southern Utah, so bring more water than you think you will need.
- Be aware there are rattlesnakes and scorpions here as well. Although we didn’t see any, if you are concerned, it’s best to ask a Park Ranger for advice.